by Christopher Stathis
On September 10th, the third annual Doctors without Walls – Santa Barbara Street Medicine (DWW) Glow in the Park fundraiser took place at Elings Park. As DWW’s largest annual fundraiser, Glow in the Park aims every year to unite the Santa Barbara community under the vision of an ever-healthier future.
Glow in the Park plays a important role in the ability of DWW to continue serving Santa Barbara’s most vulnerable populations. Last year, attendees donated approximately 50,000 dollars, every cent of which helped the organization increase access to healthcare for the underserved. The gifts provided by donors helped supply basic medical necessities, including vital medicine, to patients who otherwise would not have had them. DWW was thus able to facilitate over 1,700 encounters in the parks in 2015, bringing high quality medical care to patients so they did not have to navigate the complex healthcare system alone. As a result, the use of emergency services decreased while access to healthcare for the underserved increased. With the continued support of generous donors, DWW can continue to have the impact it does in this community.
A donation is also an investment in student volunteers, the next generation of humanitarian healers. “The students are a friendly smile and an open conduit for the start of communication about healthcare and meeting the needs of the population we serve,” states Lynn Matis, long-time DWW volunteer. “They are such a vital part of the overall success of this program,” she explained. Much of the work in the organization is done by student volunteers, whose proximity to this unique patient population enables them to develop valuable skills that will help them in the future. Many volunteers are also inspired by their experiences to pursue a career in the humanitarian sector. “I have been exposed to a style of medicine not available in typical hospitals,” explained one student who volunteers as a scribe, “It has inspired me to view medicine as a holistic approach, rather than just the treatment of symptoms.” Both patients and volunteers benefit from this style of healthcare and the contributions of donors.
Finally, Glow in the Park sometimes advances DWW in unexpected ways. Because of a previous Glow in the Park, Maria Long, DWW Executive Director, received a chance to speak on the radio about her dream of starting a mobile medical clinic. When the Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara heard her speaking on the radio, they decided to fund that dream. The mobile medical clinic is now a reality and currently operating to help DWW extend its reach wherever it is needed in Santa Barbara County.
“This event was a time for celebration and a great way to raise awareness about what we do in the community,” said Maria Long, “Our volunteers were excited to share their experiences with our kind supporters who make it all possible.”