This is a follow-up to my two previous blogs about our 2015 Jamaica Dental Outreach Program. I’ve written 5 blogs about our trip and you can read them here: (1) Mission Accomplished + New Mission, (2) PICS from the Week, (3) What Transpired, (4) Stories From The Clinic, (5) Final Thoughts.
In this blog, I’m going to be talking about heading down and the first few days of the trip. Keep in mind that it was a 10-day trip, so I’ll reserve more thoughts in the next few blogs… so here we go:
Friday: heading down
Most of our team took the same flight down (via WestJet) on Friday, August 28th. It was a long time coming… almost 1 year from the time I decided to organize the trip after meeting Papa Joe in Jamaica (along with Dr. Christina Bodea and her husband Stefan on my b-day in 2014). Throughout the year, DMC LLP talked to dentists, students, hygienists and others about coming down to do volunteer work while staying at a Sandals / Beaches resort. We managed to get a group organized and we received donations from Henry Schein, Patterson and K-Dental.
So after all the paperwork was done, flights booked and shipping logistics about how to get supplies down there figured out, the only thing really missing was… US!
On that fateful Friday, we met most of the team at the airport. There were a few people from our team who were missing – such as Dr. Sylvie Dagenais (from Gatineau), Melissa Brunette (hygienist), and Dr. Patrick Hackett (out of Sault Ste. Marie) and his team.
The 4-hour flight was uneventful (interestingly enough, it was about 3 hours and 40 minutes on the way back; I guess the wind has something to do with it.
When we arrived in Jamaica, there were a few minor hiccups. Apparently, WestJet allowed Ljubica (at no extra charge) to bring down an extra suitcase full of dental supplies. But then WestJet (for reasons unknown) sent that suitcase to Kingston, Jamaica instead of Negril, Jamaica (our destination!). Arghhh! Paperwork required! Luckily, it was only bibs, masks and gloves that were in her suitcase, and we had lots of those previously shipped down.
At the airport, we enjoyed free beer, Champagne, and dessert at Sandals’ luxurious waiting area. We were then whisked away to our resort in a private bus. Along the way, I took it upon myself to give my fellow bus compatriots a quasi-guided tour / quasi trivia challenge of everything I knew about Jamaica. It made the 1.5 hours (travel time between the airport and the resort) go by very quickly, and there was an occasional smile and laugh. Everyone was in good spirits and we looked forward to arriving and unpacking.
We ended up staying at the beautiful Beaches resort situated along the 9-miles of powdery white sand in Negril (second, probably only to the Beaches in Turks & Caicos, the #1 rated resort for families in the Caribbean in my humble opinion). Beaches is owned by Sandals and is designed for families (whereas Sandals is adults only). We got our rooms and unpacked. Then straight for food and drink we went. Then came the beach and pool. Although we were tired from travelling, we wanted to relax and enjoy ourselves before all the hard and rewarding work we had committed to. FYI, if you’ve never been to a Sandals or Beaches resort, they are #1 when it comes to luxury. For the kids, for example, they have a kids camp, daily Sesame Street Shows, food and pool (including slides, a splash park and a lazy river) catered just for kids. I haven’t come across a better resort for families.
So our team met each other (many dentists, hygienists, assistants and others in the group had never previously met or had only met once prior) and we were all excited about what lay ahead…
Saturday evening: meet the team
We spent most of Saturday at the beach. In the evening time (6:30 p.m.), we gathered at the air-conditioned disco club to meet Papa Joe, Salli Jo, and the rest of the Great Shape Inc.! team (including Richard, D.J., Oshane and Roshane, etc.). We introduced ourselves to the team (name, job, why we’re here, etc.). Then we had to pick teams to go to one of three dental clinics – namely, where we would be spending 5 days working: Kendal, Grange Hill, or Cave Valley. I ended up putting teams together based on who I knew might work well together. It’s impossible to predict how a group of strangers will interact, but thankfully we were all there to give back to the community, so at least we had a common goal that could help dissipate differences of opinion. I’ll have more to share about team building in my next blog…
Sunday: setting up the clinic
On Sunday, we spent some time with Papa Joe (actual name: Joseph Wright) and Salli Jo Walker getting oriented. They told us how the week would progress, what kinds of roles/responsibilities each person would have, how they expected us to deliver top-notch dental treatment (no shortcuts), and to learn the local dialect (Patois). Here are some pics of that orientation:
After orientation, we headed out to the beach to grab some team pics and then picked up some supplies and headed out to our respective clinics to do a final set up before the week began.
In the next blog, I’ll talk about going into the fire (Monday morning!) where I developed my first of many new skills: mob control 😉