When COVID-19 hit the Lubbock community, Ozman Javier Ochoa, or Javi, wasn’t focused on the healthcare workers, even though he himself is a first-year medical student at Texas Tech Health Sciences Center. He was thinking about the janitors he saw every day cleaning up the blood on the floor of the ER he worked in, and those who clean the halls of the HSC building— They remind him of his parents back in El Paso.
“I always try to say hi to them, but I don’t know them personally,” Ochoa says. When he sees the custodial staff, he thinks of his mom back in El Paso. She’s a head cafeteria cook at a school, and his dad is a maintenance worker for apartment buildings. “They come from even more humble backgrounds,” Ochoa says. “When I see the custodial staff, a lot of them are Hispanic. I just think of my parents.”
Ochoa is also the co-outreach chair for the Latino Medical Student association. When the pandemic reached its apex in Lubbock, he saw a lot of assistance being offered to the medical community, which was great, but he didn’t see as much attention paid to the lower-paid, frontline staff. In an effort to provide some financial relief to the custodial staff at HSC, the group set out to raise four thousand dollars through a Gofundme campaign, and they exceeded it, collecting almost five thousand dollars.
Ochoa says, “While I wish we could give more, I just thought like what’s enough that’s going to give them at least 50 bucks for groceries or gas.”
Matthew De Los Santos is the assistant account manager for the custodial department at HSC. He’s worked there for 15 years. He started as a floor tech and has worked his way up. His wife, Veronica works there too. They met in high school and got married at 18. Now they have three boys.
De Los Santos is grateful for the efforts of the LMSA. “I think it’s a beautiful thing. It’s awesome what they’re doing for our staff here,” he says. Ochoa plans to get 50 dollar Walmart gift cards for each staff custodial staff member. “It helps out a lot,” De Los Santos says. “Groceries, clothing, things like that, anything helps. We’re just very blessed to be recognized, our staff here.”
The Latino Medical Student Association’s mission is to promote the Hispanic population in the medical field, says Ochoa. They want to show Hispanic kids that there are people who look like them working as doctors and nurses. But also, it’s a way to help the Hispanic community.
“I thought this was an opportunity to get our name [out there], but also to give back to the Hispanic population, which tends to be a lot of the custodial staff.” The group will announce the gift to the custodial staff later this week.