Sunday, April 14, 2024

Belize Mission Project is back in Belize


The Belize Mission Project, now in its 18th year, commenced working on the island on Monday October 17th. This year, the mission will be making two visits to the country. This week the first group of 48 dental professionals are in the country, including Dental Surgeons, Dental Assistants, Hygienists, Lab Technicians and one Medical Doctor, arrived in the country. The second group is scheduled to arrive two weeks’ time. The group has been doing work in Ladyville, Placencia, Burrell Boom, Caye Caulker, some Belize City Schools and of course, San Pedro.

With seven Dentists stationed in San Pedro, the team was able to see a total of 104 patients on Monday alone. By Tuesday at noon, they had attended 73 patients. Services offered by the group include extractions, fillings, partial dentures, cleaning, fluoride treatment for children, sealants and oral hygiene instructions among other services.

The group of volunteers will be working daily from 8:00am – 5:00pm closing doors on Friday at noon. The project, which had its start in 1993, was originally known as “The Fishin’ Mission.” Their visit to La Isla Bonita would focus on two things: dental/medical mission work and professional fishing. Dr. Frank Whipps, an orthodontist practicing in Illinois, teamed up with colleagues who had the same idea: to concentrate strictly on dental and medical mission work. Along with help from Mr. Will Lala, longtime resident of San Pedro Town, the “Belize Mission Project” was formed.

Dr. Alfred Mavilio, Dental Surgeon practicing for some 53 years along with his assistant Dorothy Hearn are here for their tenth mission. As to why he keeps coming back, Dr. Mavilio stated, “I read an article in a Dental Magazine which spoke of Dr. Whipps, and the work his group had been doing down here and there was a contact number at the end of the article. For some reason, I called the number. The following year, I came for the first time. Once my assistant heard that I had come down to Belize, she insisted in coming the following year. Since then we have been coming every year. There was just this feeling that you get that you want to help somebody. We felt so fortunate back home in the United States. We have so much and we wanted to give back to some people who really needed it. After I had spent my first year here some of the people that I met; my colleagues and the volunteers, we’re just a unique set of people. You wanted to work with them and that kinda drives you back year after year. You’ll think that, maybe I can’t make it this year but when the time comes to go you just can’t resist. We got a beautiful group of professionals, volunteers and just people who want to help. And I am also impressed by the people of Belize, how appreciative they are. The children have to be some of the most beautiful kids you’d ever want to see on this earth. And they’re so polite and well behaved. That’s what keeps attracting you. You want to come back and help.”

Local resident Linda Oliva has been volunteering with the Mission every year for the past four years, processing every patient that walks through the Lions’ Den gate. During our interview, Georgia Stevens and her pet parakeet, “Survivor”, strolled up to the doctors with a beautiful batch of fresh baked chocolate chip cookies. The card stated “From Survivor, To our Hero Dentists”. At this expression of appreciation, Dr. Mavilio said, “See what I told ya.”

All expenses for the FREE dental clinic are incurred by the dentists themselves; transportation of equipment, all supplies used in the various services offered; accommodations as well as all travelling expenses. Throughout the years that they have visited the country, the Belize Mission Project has assisted in more than brightening smiles, spreading their efforts to the Poly Clinic II and made food donations to the less fortunate.

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