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Summer 2013 Farmworker Project Update

A report from

Alisha Smith

Program Coordinator - Community Service

studentGnats, mosquitoes, and hot days equal the best experience of Emory PA student’s senior career!  Emory University Physician Assistant students working under the direction of physicians from the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, Emory School of Medicine, and PA faculty traveled to southern Georgia cities, Bainbridge and Valdosta to offer free health care to migrant farm workers and their families.  This year we saw migrant farm workers from an array of Mexican states as well as migrant farm workers from Haiti who reside in the South Florida area.   SGFHP was developed in 1996 by Tom HimelicLoading the truckk in collaboration with the Southwest Georgia Area Health Education Center (SOWEGA AHEC) in Albany, Georgia, and in collaboration with the Georgia Farmworker Health Program, State Office of Primary Care.  The initial projects were in Echols and Lowndes counties and in June 1998, the Project was expanded to include a week in Decatur County.  The Decatur County Board of Health / Georgia Migrant Health Program has been a key partner in that Project.

On a trip to Wal-Mart to purchase groceries for my little refrigerator for the week, it’s not hard to miss the cut out school bus, no A/C, and small seats clearly designed for children, with what appears to be Haitian farm workers loading up their grocery items.  They all smile, chat with one another, and wave hello as if all is well with the world, and maybe it is.  I say ”sap pa say” and smile as I head back to my air conditioned vehicle and am thankful for every moment that air freezes my fingers as they grip the steering wheel.

Each day despite the very hot and sticky heat or being a kiss away from an over flowing garbage dumpster, Emory PA students kindly and gracefully served their patients.  They smiled with them, they laughed with them, and they made jokes (with the help of their interpreter of course) with them.  There were connections made that surpassed socioeconomic backgrounds, skin color, and even language.  I have never witnessed a more beautiful exchange between humans and was more than impressed by how our PA students represented Emory.  

Emory PT studentsWhat’s interesting about this event is it becomes much bigger than what the physical results will show.  Professional interpreters help carry boxes off of our cargo trucks, MD’s stuff goodie bags with socks, water bottles, and condoms, teens from Teen Corp fill paper bags with canned food and cleaning products, seniors citizens from the local community unload boxes and boxes filled with donated clothing, children of doctors YouTube craft ideas for a craft making station for the children of the migrant farmers, young adults bring moments of joy to children by painting their faces or rock babies to sleep by singing lullabies while in their arms, and local churches cook ions upon ions of food for hard working volunteers.  If you stand still in the center of what might appear to be chaos, you feel an energy, a cadence of sorts that is so incredible.  People doing good just because and only because they choose to, that’s what’s so terrific about South Georgia Farm worker Health Project, it touches every single body involved in such a moving way that even on those long days momentum propels you to continue doing the work that brought you to Emory in the first place. 

So you see, the success of the project is not solely in the number of patients that are served, (serving 1,479 in just two weeks)  it’s in the number of volunteers who have been touched in a positive way and go on to inspire others with this same inspiration.  And on and on and on, this “good” spirals into a big ball of goodness to better serve the world.  Maybe one person can change the world.  See more Pictures by clicking hereTerry MizeTeen Corps

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