The farmworkers of Apopka and the Highland Manor have a lot in common. Both are part of the rich history of this community, both have endured many changes to their way of life, and both can expect many changes in the future. However the Highland Manor is a building, and the Apopka farmworkers are made up of people, families and members of the Apopka community.
Most of them live in poverty. Some live in households with multiple generations of family members. Most do not have cars and rely on public transportation or rides from friends to go to work or just get to through the day-to-day chores of life. Many of them live their lives in the shadows of society, going from job-to-job. If there are issues at their workplace, they are unlikely to complain or report them. They will often work through sickness, illness or disease rather than seek adequate healthcare.
Dr. Heather Peralta and her nursing students at the UCF College of Community Nursing Coalition (CNC) saw this need and took action.
Students and Faculty from the UCF Colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Physical Therapy, Social Workers as well as the UF College of Pharmacy provided an outreach clinic at the Farmworkers Association Building in Apopka. In just two days, this team of 60 volunteers saw over 180 patients of all ages, and provided care in internal medicine, dermatology, ophthalmology, ob/gyn, occupational health, pediatrics, social work and physical therapy.
They endured the stifling afternoon heat both indoors and outdoors, working on interdisciplinary teams to make sure all the patients were seen and their questions answered. Students worked to check patients in, to provide education, triage, and then in each of their specialty areas. When it was over, they felt as though they were a part of this community.
“We have created a real bond with the people in Apopka,” said Peralta. “We knew there was a huge need to fill, we just had no idea how big that need was until this week. As a nurse, you have a responsibility to serve the community. Sometimes that means you get family calling you to ask about a rash, other times it's helping your neighbor who has multiple medications to understand. At UCF, we give the students the ability to go beyond this and really fill a need within their assigned community.”
Before this clinic, the CNC partnered with Apopka for many years to serve the under-served at the John Bridges Center. During that time, they noticed that many of the most needy groups had programs that were losing funding and could no longer serve their community. The students wanted to fill in the gaps where possible.
And in April, an opportunity presented itself.
The CNC’s yearly mission trip to the Dominican Republic was canceled due to the potential danger from the Zika virus outbreak. Because of this, they decided to create a free health clinic for the farmworkers in Apopka.
The student nurses hit the ground running in May, looking for donors for things like water, food, ice, and supplies. The Apopka community also pitched in to help. Wal Mart, Sam's, Bravo, Winn Dixie, Aldi, and Home Depot provided gift cards in order to purchase specific supplies. Bravo, Publix, Winn-Dixie, and private donors offered cases of water. Sonny's, Chili's, Mi Mexico, and Chick-fil-a supplied the food for the event. The Diaper Bank of Central Florida provided diapers. The College of Nursing and College of Medicine supplied patient education, medical supplies, and give away items.
The students also made flyers in English, Spanish, and Creole and delivered them across Apopka (in one day they delivered 700). They visited the nurseries and farms to make sure there was information available to the farmworker community. For the event, they completed teaching projects so that when people were waiting, they could learn about nutrition, occupational health hazards, and sun safety.
Volunteers from the Farmworkers Association were on hand to help with coordination, parking and translation. The focus of the effort was providing compassionate care for those with limited resources with an emphasis on health education and finding access to sustainable care.
“It was a beautiful thing to watch all of these students work together seamlessly to serve--understanding that they were filling a great need in Apopka," said Peralta. "We know there is still more need, and we hope to make this clinic sustainable in the near future.”
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