I’ve said it before: serendipity. That’s how I described discovering a an initiative that allowed us to bring Ontario dentists down to Jamaica to do volunteer dental outreach. That was on my birthday in September 2014. And when we went down for our inaugural year, I didn’t know what to expect. I knew it would be hard, challenging work. But oh so rewarding too! And I hoped that, if all went well, we would continue to build the program year and after year so that dentists, hygienists, students and support staff could benefit from this amazing program. But was that enough?
No. There had to be something bigger that we could do. We’d come this far. What’s a little extra? But what was that little extra? I had to experience the week. Observe. Ask questions. And let my environment affect me. And so it did…
In the van, on the way down to the clinic, I asked Salli-Jo about Great Shape! Inc.’s goals. She said that her and Papa Joe were extremely grateful to the Sandals Foundation for accommodating volunteers each year for 3-4 months. And then she talked about establishing a public dental clinic that operated year round to offer free dental services to Jamaicans. The government would (hopefully) donate the land. And they needed money to build the clinic (plus accommodations). It would (hopefully) be on a beach property and have accommodations to host North American and Jamaican dentists, hygienists, dental students and support staff all year round. And it would be strategically positioned: just a bus ride from almost everywhere in Jamaica so that people could come from all over to be treated.
A light bulb suddenly appeared over my head. “That’s my new goal!” I proclaimed. We would help Great Shape! Inc. raise money, get donations and bring dentist volunteers (among others) down to Jamaica to provide free dental care when their regular program was not running. This would allow impoverished Jamaicans to be treated year-round. This also works out well for us in Canada during the winter months (who wouldn’t want to escape to Jamaica in January / February / March?).
So that is our new goal: raise $1-million to establish a free public dental clinic that can accommodate Jamaica and North American dentists, hygienists, and support staff year long.
How do we get there?
I’ll be the first to admit: I’ve never done this before and I’m not really sure what I’m supposed to be doing. I figure setting up a Canadian charity is a good start. So we’ll get started on that. Then comes raising awareness of our initiative and fundraising.
I needed ideas… Then, coincidentally, last week, I was invited to attend the “Helping Hands Jamaica Foundation” annual gala/fundraising event. What I saw was truly inspiring: individuals from all walks of life (including celebrities like Dwight Drummond, comedian Jay Martin, Karl Hale, and Mike “Pinball” Clemens) had come together to raise more than $1-million over a 10 year period to help build schools in Jamaica. There were silent and not-so-silent auctions. And people gave generous amounts of money for this worthy cause. So now I had an idea of what kind of event we could eventually have to raise money.
So what can we do to raise money? Well, I think we will need to lead by example. So we will be ponying up money for our own cause. My hope is, when others see what we’re trying to do, and how we have a great team in place to make sure it happens, coupled with our drive, that they will donate as well.
Now, there’s a big difference between just donating money (e.g. as a gift of cash in a Will, or to get a charitable tax receipt) and what we are going to do: donors can actually EXPERIENCE the goal. Right now, dentists, hygienists, dental students, and support staff can actually come down to Jamaica with us each year and treat locals through the Sandals Foundation and Great Shape! Inc. Then, once our dental practice is established, they can come and stay there too! They can see their donation in action. It’s not like raising money and building a school you may never visit. You will actually be living and working and enjoying the very thing that you contributed to. And I think it will be addictive: to reunite for a few days a year with a group of like-minded individuals to give back to a worthy cause. To build your own little legacy. I’ve heard it described by one dentist who regularly participates as: the best week of the year which I look forward all year round.
My hope is that our free public dental clinic will have all the bells and whistles of a top-notch dental practice here in Canada. So I will be looking for ongoing donations for equipment and supplies from our Canadian and U.S. manufacturers and distributors. And to make our volunteers comfortable and excited about coming down, my hope is that will be able to offer all inclusive amenities in addition to the warmth (which is often missing in Canada). The best of both worlds… And I hope we’re the busiest dental practice in Jamaica year round. I’m also hoping there will be opportunities for cooperation/sharing of knowledge with local Jamaican dental and hygiene students, dentists and hygienists so that they can take what they’ve learned and experienced with them wherever they end up.
Now: we can’t do this on our own. We need your help. We are committed for the long haul. It will be our legacy and (hopefully) yours too. Once we accomplish this formidable and worthy goal, we will have created something from nothing that will give back for the benefit of thousands of people today and tomorrow (hopefully long after we’ve passed). Isn’t that what life’s all about? Make the world a better place…
One love and Triple P 😉