My name is Ariana Giblin and I am a rising senior studying Biology and Spanish at UP. I have spent the summer volunteering with Virginia Garcia Memorial Health and Wellness Center in Cornelius, OR. Virginia Garcia is a federally qualified health center whose main population is Latin American migrant farm workers. I chose VG because I am a pre-med student passionate about access to healthcare. VG is awesome in that they provide affordable healthcare on a sliding scale system (basically, you only pay what you are able). Here is their website if you’d like to read more! http://virginiagarcia.org/
However, they are not only a medical clinic. They also have a Wellness Center where they host Zumba, yoga, and cooking classes as well as have speakers come in to talk about different topics from diabetes management to how to speak with immigration services. During the summer they also host a kids camp in the afternoons and that is what I have been doing for the past 6 weeks! Most of the kids are patients at the clinic and a majority of them are bilingual. Each day we had a pretty structured schedule. We would usually start with either cooking or art, then we would have somebody from the community come in to talk about a variety of things–for example, we took some dance classes, built some birdhouses, learned about bees and other pollinators, and so many other fun activities! Then we would have snack and play time (my favorite part of the day) and end with another activity. The first four weeks we had a group of twenty 6-9 year olds, and for the past 2 weeks we’ve had a group of twenty 10-14 year olds. And oh man were the groups very different. I had a blast working with the younger kids as they were as eager to learn as they were to get a piggy back ride. They were super affectionate, energetic, and ready to listen. Working with these kids was so much fun and has sparked a desire to work with kids in the future. I don’t know how/where/when, but I hope to work with kids in this age range again. I had fun working with the older kids too, even though they were much less affectionate and a little harder to get through to. That age is just so cringe worthy–working with them brought back awkward middle schools memories that I had tried so hard to forget. Each kid in either group has a very different background and getting to know them over the past couple of months has been very special. No matter their situation, they came to camp every day ready to play with a smile (which, admittedly, was hard for me to do some days).
Aside from the kids camp, I have recently been working with a Dietician who is working to implement a program at Virginia Garcia called What Can I Eat. What Can I Eat is a free (!!), four week program through the American Diabetes Association that helps people manage their Type-2 Diabetes. Each week the group will gather to talk about different topics such as shopping for food, eating a balanced meal, and how to manage the holidays or eating out. The program has not actually started, but I have been working on recruiting people for the program via telephone and email. Once it begins, I will help with the data collection (weight, blood pressure, and A1c). I am excited to start this mini research that will hopefully go into the school year!
Although I have had a GREAT summer, this is not at all what I thought I would be doing when I originally chose Virginia Garcia to be my host site. As a pre-med student, I expected to be more in the clinic or at least working somehow in the medical sphere. During the summer they also have mobile clinics that go out to farms in Oregon and Southern Washington, but they told me that they would rather I work at the kids camp than at the mobile clinics as they have plenty of hands there already. This was a bummer, but I am hoping that maybe once the camp ends next week, they will have other, more medical opportunities for me. I have learned a little on how VG and other federally qualified health centers work, but I would be really interested to see the behind the scenes parts of the clinic.
Although I was not able to work in the medical sphere, VG helped me maintain my passion and interest in healthcare access for all and sparked an interest in working with kids. I was really grateful that I was able to practice my Spanish with the kids and their parents as that was one thing I really wanted out of my host site. All in all, I have had such an awesome summer and hope that I can stay in touch with the people at Virginia Garcia. Throughout the summer, I was grateful to learn a lot of Spanish, how a federally qualified health center operates, and most importantly, how to play hide and go seek tag.
Thanks for reading!!