By Jackie Douglas
In what can only be described as an eye-opening experience, I recently volunteered at a mobile volunteer clinic to help those in need of free medical, dental or vision care.
My friends Cate Adams and Katie Pajac joined me in volunteering for the Remote Area Medical Volunteer Corp. (RAM) from Sept. 29 to Oct. 1 at Camp Jordan in East Ridge, Tenn.
RAM was founded as a nonprofit organization in 1985 by Stan Brock. If that name sounds familiar, it's because he starred in "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom." The mission of RAM is to "prevent pain and alleviate suffering by providing free quality health care to those in need." RAM also does disaster relief in the United States and other countries.
Since 1985, RAM has had more than 100,000 humanitarian volunteers, including licensed dental, vision, veterinary, and medical professionals. It has treated more than 700,000 individuals and 67,000 animals and delivered $112 million worth of free health care services.
FFRF's Nonbelief Relief has donated $10,000 to RAM.
This particular clinic focused on dental, vision and general health services. It also had a women's health exam area the final day.
We were there for three days, which included the setup day on Friday. Even though we wouldn't open until Saturday morning, patients were already camped outside in the parking lot.
On Saturday, I arrived at 5 a.m. to get acclimated and assigned a job, and the doors opened about 45 minutes later. I was sent to the Mobile Optical Lab, where I was trained on the machines that cut lenses, how to assemble glasses, and how to use the lensometer, which verifies the eyeglass prescription.
The Mobile Optical Lab that I worked in can make about 200 pairs of glasses a day when it is running at top efficiency. Unfortunately, not all eyeglasses can be made on site. If a child needs polycarbonate lenses or if the prescription is too high, then the glasses are made at RAM headquarters in Knoxville and then mailed to the patient.
Besides working in the optical lab, I also handled patient registration on Sunday for a couple of hours. It was nice to put faces to the eyeglasses I would make later.
During the course of the weekend, the 510 volunteers who helped that weekend saw more than 800 patients (432 for dental work, 191 for medical reasons and 353 for vision issues), some who needed to be seen in more than one field.
I had an amazing time volunteering for RAM. Everyone was friendly and passionate about what they do. All patients were treated with respect and kindness. I am already planning my next volunteer expedition with RAM in spring of 2018. If you get a chance to volunteer with RAM, please do it. You won't regret it!
Jackie Douglas is FFRF's membership manager.