Tuesday, November 12, 2019
Teresa Martinez - Florida Catholic
Photography: JONATHAN AND LOURDES MARTINEZ
MIAMI | Dozens of people turned out on a beautiful Saturday morning to receive free medical treatment at a health fair hosted by the Cuban Knights of Malta, Nov. 2 at Our Lady of Charity National Shrine (known in Spanish as la Ermita).
The services offered ranged from dental, auditory, eye exams, biometric and diabetes screenings to detailed information on how to perform self-checks to detect breast cancer. Participants also were able to visit various booths that offered health tips.
Medical students from Florida International University, the University of Miami, members of Caring for Miami and students from Belen Jesuit Preparatory School volunteered alongside medical professionals to provide the free healthcare services to the community.
Those they served were predominantly senior citizens and representatives of minority communities.
“Since the early ‘90s, the Cuban Association of the Order of Malta has been working in outreach throughout Miami,” said Juan O’Naghten, president of the Cuban Knights of Malta. “We do a lot of work in particular parishes but we wanted to do an outreach to the greater Miami-Dade County area, which is how this health fair came to be realized. La Ermita not only provided a central location but it also seemed like the perfect venue with spacious grounds and the ability to offer Mass.”
Also collaborating at the health fair were the University of Miami’s Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, EWTN, FIU’s Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine, Catholic Legal Services, the St. John Bosco Clinic and Caring for Miami.
“It is our mission to serve the poor, needy and sick,” said Juan Jose Calvo, former president of the Cuban Knights of Malta. “We knew that providing this service to the community would be well received. Although we are only able to offer a triage of sorts, it does allow those without insurance to see a medical professional without the fear of a cost or fee. We are grateful to have Caring for Miami who came to help with their dental mobile unit and offer their services to the community.”
“We’ve been planning today’s health fair for four months in order to ensure that we can offer basic health services completely free of cost to those who need it the most,” said Dr. Julio Torres, member of the Order of Malta. “We know there are many people in our community without insurance (who) go without being checked or seen by a medical professional for years and end up at an emergency room once their situation gets complicated. Our goal is to offer preventive care and screenings that can detect a problem before it becomes an emergency.”
In conjunction with the health fair, a Mass was celebrated and confessions were heard.
“The celebration of the Mass is important because the charism of promoting and defending the faith and spirituality is one of our missions as an order,” said Calvo. “We not only cover the physical health of the person but their spiritual needs as well.”
“My hope, as a member of the organizing committee, is that people who have been reluctant to get important screenings get seen by one of the many doctors and medical professionals who are here and volunteering their services,” said Berta Cabrera, director of the St. John Bosco Clinic in Miami, which is sponsored by the Sisters of St. Joseph of St. Augustine with support from the Order of Malta. “Our goal here is to identify any health problems that we can detect early and get the person set up with a treatment plan if necessary.”
“This is such a valuable and important service that is being offered to the community,” said Martha Verastequi, who was receiving treatment. “Not all of us have insurance and those of us that work may not be able to take the time off during the workday to see a doctor. So I for one am extremely grateful.”
The Order of Malta hopes to make the health fair an annual event. Anyone interested in participating or learning more, visit http://www.ordendemaltacuba.org.