Buddhist temple

Fall River Buddhist Temple, a COVID vaccination site for the Cambodian community

FALL RIVER – The three monks received their vaccines on Sunday.

The same goes for the only nun who also resides at the Khmer Buddhist Temple on Highland Avenue.

“I am happy,” said Lompha Riph, a petite woman who shaves her head in a manner consistent with Buddhist tradition.

A total of 68 people, mostly members of the Cambodian Fall River community, walked through the doors of the three-story house to get their first injection of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.

Buddhist monk Thann Ka wears a bandage after receiving his COVID-19 vaccine inside the Fall River Khmer Buddhist Temple on Highland Avenue.

Members of the city’s emergency medical services, a division of the Fall River fire department, were on hand to administer the vaccines.

“We have to do all the dirty work,” joked EMS Lt. Nick Silva, who was there with eight of his fellow paramedics.

Fall River firefighters paramedics and volunteer Kyle Neves, far right, were at the Fall River Khmer Buddhist temple on Sunday to administer the first doses of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine.

Reverend Susan Lee, who is rector of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church on Warren Street, helped organize the one-day immunization clinic.

“We very much appreciate the SMU for staying late,” she said, referring to a handful of people who showed up after last minute phone calls to recruit as many recipients as possible.

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Lee noted that his church had been involved in the city’s Cambodian community since the arrival of the first two families in 1979 – when the current Rector Emeritus, Reverend James Hornsby, had been Deputy Rector of St. Luke and ultimately its Rector. .

“We have a long relationship (with the Cambodian community),” said Lee.

Fall River Khmer Buddhist Temple is located on Highland Avenue across from North Park.

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One immigrant family at the time was sponsored by St. Luke’s and the other by Church of the Ascension. The two families came to the United States to escape the “death fields” of the Khmer Rouge government of Pol Pot.

Sunday’s immunization session was part of a “targeted outreach initiative” announced last February by Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration, as a way to deliver more doses of the coronavirus vaccine to the 20 hardest-hit municipalities in the country. Commonwealth.

Some of these towns, in addition to Fall River, include Chelsea, Brockton, and New Bedford.

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More than 360 Fall River residents have so far died after contracting the COVID-19 virus, according to Mayor Paul Coogan’s office.

The Baker administration has allocated $ 1 million to the League of State Community Health Centers to make vaccines more readily available and to “increase equity in vaccine awareness.”

Lee says the effort to mobilize resources and include the Khmer Buddhist temple as a vaccination site began more than a month ago.

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Tess Curran, director of health and social services at Fall River, got the ball rolling by contacting Sandra Carreiro.

Carreiro is a local organizer for United Interfaith Action, a faith-based volunteer group from Fall River and New Bedford headquartered in the First Baptist Church in Fall River on North Main Street.

Curran, according to Carreiro, asked for help in connecting with local church leaders and faith groups. Carreiro says she referred Curran to Lee and other local church leaders.

Curran said Sunday’s vaccination site was not the first in town to benefit from the Baker administration’s outreach initiative.

She said previous “private clinics” had taken place at some companies, at Stanley Street Treatment and Resources (SSTAR) and in conjunction with the Housing Authority.

Curran said people in town who might otherwise face certain barriers in terms of accessing vaccines include people of color; the homeless; and residents with disabilities, including mental health issues.

She also said that workers who don’t live in the city but have jobs in Fall River have been able to enroll in private clinics.

Curran said that aside from standard follow-up, the second Moderna vaccine in 28 days, there are no plans to hold another private clinic session at the Khmer Buddhist temple at this time.

The Reverend Susan Lee, rector of St. Luke's Episcopal Church, and Sophia Rosana Hunt, president of the Cambodian community of Fall River Inc., were on site Sunday inside the Khmer Buddhist temple to oversee a vaccination clinic against the coronavirus.

Lee says many of the Cambodian Americans who came to the temple for their immunizations on Sunday were elderly and did not speak English.

She says she helped them by personally entering their names into the online portal connected to the city’s registration software.

Lee said a handful of people who signed up and showed up on Sunday were Vietnamese and Hispanic.

In the past few weeks, the number of people signed up for the Buddhist temple’s vaccinations was at least 100. But Lee says some of them have apparently been successful in making appointments online at other sites. of State.

Thang Hong liked the fact that he got his first of two Moderna hits on Sunday.

Fall River EMS employee Bethanie Ferguson gives Thang Hong an injection of Moderna vaccine during a vaccination clinic held inside the Khmer Buddhist temple building on Highland Avenue on Sunday.

The 43-year-old city resident, who moved to Fall River in 1990, said he became frustrated trying to register online with the state to get vaccinated at other sites.

“It takes forever and I can’t get in,” he said.

Lee said Sophia Rosana Hunt, president of the Cambodian community of Fall River Inc., helped by speaking to the monks to make sure they would not object to having the vaccination clinic held in their building.

Among the three people who were vaccinated was Thann Ka, 68.

Sitting barefoot on a rug in the central first-floor prayer area facing a colorful Buddhist shrine, Ka, with a bandage on his right arm, provided commentary with the help of a translator.

“I’m glad to have it, but I would go elsewhere (to get the vaccine) if needed,” he said.