Charleston Cares: BIFMC Volunteer Spotlight

Barrier Islands Free Medical Clinic provides free, high quality and compassionate primary care to hundreds of uninsured patients who live or work on Johns, James, and Wadmalaw Islands. Our free clinic is able to serve the residents and workers of our Lowcountry community thanks to the commitment of our volunteer physicians, nurses, and staff. James Island resident Kurtyss Kasten, a registered nurse who speaks fluent Spanish, is able to offer invaluable talent and care to our hispanic patients as a medical translator at the Clinic. Kasten shares how volunteering has shaped his worldview – and helped to put his career ambitions in focus.volunteer

How did you learn about BIFMC? Were you actively looking for volunteer opportunities at the time? A friend of from high school referred me to the Clinic. I had just come home from spending a few months in Central America and I was looking for a way to use my Spanish. Since then, I’ve told other kids from our high school about it, and they’ve gone to volunteer here too!

What is it about BIFMC’s mission that appeals to you personally? I love that we provide care to those who need it most- from all different backgrounds and cultures – and that we open up access to health to so many people.

How has volunteer work had an impact on your life? I first came to the clinic just to keep my Spanish sharp. I was about to go out of the country for a year. Then I volunteered when I came back. I started graduate school and found out quickly that the program wasn’t for me. When I started thinking about what I really might like to do for work, I kept thinking back to what it felt like to help people at the clinic. It was such an amazing feeling to empower people with knowledge, and to see them come in worried, then leave comforted. I think volunteering at the clinic was the main reason I decided to become a nurse. When I leave the clinic, I always feel elevated, full of positivity.

What would you say is the biggest misconception about the uninsured? Most of the patients I meet at the clinic work harder than I do, in less desirable and more dangerous jobs. Meeting them, and getting glimpses into their lives and lifestyles, always impresses me. It’s also exciting to get to meet people from a lot of different countries who are here, working hard, trying to take care of themselves and their families.

What advice would you give to those considering volunteering their time or donating a gift to the clinic? It’s so easy to not find the time to volunteer. But when you do meaningful volunteer work, where you know you were part of a process that truly helps others, it feels a hundred times better than working for money. And it makes you want to keep coming back, and meeting good people, and helping to empower them. You know that you’ve done something that makes your community stronger, and there’s not much worth more than that.

-Submitted by Carrie Moores, BIFMC Marketing and Communications Specialist

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