Kim Connolly, our Marketing Director, Martha Trujillo, our Information and Referral Specialist, and local photographer Brad Hamilton, took a road trip recently to a migrant worker camp at an orchard in Nelson County. The reason was to take photos illustrating our focus area of Access to Health & Wellness. it is not easy to get pictures of real people receiving medical care, so we called our community partners at Blue Ridge Medical Center in Lovingston. The United Way provides grants to two of their excellent programs that fall under their Rural Health Outreach Program: Wellness Passport and Latino Health Outreach.
Karrie Chaney, their Program Manager, invited us to join their lay health promoters on a scheduled visit to perform health screenings for legal migrant workers from Mexico. Martha, a native of Mexico, was indispensable as she was able to ask the workers' permission to take their photos and learn their stories, leaving the health workers to do their jobs uninterrupted.
These hardworking men come here each year on work visas to work January through November on a large Nelson County orchard operation. The orchard owner provides them with housing in a simple wood ranch home tucked way back in the orchard with plenty of bedrooms and a communal kitchen. The men take turns cooking. The orchard owner drives them in to town to go to the bank so that they can deposit their pay and send money home to their families in Mexico. Martha explained to Kim and Brad that the economy is so bad in Mexico that these men can make much more here to support their families, even at whatever the rate is for orchard labor. So they leave their families for 10 months out of the year - most of the men we met have been coming here for years.
The lay health promoters are all native Spanish speakers - enthusiastic, knowledgeable and capable - and the men feel comfortable with them. If they detect a possible medical problem, they give the men referrals to the Blue Ridge Medical Center. One man had diabetes, and was given additional information in Spanish on healthy eating and disease management.
When we think of poverty, we tend to think of urban areas, but the Blue Ridge Medical Center reaches out with their mobile health van to the many rural poor who may work on farms, at sawmills or in construction. But true to their mission of helping the uninsured, the van even comes to Charlottesville to help urban low-income families. They focus on prevention through regular check-ups and provide access to specialized medical care when necessary. The folks at places like Blue Ridge Medical Center are walking the walk - they are Living United.
Posted by Kim Connolly.
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