5 Questions with Vicki Fitzsimmons
1) How long have you been affiliated with Jubilee Ministries, and in what capacity?
I have been involved with St. Andrew’s Children’s Clinic, a Jubilee Ministry, since 2001. I had never heard of a Jubilee Ministry before then. The Reverend Ed Gustafson, then Executive Director of The Clinic, applied for Jubilee status a few years prior to that. He was quite proud of the status, and when I learned what the designation meant I was proud too. I am a volunteer with The Clinic.
To learn more about St. Andrew’s Children’s Clinic, visit www.standrewsclinic.org.
2) What is/are your role(s) in your diocese? In your parish? In a ministry or ministries?
Currently, I serve as Publicity Coordinator at St. Andrew’s Children’s Clinic. In this volunteer position, I take photos at the monthly clinics, write a biannual newsletter, update the Clinic website on a regular basis, create special mailings, write press releases, facilitate tours by media, create exhibits, and anything else I can think of to promote the good work of The Clinic. I also give presentations about The Clinic when the Executive Director cannot, and I staff an annual exhibit at the Arizona Diocesan Convention. I organize and perform at an annual recital to benefit the Augmentative/Alternative Communication Department at The Clinic. This department works with children who have limited or no ability to speak. We have found that an iPad with special communication software in Spanish can give these children a voice. With the program, they can interact with others. They press icons, and the iPad speaks for them.
In my parish, I serve as an informal liaison between The Clinic and Church. I write a column about The Clinic for the parish newsletter.
Jubilee Ministry volunteers, executives, and clients come from a variety of contexts and work. Check out the breadth of our work at The Episcopal Asset Map.
3) What’s one way you’ve been changed by your work alongside the economically disadvantaged?
The mission of St. Andrew’s Children’s Clinic is to provide free, specialized medical care to children living in Mexico who cannot get the care or afford the care they need in their home country. Our patients include those with spina bifida, brittle bones disease, club foot, cerebral palsy, cleft palate/cleft lip, hearing loss, impaired or lost vision, nutritional deficiencies, speech difficulties, to name a few.
The love these parents show for their children is amazing. They work with their children during the month to do the therapies that are prescribed. They patiently care for their children who have physical difficulties. I have watched a father feed his cerebral palsied daughter for 45 minutes without once hurrying her. I have watched mothers carry children bigger than they are.
I am always amazed at the patience of the families who travel many miles to get to our monthly clinic. Some have traveled just across the Border, but many have spent 4-15 hours just getting to The Clinic and this probably was by public transportation. Then, they walk across the Border where The Clinic transport takes them to St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church where The Clinic is held. They wait in line until their number is called. This lets them into the waiting room where they might spend most of the day between appointments in the different departments. In all this time, they are patient; their children are well-behaved. They never fail to express their gratitude to the volunteers who provide the care their children need.
One of my most blessed happenings was when a child with Down syndrome and limited speech kissed me in thanks for the iPad which would give her a voice through special software programs. Another was watching tears roll down a mother’s cheeks when her son heard with his hearing aids for the first time.
4) What does advocacy mean to you?
Advocacy means speaking out for those who need our help. This is easy for me in regard to St. Andrew’s Children’s Clinic. Jesus said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me…” I see all the children at The Clinic as children of God who need our help. Because their need is so great, it is easy to advocate for them.
5) Where in your diocese (or parish, or ministry) have you seen Jesus?
Jesus is at work every clinic, guiding the hands of the medical personnel, soothing the children who are frightened when casts are sawed off, helping in the kitchen to prepare food for the patients and parents, helping volunteers entertain children in the Arts & Crafts area. He is in the faces of each patient. As the newsletter editor, I take many of the photos that are featured. I am always told that they are great and that people like the newsletter. I am not a professional photographer. Rather, I trust that Jesus will guide me in getting the photos that tell the Clinic’s story. He never fails me.
Dr. Vicki Fitzsimmons is a volunteer with St. Andrew’s Children’s Clinic, a Jubilee Ministry in the Diocese of Arizona.
If you are interested in having your church or ministry designated a Jubilee Ministry, please contact Mr. Christopher Sikkema at 212-716-6055 or Christopher Sikkema. The application to be designated a Jubilee Ministry can be found HERE.
The Rev. Melanie Mullen
Director of Reconciliation, Justice and Creation Care