One part of RAM clinics that seemingly goes unnoticed when we speak glowingly of our volunteers is the work of our interpreters. There are many patients attending clinics who struggle to speak English and, thankfully, we have volunteers on hand who can help us communicate with them. At most clinics, the interpreters wear an orange vest to make them easily identifiable to anyone who may need them.
At a recent clinic, we were able to interview one interpreter who came to the clinic unaware that is what she would end up doing.
Sidney, who is 12 years old, hails from Columbia, Tennessee. She came to the Columbia clinic with her parents, who are also interpreters. Two years ago, when we were in Columbia, her parents thought she should stay home because she would be bored. This year she spent the majority of the first day working in the cafeteria, but on the second day someone came looking for help. “Who speaks Spanish? I need someone who speaks Spanish,” rang out in the cafeteria. Sidney’s mother told the lady that her daughter could help. “It started off as one or two people then they asked if I cared to just go ahead and put on the orange vest and go to a certain area,” Sidney said.
This being Sidney’s first RAM clinic, she was trying to learn the ropes while also helping others feel more at home. She mainly worked in the vision area and the entrance to the clinic. While translating for people at registration she heard a common theme, “Most of them have not been to a dentist in more than 10 years.” Which, in my mind, seems like a long time to go without dental care. Sadly, we hear this type of thing at many clinics. Some will say they have a fear of dentists, are unable to afford it, or they were ashamed at the way their teeth looked.
Many people may not realize it but you can tell a lot about someone’s overall health by the condition of their teeth. In turn, if someone is unable to receive the dental care they need, for whatever reason, their health can diminish. It really is a vicious cycle.
The question was asked of Sidney, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” This was a question hard for her to answer, “I like to do a lot of things.” She professed her love for sports, but also a fondness for artistic things, such as drawing. “On the other hand, other people expect me to do other things. My dad wants me to be an architect or an engineer.”
The great thing about hearing Sidney’s interests was that they all could be possible for her to achieve. However, it brought on feelings that there were plenty of people at that clinic who also had the same type of dreams. That is the thing about dreams, they are something to strive for; to give us the direction to stay on a consistent path to make those dreams come true.
Unfortunately, some people are not in the position to feel they can have exceptional aspirations for their life. There is something to be said about making the best of a bad situation and overcoming obstacles. Remote Area Medical was birthed by a person who saw a bad situation and felt there had to be a way to overcome it. Essentially, Stan Brock was and still is a dreamer whose dreams have changed many people’s lives. RAM is now in the position to help others who have dreams to one day make a difference. Who knows what someone at one of our clinics may someday accomplish? The thought that we may give them hope for a better tomorrow makes me extremely proud to be a part of it. This brings to mind a quote by Helen Keller:
“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.”