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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Student club provides free health care for families in Mexico

Most clubs probably don’t have members whose titles include “dental coordinator.”

But the UA’s Flying Samaritans has been providing free medical and dental care to the underserved communities of the Mexico region for the past five years.

The nationwide organization’s UA chapter was formed in 2007 with support from the already-established Tucson chapter. Since then, club members have worked to organize health clinics in Agua Prieta, Sonora, Mexico, through the recruitment of physicians, nurse practitioners, dentists and physician’s assistants.

Active members who meet certain service points for the club travel to the clinic sites, where they volunteer in different aspects of medical care.

“I get to be around students and health care providers who share the same philosophy in bringing medical and dental services to undeserved communities,” said Raul Aviles, one of the club’s two presidents.

Aviles, along with other club members, also participates in club philanthropies such as the Ronald McDonald House and Casa San Juan, providing interpretation, health education and assistance for the homeless.

In order to obtain the materials to aide the Flying Samaritans clinics, the club works to raise money for necessary medical supplies through fundraising events ranging from bake sales to car washes to Spring Fling.

The extensive work with various families across the border has been an invaluable experience for many of the members, while also teaching them how few resources are available to the people they serve.

“My first time at the clinic, we were extracting a tooth out of a 7-year-old boy,” said Lissette Ruiz, the club’s dental coordinator. “When we were done, I obliviously handed him a toothbrush thinking he would be upset for not getting a toy. It is incredible to see how happy a toothbrush can make a child. These families do not realize the importance of oral health and they do not understand the risk factors that come with poor oral hygiene.”

The club provides much-needed assistance to the families they serve, which are mostly low-income.

“They rely on our services as means to receive their medication because the jobs which they hold do not offer any kind of medical coverage so any doctor visits would really put them in a bind,” Aviles said.

The Flying Samaritans plan to hold a shoe drive in November to benefit the people of Honduras, in which a generous sponsor will donate $2 for every pair of shoes collected. The money raised will assist the club in purchasing much-needed dental and medical supplies.

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