August 31, 2012
Ed. Note: UWSoD Student Inna Piskorska is following up her recent trip to Haiti with another humanitarian dental effort, this time to the island of Jamaica, the fifth-largest island country in the Caribbean. While there, the group of 24 volunteers are providing free dental care to the those in need. Unlike Haiti, the Jamaican volunteers are lucky enough to be staying at a comfortable resort area at night — all courtesy of Sandals Resorts, and the Sandals Resort Foundation. We asked Piskorska to once again chronicle her experiences on the road, and this time asked her to give her impression of Jamaican culture, food, and her experiences while providing dentistry to the people of the country.
By Inna Piskorska
We made it happen! This August, 24 UW students and volunteers devoted part of their summer break to helping Jamaican people, by providing free dentistry through the Great Shape!, Inc’s 1,000 Smiles program. But this trip has a lot more to it: culture, traditions, and new friendships.
There are a total of 35 dentists on the island, which has a population of 2.8 million people. In Jamaica, dentistry is expensive, so only the wealthy can afford dental care — the remaining 80-90 percent of the population depend on public health system clinics. In the clinics, patients are mostly seen by dental nurses, with indirect supervision by a dentist. As a result, fewer than 10 percent of children, and 1 percent of adults get to see a dentist. This is why the work of non-profit organizations such as Great Shape!, Inc. is so vital. Founded 10 years ago by Great Shape!, Inc’s Executive Director Joseph Wright and WSDA member dentist Dr. Sherwin Shinn, the 1,000 Smiles program is the world’s largest non-profit humanitarian dental outreach program. Additionally, Great Shape!, Inc. also sponsors literacy and eye care programs on the island.
All the students are happy to be here. We’re not here to just fix teeth — we’re here to make a difference, because we enjoy exploring other cultures and meeting people from around the world, making friends and long-lasting relationships along the way. In return for providing dental care, we get something much greater: the experience, which is priceless. We are here because of “One Love” — spiritual understanding that all Jamaicans share and exude, meaning that all of us are brothers and sisters on this planet.
Our team of “Great Shapers” is amazing, comprised of students from second, third and fourth years, along with some recent grads. We are divided into three different clinics in the Negril area to survey local people providing quality dental care. We work as a team, helping each other in the clinic, and supporting each other. After a hard day in the clinic, we spend time together on the beach, playing water or beach volleyball, swimming, relaxing, and interacting with local people. It’s a rejuvenating time for everyone, and it helps us prepare for the next day.
Jamaica is a spectacular place to visit— a beautiful island with green mountains, wonderful waterfalls, extremely dangerous rivers with alligators…and delicious food! Jamaican breakfasts are to die for: Ackee fruit and saltfish is just one traditional offering. At this time of the year, Ackee is in season — cooked properly, it is really tasty! Other popular, traditional dishes include jerk chicken with rice, and peas with curried goat, Bammy, a traditional flatbread, and the famous Jamaican patty — a pastry containing fillings and spices baked inside a flaky shell. We’ve been fortunate enough to try these and many more, making this trip as much a cultural exchange as a humanitarian visit.