Caridad Center Offers Health Care and Hope to Families

Meeting the Needs of Florida's Underserved

Alcinette Clervoyant, 26, of Boynton Beach, Florida, remembers the day her son’s school called her.  “They told me that my son’s hand was shaking, and they couldn’t understand why.  They had called 911 and Fernando was taken to a hospital emergency room,” Alcinette recalls. “I was in shock.  I never knew my son was sick.  I had no idea.”

Originally from Haiti, Alcinette had arrived in Florida in 2001, pregnant and with her then 3-year-old son Fernando. Sponsored by a relative, she was determined to make a better life for herself and her family, and over the next several years, slowly her situation began improving. But her dreams for a better future were almost shattered when she received the news of Fernando’s illness.

Fernando was transferred from Bethesda Hospital to Palms West Hospital where he remained for 11 days. After Ferdinand’s initial treatment at a hospital, luckily Alcinette was able to turn to The Caridad Center for follow up care and help in paying for the costly drugs that Fernando needed.  

Care at The Caridad CenterFounded in 1989, The Caridad Center, located in Boynton Beach, FL, provides free medical and dental care to a large population of agricultural workers, laborers and the working poor of Palm Beach County, Florida.  The Center’s community outreach support services provide food, clothing, personal care items, subsidies in emergency situations, educational supplies to school age children, college scholarships and presents to more than 1,000 families during the holiday season.

Through the dedicated work of more than 500 licensed professional and community volunteers, the Caridad Center works end the cycle of poverty for the families it serves in South Florida. One of these volunteers is Dr. Michael Steiner, a pediatrician with a sub specialty in pediatric cardiology. “I volunteer because I would like to give back to the community where I practiced for 40 years.  I thought this organization would be an ideal place to donate my time and expertise.” 

Of the Center’s clients, he says, “These are children that don’t have anything. In our capitalist system, the more money you have, the more services you receive. These children are at the bottom of the financial chain in this country. It’s extremely beneficial to have Caridad. The Center provides medical care for children that would otherwise end up in the ER,” says Steiner.  “They wouldn’t have anywhere to go without Caridad.  Children can’t go to school without a physical examination and immunizations.  Caridad is removing the barrier for children to get into school.” 

Dr. Michael Steiner recalls Fernando’s case. “It was chorea. Every pediatrician can recognize it as a part of rheumatic fever. It’s a condition which is characterized by uncontrollable movements and grimacing.  The child is totally lucid and can speak. The movements stop when the child goes to sleep. The thinking is that the child gets a strep throat infection, and in some cases the child’s body reacts against the strep with auto-antibodies, and these antibodies attack the nervous system.”  The condition is fairly rare; perhaps only 10 to 15% of child rheumatic fever cases develop into chorea. Steiner and medical team members, including neurologist Dr. Eunice Cordoba, worked out a treatment program for Fernando, and today he is making solid progress in his recovery.

Fernando With His MotherFernando will have to take medication daily until he is 21 years old. His expensive medication is much more than Alcinette can afford. At the time of Fernando’s initial hospital visit, Alcinette was working at a fast food chain. “I was making maybe $400 to $500, every 2 weeks,” she adds. Fortunately the Caridad Center has helped her to find discounted and free medicine for Fernando. “If The Caridad Center hadn’t existed, I probably would have had to find a private doctor, and I wouldn’t have been able to pay for it,” says Alcinette. “They have helped us so much, and I appreciate it greatly.”

Asked about her wishes for her children as they grow up in the United States, Alcinette says, “ I wish that they have a much better life than what they have right now.” Her wish for herself? “For God to give me the blessing to give me good health, so that I can help my children as much as I can.”  

To learn more about The Caridad Center, visit

-- Reported by I. van der Leeden


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