Just after dawn on a Sunday morning, the blue-and-white dressed Buddhist Tzu Chi volunteers were already hard at work at the free clinic on Garfield Avenue south of Main Street. Within hours, more than 200 patients from as far away as Huntington Beach descended on the site eager for free health screenings, dental consultations, and blood tests.
“For some people in the community, it might be hard and expensive to see a specialist,” said Shiou-Bih Yang, a nurse who helped organize the event. “We invited them to be consulted and give a free blood test that so that they can have a yearly basic checkup.”
Like many of Tzu Chi Foundation events, the program was a collaborative effort among doctors, dentists, nurses, and volunteers. Buddhist nun Dharma Master Cheng Yen founded the international non-profit in Taiwan in 1966. Since then, it has spread worldwide with chapters on almost every continent. The Tzu Chi Medical Foundation, a subgroup of Buddhist Tzu Chi, has three clinics located in Southern California, including those based in Alhambra, El Monte, and Wilmington.
The Health Fair, in its 19th year, is held annually at the Alhambra clinic.
“They help Asian Americans and, they help a lot of people, it’s very convenient,” said 25-year-old first time fair attendee Tammy Bu. “It’s a wonderful organization.”
Most patients were interested in a dental screening or a blood test. As many health insurances do not cover dental care, the dental clinic had the most number of patients. However, the dentists are limited in the number of patients that they can see and generally see only 40 to 50 patients a day.
“I think it’s really important,” said E.J. Hwang, a 58-year-old resident of Huntington Beach, who was waiting to receive his blood test. "You can understand your own health."
Those interested in volunteering at a health fair or assisting a local Tzu Chi Medical Clinic can sign up online.