About seven local organizations came together Saturday with the same goal in mind: offer health care services for Gainesville’s Hispanic community.
The health fair took place from 8 a.m. to noon at Parkview Baptist Church, located at 3403 NW 13th St. Alongside the church, the event was organized and sponsored by Children Beyond Our Borders (CBOB), Tu Fiesta Radio, Mundo Sano, Equal Access Clinic, Mobile Outreach Clinic and UF’s Project Continuity.
It was conducted in Spanish and English and targeted the Hispanic community by offering services without the need for documentation or payment. They offered appointments or walk-ins.
Members of the community were given free access to health exams, vaccines, consultations and cancer tests, among other health care services.
The fair happens every three months, said Maria Eugenia Zelaya, CBOB’s executive director.
“Sometimes our kids, especially in the Hispanic and Latino community, do not get the support they need to move forward,” Zelaya said.
CBOB was the event’s main organizer. The organization started 20 years ago in Colombia with the help of four UF students, Zelaya said. Fairs started in the city of Alachua in 2016, she said, but a majority of people attending them were from Gainesville, so they moved last year.
Zelaya has been the CBOB director since 2020, but she began volunteering with the program in 2011. She works full-time as a teacher at Eastside High School but dedicates as much of her time as she can to CBOB’s mission.
During every fair, organizations set themselves up at individual tables to provide information about their practices and services.
Ricardo Chavez, a UF medical school second year, is the coordinator working with the Equal Access Clinic to provide health care services for the fair.
Chavez, 25, said the purpose of the fair is to help patients avoid medical emergencies that could be expensive.
“The most important thing is that we try to emphasize preventive medicine,” he said.
To focus on diagnosing issues and avoid medical expenses, Chavez said, the fair is completely free and doesn’t require any identification or documents for registration.
Sable Barrow, an assistant director at the UF Health Cancer Center, said the center has worked closely with Project Continuity, an organization working with local communities and clinics to prevent cancer.
Barrow said the purpose of the project is to increase evidence-based cancer screenings. They offer exams for colorectal, breast and cervical cancer.
She also described efforts the clinic makes to create significant relationships with patients.
“We try to make appointment scheduling simple by having a Spanish-based application, as well as putting patients in contact with bilingual staff members,” Barrow said.
This weekend was the second time 39-year-old Gainesville resident María Osorio, who moved to the city a year ago, attended the fair with her family.
Osorio is grateful for CBOB’s free clinics and its tutoring program for Hispanic kids that need help in school, in which her two daughters participate, she said.
“They see me quickly, and they are very kind,” Osorio said.
Osorio attends the clinic to get tests done and interact with the community, she said. Events like this one help the Latin-American community unite. She is also part of multiple local Facebook, Whatsapp and Telegram groups, in which members of the community share information and resources.
María Torres, a UF graduate student majoring in medical physiology and pharmacology, said it’s crucial to keep people informed about the resources groups like CBOB provide.
Since last Fall, Torres, 25, has helped as a volunteer assistant for CBOB’s health initiative. She’s been volunteering since the fair’s August session. Because of the back-to-school season, Torres said, the fair’s focus revolved around the children and the physical tests they needed for the new school year.
This was the fourth time Parkview Baptist Church has hosted the fair, senior pastor Jesus Garcia said.
CBOB is working on additional projects for the Hispanic community, such as children’s tutoring called “Triunfadores,” adult English classes and a new health podcast with Tu Fiesta radio called “Café CBOB.”
The next health fair will be held at the church in May, where residents can turn to these organizations’ medical support once more.
Valentina Sandoval is a third-year journalism major and the Race and Equity/East Gainesville reporter for the Enterprise Desk. She has also worked writing and translating stories in Spanish for el Caimán. Whenever she's not writing, she's expanding her Animal Crossing island, making Spotify playlists or convincing someone to follow her dog on Instagram.
Nicole Beltran is a second-year journalism and economics major, and she's the caimán desk editor this semester. In her free time, she enjoys reading, journaling, and watching musicals.