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Blugold tears down language barriers at local health clinic

| Lucy Grogan-Ripp

Corinne Klopotek, a senior psychology major and Spanish minor, completed her service-learning through the Chippewa Valley Free Clinic (CVFC) as an interpreter for non-English speaking patients.

Located right here in Eau Claire, CVFC provides medical care to community members otherwise unable to afford it. Their official mission statement boasts their promise to, “provide quality health care and advocacy for individuals of the Chippewa Valley who have no reasonable health care alternative.”

As many of the patients who utilize the services provided at the clinic speak little to no English, communication between doctor and patient proves somewhat difficult. Due to the language barrier, there exists a great need for language mediation.

Taking notice of this need, Corinne decided to use her skills as a Spanish minor to volunteer as an interpreter at the clinic. Shortly after returning from a language immersion trip over the summer, Corinne learned of the opportunity at CVFC through one of her fellow students. Corinne noted that this student, “had been volunteering there prior to the trip and recommended it as a way to complete the service-learning requirement for the university while practicing Spanish.”

Since learning of the opportunity in September of 2017, Corinne has been volunteering at the clinic around three times a month. “I simply serve as a translator between nurses/doctors and patients who speak little to no English,” Corinne explained. By the end of the academic year, Corinne will have completed all 30 hours of her service-learning.

Among the many things that Corinne’s service experience has taught her, the strong need for affordable healthcare and the sheer size of Eau Claire’s Spanish speaking community have been especially impactful. “This project has shown me not only the need for healthcare amongst our community, but also the magnitude of our Spanish-speaking community. I did not expect there to be such a great language barrier in our area, and I am glad to be a part of breaking that down,” Corinne stated.

When asked about the most noteworthy experience she’s had at the clinic, Corinne noted, “Though I cannot discuss specific cases or patients, there have been many people in need of basic care that have stood out to me. Often, patients simply need inhalers for asthma or feminine care products, and these simple things can drastically improve their quality of life.”

Overall, Corinne believes the most important part of her service-learning project has been getting to know the people at the clinic and witnessing just how impactful community outreach can be.

“The free clinic is full of amazing individuals that donate their time to helping provide healthcare to those in need … I feel that myself and other interpreters are important for both the doctors and the patients to understand what the other is trying to communicate. Given this communication, more members of the Eau Claire and surrounding communities can have access to the basic healthcare they need.”