The Lowell Community Health Center is expanding. It opened a new section of its Metta Health Center last month and has plans for a larger expansion in a new building later this year. It’s a huge expansion for the health center, which serves many of Lowell’s Cambodian population.
Both efforts are part of an expansion effort aided by Pov Sonith, a program manager at the center, and volunteer contributions from staff members.
“Funds were not only raised from the Cambodian community, but also from other places,” Pov Sonith told VOA Khmer. “More than 90 percent of our staff volunteered and chipped in from their paychecks to raise funds.”
The total cost of the project is nearly $43. Around $5 million is needed from the community, with the remainder to come from the US and Massachusetts governments. About $3 million has been raised so far.
Bun Savleak, a patient, said she has been getting treatment here since 2004. She said a poor US economy meant she could only contribute a little to the fund.
Elie Catherine, a health care provider who has also worked in Cambodia, said she feels comfortable with the Cambodian patients here, but she said her experience in each place has been different.
“The people that are here in Lowell from Cambodia and from Southeast Asia are very blessed to have good health care, access to doctors,” she said. “When I was in Cambodia, I found people, if they don’t have money, they could not afford good health care. And many people were dying from diseases you don’t die from in United States.”
Ly Sothea, another patient, said she likes coming to the Metta Health Center because there are Cambodian translators.
The new building for the Lowell health center was once a mill factory. Planners hope it will be renovated by the end of the year. By then, Pov Sonith said he hoped around $5 million will be raised.
Dorcas Grigg-Saito, chief executive of the Lowell Community Health Center, said the city was eligible for federal aid, due to its high poverty rate. “People are asking our services and need our services, and we don’t have enough space to provide the health care that is needed,” she said.
With the new expansion, the community health center will be able to serve about half of Lowell’s residents, she said.