For the last twelve years Belize has been blessed with the generosity of healthcare professionals from the Belize Mission Project, who instead of spending their vacation time basking on the beach, choose to volunteer their services to provide much needed dental and medical care to those who are less fortunate. The Belize Mission Project is a non-denominational, Christ-centered ministry of healthcare professionals who are dedicated to helping the people of Belize who are in need of, do not have access to, or can not afford essential health care.
Last weekend over 40 people, consisting of twelve dentists, two doctors, three certified dental technicians, one dental hygienist, along with family and friends, arrived in San Pedro to begin the first, of a two week service program. The group divided into smaller units and headed off in different directions to offer clinics in several areas of Belize. In an interview with The San Pedro Sun, Ken Andryc DDS, explained that Belize City, Caye Caulker, Seine Bight Village, Sarteneja, Valley of Hope, Spanish Lookout, Punta Gorda, Banana Bank and San Pedro are among the communities that they are traveling to, and that many of the clinics will be held in the local schools of these communities.
On Monday the San Pedro group set up their clinic at the new San Pedro Poly Clinic II. To the healthcare professionals volunteering their time, the new clinic was a welcomed environment to work in. Dr. Andryc commented that in many locations their clinics are held with limited resources, often in rooms that do not even have running water. The San Pedro Poly Clinic II offers a professional environment to treat patients, with sterilizing equipment, proper lighting and medical amenities.
In just a matter of two days the Belize Mission volunteers have already treated over 150 patients in San Pedro. The dentists provided a variety of services, including general check ups, cleaning, fluoride treatments, applying preventive sealants, filling cavities and extracting teeth that were beyond salvage due to dental disease and infection. Young patients were delighted to receive a free toothbrush and toothpaste after their dental exam.
The dentists are especially excited about the “partial” work they are able to offer their patients this year. DDS Gordon Gates was instrumental in recruiting three certificated dental technicians to assist with the endeavor, Rick Peebles, Rob Mahony and Cheryl Odle. The process begins with a dental impression that is made using a soft material that molds to the shape to the patients mouth. The impression is then used as a mold to prepare the partial, which is worn inside the mouth to replace a section of missing teeth. This process, which is usually a lengthy (and expensive) procedure, is completed in a matter of hours and at no cost to the patient. The three techs, working in a makeshift lab in the bicycle shop at Caribbean Villas, have been busy crafting the partials as fast as the impressions can be made. Patients who were fitted for a partial on Monday are able to return on Thursday to get their new smile!
This year the Belize Mission Project will serve San Pedro for a total of two weeks, which is a first for this group. They have divided into two groups, with each one spending a week here. The second group will arrive the end of this week, and for the first time an audiologist will accompany them to offer hearing tests and consultations.
The Belize Mission Project began in 1993, and was originally known as “The Fishin’ Mission.” At that time, the annual trip to Belize focused on two things: dental/medical mission work and professional fishing. Dr. Frank Whipps, a practicing orthodontist in Centralia, IL was one of the individuals who helped start “The Fishin’ Mission.” He began to feel an inner desire to focus strictly on dental and medical mission work. This desire was shared by many of the now regular group participants. As a result, the “Belize Mission Project” was formed.
The ministry, which travels to Belize at least one week a year, typically consists of approximately 40 dentists, physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, dental hygienists and assistants, nurses, dental technicians, general helpers and everyone in between. Last year they treated over 2,000 patients in Belize, half for medical needs and half for dental. According to Dr. Andryc, close to 90% of their volunteers return each year, eager to relive the positive and rewarding experience they had the previous year. Perhaps the passion Belize Mission Project volunteers feel for their ministry is best described on their website at http://www.belizemissionproject.org where they write […] years of taking these trips has taught us that the key thing is not what you do, but what the Holy Spirit does through you…just have a servant’s heart.
There is a mutual healing that takes place when one human being helps another, and we all benefit from acts of kindness and generosity. The San Pedro Sun extends a heartfelt thank you to these humble healers who care so deeply for the people of Belize.