Doctors Donate Medical Care

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 14, No. 37            October 28, 2004

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Doctors Jay and Lisa Pontious conduct a dental procedure on a young patient in the Lions Den. They are among 40 medical doctors and their assistants who are in Belize for a week providing medical care.
 
The Belize Mission Project coordinator, Dr. Whip, describes to The San Pedro Sun Editor Tamara Sniffin the purpose of their organization.

This week, the Belize Mission Project arrived on Ambergris Caye for their annual visit. The group consists of a very diverse set of people from all ages and backgrounds with one similarity...a desire to volunteer their time and talents to serve others less fortunate with dental, medical and spiritual needs. Each year, this non-denominational Christian group travels to Belize and is comprised of dentists, physicians, nurses, assistants, hygienists, technicians, general helpers, and their families.

    On Saturday, the group of 41 people arrived on "La Isla Bonita" and consisted of ten dentists, four physicians, other support persons, and family members. The professionals will provide free dental and medical care to people who cannot afford this necessary care from Monday to Friday between the hours of 8:00 a.m. 5:00 p.m. They will break into small groups and provide weeklong care in San Pedro Town, Caye Caulker, Seine Bight Village, Sarteneja and the Valley of Hope. During this time, they will expect to treat over 1,500 patients. To notify the public of their service, members from the group visited neighborhoods that they identified as most needing of their care and distributed flyers about their service. Soon afterwards, the news traveled by word of mouth and people needing care went to the designated clinics.

    The project began in 1993 and was originally known as "The Fishin' Mission." At that time, the trip focused on two things: dental/medical mission work and professional fishing. Dr. Frank Whipps, a practicing orthodontist in Centralia, Illinois was one of the founding members of "The Fishin' Mission." His inner desire to focus strictly on dental and medical mission work was shared by many of the now regular group participants. As a result, and with help from Mr. Will Lala, a longtime resident of San Pedro Town, the "Belize Mission Project" was formed. 2003 marks a decade of existence.

    In an interview with The San Pedro Sun, Dr. Whipps stated that 70% of the participating health professionals return each year. According to Dr. Whipp, the group wants to help people with medical and dental needs that do not have access to health care. This trip is a non-profit trip, and all of the participants pay for their own travel expenses and accommodations. Many bring their own medical supplies, often amounting to thousands of dollars in value. The group members provide care in a loving, Christian manner, but they do not evangelize as a group. A common personal goal of many trip participants is to professionally and spiritually give to those less fortunate and in need. Although this goal is accomplished, what most discover is that they too receive much in return. These rewards are not of the material form, but from the experience, and knowing that they have made someone's life better.

    The Belize Mission Project is holding a clinic all this week, Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. at the San Pedro Lions Den. For more information about the Belize Mission Project, please visit their website at BelizeMissionProject.com.

    The San Pedro Sun commends the generous donation of time and effort these dedicated healers provide to our country, and on behalf of our community, we thank you!



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