Dr. Tim Milligan put it best: “It was the experience of my lifetime“. He spoke those words as part of his acceptance speech when he received the U of T Award of Distinction in the spring of 2014 for his extensive dental outreach work abroad. He was describing his most recent trip with his daughter, Dr. Melissa Milligan. And he said those words. And they hit me. I did not have a so-called “experience of my lifetime”. I wanted one. More than anything else…
So over the next few months, I’d find myself googling “dental mission trips” or “dentists without borders” in the Caribbean. You see, with a baby boy, it’s hard for me to travel beyond the Caribbean (longer flights are harder for me to manage, especially NOW with a 2.5-year-old and a pregnant wife). And it just happened to be that, on my birthday, when I was with the family in Beaches Negril last September with Dr. Christina Bodea and her husband Stefan, we met up with Papa Joe (a.k.a. Joseph Wright). We didn’t know each other. But it was a meeting that was meant to be. I showed him my great card trick and afterwards, when we got to talking, he told me that he and his group (called “Great Shape! Inc.”) helps organize groups of dentists, hygienists and dental students to come down to Jamaica to volunteer (and the Sandals Foundation generously donates $1-million worth of rooms, transportation, meals and entertainment to his group). I’ve previously written about this meeting here.
After extensive discussions over a few months, DMC LLP and Great Shape! Inc. were able to organize a mission trip at the same resort (Beaches Negril) from August 28 through to September 6, 2015. We had a large group of dentists, hygienists, dental students from U of T, assistants, and non-professional volunteers go down to Jamaica to provide free dental care to impoverished Jamaicans:
2015 Jamaica Dental Outreach Team! One Love 😉
As I’ll describe over the next few blogs, it was hard work, extremely rewarding, and it will forever change my life and my views. If you’re interested in joining us next year, you’ll have a better idea of what to expect.
But let me jump to the conclusion first. What’s the end result? Well, now that it’s done…we will definitely be going down again next year. I love the Jamaican culture, the people, the food, the music, and the opportunity to help their community. And we will be organizing next year’s trip likely after November (when Great Shape! Inc. wraps up their current program and can take a minute to breathe!).
But, in addition to continuing this great program, we have a new goal: to help establish a free public dental clinic in Jamaica with accommodations to allow Canadian / U.S. dentists, hygienists, assistants, dental students and others to stay a week at a time to volunteer and treat Jamaicans in need of oral care. Again, this new project will be in ADDITION to partaking in the Great Shape! Inc. and Sandals Foundation “1,000 Smiles” dental outreach program, which runs typically from August through to November each year in Jamaica and in July in St. Lucia.
So how much do we need to raise to establish a clinic and accommodations (on the beach hopefully)? I think raising $1-million is a very good start. That will give them enough to build a state-of-the-art clinic and accommodations that will be able to run year-round. We will be recruiting dentists, hygienists, assistants, and spouses to come down and experience Jamaica and help those in desperate need. We will also need supply companies like Henry Schein, Patterson and K-Dental to donate equipment and supplies to our clinic. And I’d like to see the two dental schools (U of T and UWO) on board is also on the agenda, as we will need dental students to come down and volunteer. It may take some time to accomplish, but we are committed for the long haul.
So that’s our new mission… a worthy goal… a legacy to build and leave behind so that generations of impoverished Jamaicans (on the one hand) and Jamaican and North American dental professionals can mutually benefit. Let’s get together and make this happen.
One Love 😉