– Joanna Welborn
SAF Communications Arts Director
Folding tables and chairs, tents, portable lights and examining tables, extension cords; laptops, cellphones, hotspots, clipboards, forms; masks, scrubs, blood pressure cuffs, water bottles, insect spray. These are the materials and equipment needed for a mobile clinic visit to a farmworker labor camp with the North Carolina Farmworkers' Project (NCFP).
I had the opportunity to join their camp visit one Monday evening, along with SAF interns Ally and Monica and NCFP staff Balbina and Diana. At 5 pm, we loaded up in the mobile clinic van and a separate car and made the 25-minute drive down rural roads to the camp, passing fields of soy, tobacco, and corn.
Turning off the highway, we bounced down a long dirt road, metal tables clanging in the back, until we reached the white clapboard house. The workers weren't back from the fields yet so we got to work setting up the tents and attaching velcro privacy walls, arranging tables, chairs and lights, then sprayed ourselves down with insect repellant to ward away the already-gathering mosquitoes.
A line of boots, a bag of charcoal, a grill, washtub, and bench sat by the open screen door to the house. We loaded boxes filled with hand soap onto the porch and ran extension cords from the house to power the lights. The Campbell University clinic bus pulled up, made a three-point turn to park in the grass, and a crew of about 15 medical students, physicians, and volunteers spilled out, unloading more laptops and equipment.
The workers got back around 6 pm, went inside to shower, dress, eat a quick meal. They came out one by one to fill out health assessment forms with Ally or Monica, then had their height, weight, and blood pressure checked by the medical students and volunteers. They sat in plastic chairs to wait until they were called into one of the privacy tents to receive their full check-up.
In the path by the nearby soy field, a teenager repeatedly sped by on a four-wheeler, stirring up dirt and drowning out conversation. The sun slowly set over the fields and one by one, the lights came on. Silhouettes of medical students shadowed the tent walls as they entered and exited, conferring with attending physicians about their patients.
While the workers waited for prescriptions and follow-up appointments to be set, they joked with outreach workers and watched videos on their phones. They brought out cold bottles of water for us and handed them around.
A quick rain fell and everyone– interns, outreach workers, farmworkers, students, and physicians– jumped up at once to cover laptops, cords, and papers, moving tents and wiping down examining tables. Another round of insect repellant was applied, water bottles were drained, granola bars consumed, cell phone photos shared around.
By 10 pm, all nine workers had been seen and, if needed, referred for follow-up care. We all came together again to tear down, pack up, and load all the equipment in the clinic van and Campbell University bus. The workers brought out watermelons and cantaloupes as thank-you gifts, carrying and loading them into the back of the van for us.
We said our goodbyes, our "ten cuidado" and "nos vemos". Down the bumpy road again with the air conditioner blasting away the humid summer air, we made our way back to the NCFP office in Benson by 11 pm. Tomorrow evening would be outreach– Ally and Monica would return to the same camp to pick up workers and drive them for follow-up appointments at the clinic in town. But tonight we'd end on a note of shared laughter and thanks, dividing up the melons and making our way home on country roads in the dark.