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A Note from Ozzie - Vecinos

Marianne Martinez
  • December 18, 2017

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Until Next Time!

Oh man, where do I start! It has been a memorable year to say the least. Actually, six memorable years! I could not have predicted what has happened over the course of my time with Vecinos. I still fondly remember one my first nights of outreach. It was at one of our farmworker camps named Forest Cove. I think it use to be a motel but turned into farmworker housing units. The first sensation that hit (besides nerves and sweaty palms lol) was the smell. As soon as we pulled up I immediately recognized the aroma of refried beans being cooked, tortillas being warmed up over a comal, and carne asada being chopped up for tacos. It was such a mouthwatering and wonderful aroma that I could almost see the steam from the heat of the food gingerly drifting out of the kitchen. It was magnetic. A strong pull to the smell. It was guiding me in to the kitchen. Like what you would see in cartoons. Instantly my stomach gave a little growl, like nudging you and asking why you didn’t have that food in your mouth already. I thought, Man, I hope they offer us a bite! The aromas calmed me down a bit and helped me relax. Maybe because it reminded me of home. If this is how outreach was going to be –especially if we got food – then this was going to be great! Well, they didn’t give us food that time but after going over some health education and signing them up for our services I felt excited for what was to come.

You know, now that I think back and I start to collect my thoughts, I pay close attention to the emotions that each moment I remember evokes. Sensations of happiness, relief, joy, sadness, flavor (food), anger, frustration, and love pop up. All these emotions that have surfaced and that I feel allowed me to grow as a professional and as an individual. But, I think that this growth that I have experienced is only as powerful and impactful as the people who were with me. Who were witnessing the same moments and experiencing the same emotions that I was feeling. You know, to bear witness to tragedies, to some of life’s hardest and sternest tests can be draining. Physically, spiritually, and emotionally. It’s hard. For us and even more for our patients. I think all of our folks who do this type of work can agree on that. And my colleagues (you know who you are) became more than just colleagues. They became my friends. They became an extended part of my family. We became each other’s pillars of support. Someone we could talk to and reassure ourselves that we were doing a damn good job. That we weren’t pushing our patients away. That we didn’t forget any important information about them. That you left everything set and ready and it was ok to let go. We became a family. And we all grew together through these experiences. We all felt the same emotions that molded and shaped who we are. I am super grateful for the opportunity to have grown alongside such strong, passionate, and humble friends. And this goes for all of my friends and colleagues who work in the other sites throughout the state. You know who you are as well (:

There are so many people to remember and thank. It’s awesome that I was lucky enough to have the opportunity work and play with you all! This goes for everyone currently involved (or who has been involved) in Vecinos and the work that we do. Our staff, our primary care providers, and our nurses (shout out to both Jaime’s, April, Kathy, Janet, Jonathan, Tracy, Kesha, and Grace!!). A big thanks to all of our interns and SAF fellows that I had the privilege of meeting and working with. Everyone does such great work with Vecinos that a good number of patients still ask for them, even if they’re no longer with Vecinos. That’s how you know you are legit. Patients remember you years after you’ve moved on. I can’t express enough the gratitude I feel towards you all for allowing me to learn and grow alongside you. Le quiero dar las gracias a nuestros voluntarios tambien! You chose to spend your free time helping us pack hygiene kits and organizing community events instead of drinking coffee or shooting the breeze! Volunteers play an essential role in any non-profit and we are grateful for the wonderful folks that gave us a helping hand. También le doy las gracias a toda la gente de NCFHP. You guys are awesome and I hope that you will continue to do great work and keep supporting all of the sites that offer such vital services. I know there is a lot of uncertainty with funding and how it will affect the migrant health sites but I have confidence and trust that the NCFHP will pull through and you guys will grow to provide and support even more farmworker families in the future (:

So, now that I start the next chapter in my life I want you guys to know that I will always support you. Rest assured that you can contact me anytime and that you all can count me on me for anything. As I start my studies and go back to school, I will continue to be involved in farmworker justice through transitioning to being a member of the Vecinos board of directors and by also keeping in touch with everyone involved in social justice and farmworker rights. I’ll never forget my years with Vecinos and the wonderful people that made an impact in my life, large or small. To all the folks that I have met in conferences, at trainings, at protests and demonstrations, at Making Hygiene Kits day, at community events and anywhere in between I will miss you all and I hope we can stay in touch. And to the team at Vecinos, I got your backs! You guys have a great leader, a wonderful provider, and courageous and passionate staff. I have no doubt whatsoever that Vecinos will continue to thrive and grow thanks to the hard work you guys do. I will miss our time together dearly. I cannot express how proud I am of getting to know such wonderful individuals and working alongside you. Stay strong, stay focused, stay humble and take of yourselves. And know that I will always support you. Tienen mi palabra (: