This is my second blog about Jamaica. And this one is going to introduce you to something truly amazing: giving back in Jamaica by providing oral health care to those in need.
Let me start off by saying this: how would you like to stay at a luxury Sandals / Beaches resort in Jamaica for 9 nights / 10 days and have your accommodations fully paid for? Did I get your attention? I thought so. Sounds pretty good, right? But wait, it gets better…
There’s a humanitarian aspect to your trip: for 5 of those days, you get to help provide oral health care to Jamaicans living at or near the resort. So now you get a less-expensive vacation, you get to save on taxes (because it’s organized through a charitable organization), and actually help others who desperately need it! Talk about a triple whammy!
So here’s how this all came about… I’ve been looking for a way to ‘give back’ for a few months. Those living in Canada are truly privileged. We have homes, jobs, democracy, stability and security, etc. So I talked to some people about my idea of helping out in our field (i.e. the dental field). I’m not a dentist and my law license only allows me to practice in Ontario (and other parts of Canada in certain situations). So there were challenges that I personally faced. But one thing I thought I could do was to help bring dentists (who change lives every single day) to less developed countries to help out.
The idea came to me while I was listening to Dr. Tim Milligan’s speech at the 2014 U of T Annual Gala. He mentioned a recent highlight of his life, which involved going down to a less developed country and helping out. It struck a chord with me. And I thought: I need to do something like that.
So now enter my birthday. I was having a cocktail at the bar on my birthday last week at Beaches Negril with some dentists. I hadn’t made a wish yet as to what I wanted and it was almost midnight. In any event, I decided to show them a few card tricks. I needed a volunteer. The bartender (Adrian) summoned “Papa Joe” (Joseph Wright), an American with a great big smile, a bright orange t-shirt, a pony-tale, and the ability to turn on-and-off a Jamaican accent. After my two best card tricks, I asked him what he did. That’s when he started telling me about how he runs a not for profit organizations that have partnered with Sandals and Beaches Resorts to bring dentists and dental students down to Jamaica from North America every year (they’ve been doing it for the past 12 years) to provide free oral health care to Jamaicans located at or near the resort. Serendipity. It was meant to be! I became really excited and asked him to tell me everything about his organization. Over the next few days, I became more and more familiar with how the organization worked. That’s when I spoke with David Mayzel (my law partner) and we made the decision to get DMC LLP involved. I’ll explain how everything works in detail below. But for now, here’s what you need to know:
Pape Joe is a co-founder of a not-for-profit organization called Great Shape! Inc. Here’s their website with all the information: http://www.gsjamaica.org/1000smiles.html. They have a partnership with Sandals / Beaches, which donates $1-million worth of rooms at Sandals and Beaches resorts for 9 nights / 10 days throughout Jamaica from the end of August to mid-November each year.
I asked Pape Joe to take me and my wife (Paris) to a few of their make-shift dental clinics and what I saw was truly amazing: lineups outside of a Church hall of friendly Jamaicans, who had come for a cleaning, extraction, treatment, etc. This was one of their clinics. Inside, they had a waiting area and 5 “operatories”. They have multiple clinics around the area and over 30 operatories. Students and dentists were busy treating patients. It was hot, but there were fans. Everyone was having a great time. There were lots of smiles, hugs, and pictures being taken. The patients and their family members were so grateful for the health care they were receiving (we heard stories about how they would cook meals for or simply bring coconuts for the volunteers the next day). The average wage in Jamaica is about USD$60 / week. They desperately need health care but lack access (especially in rural mountain areas). Sandals / Beaches is doing their part by donating rooms. And now you can get involved…
Basically, it works like this (click on the image below to expand):
- Registration starts in February and fills up very quickly.
- There are a number of clinics (e.g. in Church halls, schools, and health clinics) that are set up with operatories, etc. within a 30-minute drive from the resort.
- The NGO transports everyone to and from the clinics in their buses and vans.
- Dental students and dentists are advised to bring headlamps!
- Sandals covers the cost of the shuttles, room, food, drinks, entertainment, etc. at the resort throughout the entire period.
- There are about 350 ‘volunteers’ (primarily 4th-year dental students, hygienists, dentists and their adult spouses, for example) who come down to Jamaica each year through their organization.
- The clinics are established in very safe communities close to the Sandals/Beaches Resorts.
Our goal is to promote them with dentists, dental schools, dental supply companies, professionals serving dentists, etc. I totally believe what they’re doing is amazing; and the fact that Sandals is backing them is fantastic. It’s a very well organized small/midsized not-for-profit organization. They are very credible and know their stuff. Case in point: in 2013, the co-founder of the organization (Dr. Sherwin Shinn) was awarded the humanitarian of the year by the American Dental Association (he shared the podium with his wife and none other than Bill Clinton. You can read that story here). And they’re making a big difference with limited resources. If you ever want to speak directly with Papa Joe, here’s his contact info:
Joseph Wright – aka “Papa” Joe
So with that said, you’ll be hearing about us promoting Papa Joe, Great Shape Inc., and 1,000 Smiles! And you can always drop me a line if you want to get involved.