We all want to go to the doctor when we’re sick, injured, or for regular checkups, but not everyone has access to medical care due to resources, lack of access to healthcare, or circumstances. It was with this in mind that Vidas De Esperanza, a local nonprofit health clinic, was founded.
Ten years ago when Ascary Arias settled down in Chatham County, he knew that he wanted to help his community, but wasn’t sure the best way to do so. He began to do extensive research on where the pressing needs were and looked to the community of Siler City for answers. He discovered that there was a large gap in medical care in his county, particularly for the Latino population. To his surprise, much of the population was under the poverty line and had never seen a doctor or a dentist. It was because of this research that Arias began to dream about the creation of a medical clinic in the area.
“Because my background is in Sociology, I knew that I needed someone with a more specific focus and expertise in the medical field to turn this dream into a reality,” said Arias. “Enter Dr. John S. Kizer.”
Knowing very well about the healthcare needs in the community, and recognizing that there was trouble communicating with patients who spoke Spanish, Kizer signed on to help. With his connection to UNC Healthcare, specifically the hospital in Chapel Hill, Vidas de Esperanza was able to create a vital partnership to bring in physicians who would not only provide healthcare services to the community at no cost but were able to properly communicate with patients in Spanish.
The start of the clinic in 2009 was small, with fourteen to sixteen patients coming through. It has since grown to having forty-five to sixty patients frequenting the clinic on any given day. Additional medical services such as dental care and in-home visits by nurses that include food, school supplies, and even holiday gifts have also been added to the clinic’s necessary services.
“I do not have insurance and make a low income. Vidas de Esperanza has helped me and benefited me a lot because I could not pay for my dental emergency. Everyone there is kind and respectful with us,” says an anonymous patient at the clinic.
It takes strong partnerships to make this all work, according to Arias. “The clinic now provides a wide range of medical services from checkups, and primary care to women’s healthcare,” says Arias. “We’ve been able to partner with local businesses such as Pittsboro Discount Drugs, a local pharmacy, to provide medicine, and Labcorp to do free blood tests for our patients.”
While the free medical services provided by Vidas de Esperanza make them unique, they stand out for other reasons too. This organization is 100% volunteer based. The doctors, dentists, nurses, and the people who help with administration are voluntarily giving their time and talent. Why? “We are doing this work solely for the best interest of our community. We are comforted by the thought that people don’t have to make decisions between paying for school supplies for their children, dinner tonight, or medicine,” says Arias.
Vidas de Esperanza has created a safe home for the Latino population in Siler City and across Chatham County. The organization prides itself on being a safe space for many who use their services.
“It’s important that the patients feel comfortable when they come here. Compared to other health clinics, they know that here they will never be asked for more than a phone number and address when checking in,” says Arias.
The organization does not just offer medical services but provides support and care. “Patients may call us when they need transportation to doctor visits because they are afraid to go alone and know they can rely on us,” says Carolina Torres, Assistant Director of the Medical and Dental clinics at the organization. “This place is like a family to everyone.”
Vidas de Esperanza was a recipient of a grant from the Arthur Carlsen Charitable Fund at Triangle Community Foundation during the 2019 grant cycle.