Bringing healthcare awareness and volunteer opportunities to the school community and beyond
Quality healthcare can be something many of us take for granted. Living in a prosperous city like Hong Kong, it can be easy to forget that there are many in our city who don’t have the same access to services that we have. When we first heard about The Free Clinic, we were amazed at the drive and initiative students at Chinese International School (CIS) had for their community. Moving from a position of privilege and opportunity, students began to learn about the state of healthcare for the marginalised community in their city. Prompted by teacher and Director of Service and Action at CIS, Ms. Mala Uttam and the President of the Osteopathic Association in Hong Kong, Dr. Damien Mouellic, students launched The Free Clinic. Through partnering with medical professionals in Hong Kong, the clinic provides free services (which are often quite expensive) for underprivileged communities who need it the most. We chat with a student volunteers about their experience. Read on to find out how you can get involved.
What is the Free Clinic and how did this initiative start?
The Free Clinic is a collaboration between students at Chinese International School and medical professionals at Stanley Wellness Center (SWC) and Dr. Lauren Bramley & Partners (LBP) with the aim of providing high quality medical treatment to those who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford it.
The chief visionaries of the project are the Director of Service and Action at our school, Ms. Mala Uttam and the President of the Osteopathic Association in Hong Kong, Dr. Damien Mouellic. Dr. Mouellic wanted to integrate corporate social responsibility into his medical practices and Ms. Uttam wanted to make service more meaningful for students at our school. Over lunch one day in the summer of 2016 the two of them decided to join forces and the Free Clinic was born. Dr. Mouellic was tasked with convincing colleagues to volunteer their time and expertise, and Ms. Uttam was tasked with finding students with the right calibre to take on such a huge project. They both succeeded!
Who is involved with the Free Clinic?
The Free Clinic is run by senior students at Chinese International School. These students are selected for their passion for social justice and change, in tandem with their skills and capabilities as bilingual translators, media editors, organisers, and designers. These students spend hours each week in the months leading up to each clinic to prepare for the clinic day. Beyond being just another service activity they volunteer for, the Free Clinic is truly something the students enjoy and are willing to give up free time for. It is an incubator for something beyond academic capabilities – for passion and dedication to something that is centred around the greater community in which they live.
Who are beneficiaries of the free clinic and what services are provided?
We reached out to NGOs that CIS has longstanding relationships with. Our service partnerships have stringent conditions; most of the organisations we work with service beneficiaries whose median household income is $8000/month or less. Most of the patients who have attended the clinic are refugees from the Justice Centre, the Vine Centre, Crossroads, Health in Action, Christian Action, the elderly from St. Barnabas’ Society and Home, young children who attend Music Children’s Foundation, and local families from SAHK, Mother’s Choice, YWCA and Hope Worldwide. Over the last year, The Free Clinic was able to help a total of 369 patients, whilst funding 68 blood tests, 12 pap smears, 10 scans (inclusive of ultrasounds, x-rays, and ECGs), wrote 23 referral letters, provided 35 with medication, and followed-up 30 patients. Through every session, the Clinic aims to help more beneficiaries as the initiative continues to expand.
The modalities provided by the Free Clinic range from general practitioners, osteopaths, obstetricians, counsellors, dentists, naturopaths, homeopaths, acupuncturists, sports massage therapists, and perineal rehabilitation therapists. Dental services are most in demand and we are happy to report that a new dental practice in Central (run by a CIS alumni) has agreed to participate in our next Free Clinic on November 11. We hope that this will be the start of a long and fruitful relationship!
How has this student led programme changed the student community at CIS?
One of the goals for the Free Clinic was to raise awareness about Hong Kong healthcare in CIS. It was easy for international students to distance themselves from such conversations, even though these issues were undeniable truths for many Hong Kong citizens. Factors such as the lack of resources to an ageing population has led to public healthcare becoming increasingly laboured, which has resulted in lack of quality healthcare for the underprivileged Hong Kong community. By starting a dialogue about the state of healthcare in Hong Kong, the Free Clinic has helped the CIS community become increasingly aware about the issue that healthcare isn’t a given in Hong Kong. The Free Clinic has also held some fundraising events in school that gave us the opportunity to talk to different age groups about the impact of free healthcare and why healthcare in Hong Kong (and in general) is a subject that needs attention and a solution. It was important for the student community to acknowledge and understand their own healthcare privileges, and thus, allow them to take the initiative to reach out towards those in need.
One of the core requirements of all community service programs at CIS is that programs need to be hands-on, sustained, and long-term, all of which are characteristics that The Free Clinic perfectly encapsulates. The Free Clinic sets the bar for other community service programs at the school, demonstrating that it is entirely possible for international school kids to become deeply and personally involved in the wider Hong Kong community outside of their own social sphere.
How can Sassy Mama readers get involved?
The Free Clinic has a GoGetFunding page as a platform to reach out to interested people who want to help support our initiative in the long run. All donations will go to covering the cost of medication, MRIs, CT scans and follow-up appointments.
Additionally, the Free Clinic is always looking for ways to expand our initiative. If you work in a medical practice that might want to get involved, please reach out to us. Additionally, if you are able to sponsor food on the days of the clinic or translation services (Bahasa, Tagalog, Swahili, Arabic, Hindi) please get in touch with us at [email protected] or [email protected].