Friday, October 26, 2007

Belize, the relaxing part

In every trip, even a mission trip, you need to take some time to relax. So, MaryJo and I did just that. We took the last two days of your trip on San Pedro Island.

It was lots of fun although very short. The weather was sunny and warm, windy and wet, cloudy and calm, and almost every other extreme each day. It could be cloudy one minute and burning sunny the next. If you do not like the weather, just wait a while and it changes. Actually, it was refreshing. The frequent rains made it cool down a great deal.

We had some great food and an abundance of drinks called "panty rippers". They kind of taste like a pineapple drink with not much kick to them. But, they were refreshing. We thought picking up a bottle of wine would make things inexpensive, but the cost of wine at the store was about 6 times what it costs here. A cheap bottle of wine was about $30.00. Too much for my taste.

We did spend a day out snorkeling. That was an awesome experience and I recommend it to any one. We hired a guy named "Biggs" who took us to a nature preserve over the top of a coral

reef. The coral was absolutely beautiful. The only other place I had snorkeled was in Mexico. This was so much more beautiful. The fish were astounding, although I was a bit nervous about getting in the water when we had sharks swimming all around the boat.

But, our guide jumped into the middle of them and showed us that they just swim away. Well, I was pretty convinced, but I was feeling pretty stupid as I propelled myself overboard!

I was glad I had however, because the scenery was spatacular. I was sorry I did not have an underwater camera with me. There were some beautiful fish there not to mention the brightly colored coral. It was a tiring but well worth while experience. If I went there again, it would be high on the list to things to do!

We also found some great places to eat on the island. We did one night out on the town and Mary Jo dressed to kill. I was feeling pretty special walking the island with the best looking girl around! Not only was the company great, but the meal was outstanding.

Although it was short, it was a fun stop on the way home. I certainly did not want anyone to think that it was just all work!

That is all for now.


Friday, October 12, 2007


I am back from Belize! I just returned (well, a week ago) from a trip to Belize. My sister talked me into heading down there to work with the Hillside Medical Clinic. I took pictures and video and prepared a presentation for the fund raiser in WI. Yes, Hillside in Belize was started in WI! Here is some information about Hillside.

HHCI’s Hillside clinic is located in Eldridgeville, a small village four miles north of Punta Gorda, the capital of Toledo District in southern Belize. The district is home to approximately 26,000 people, from of a variety of ethnicities, including two Mayan groups (Mopan and Kek’chi), Garifuna, Creole, East Indian, and Hispanic. The Toledo District is by far the poorest and least developed district of Belize, with a poverty rate of 79% and a high unemployment rate. It is also the most rural part of Belize, with 81% of residents living outside urban areas. Many of the district’s residents live in very small, remote villages, accessed either via unpaved roads or by foot; some of these villages do not yet have electricity or safe potable water.

Hillside Clinic: The clinic is a concrete structure with three examination rooms, an office, and pharmacy space. It operates at the Eldrigeville location three mornings and one evening a week. Clinic hours are scheduled to coincide with the operation of the regional market in Punta Gorda, enabling villagers to reach the clinic site on the village buses that pass near the clinic on their way to market. Additionally, villagers who have traveled into town on early buses, as well as residents of Punta Gorda, can also use a shuttle service provided by Hillside, which runs from Punta Gorda’s central square to the clinic location in Eldridgeville.

Mobile Clinics: Several times a week, mobile clinics are conducted to remote villages throughout the Toledo District. Presently HHCI provides regularly scheduled mobile clinics to more than a dozen villages that have been chosen in consultation with the Ministry of Health. These villages are accessed via unpaved roads during all seasons in a tropical rain forest environment, necessitating the use of four-wheel drive vehicles to transport staff and supplies to the sites. Some of these villages are more easily accessed via waterways. Upon reaching the villages, the team operates in Ministry of Health outstations. Once weekly, the Hillside team is joined by Ministry of Health officials, who use the opportunity to join us is conducting the immunization and well mother-child programs

Home Visits: In addition to its outreach work in rural areas of the district, HHCI also operates a home visit program to reach Punta Gorda residents who are not easily able to access a health clinic. This program was the first of its kind in the district and has become an integral component of health care delivery for the area. The need for this service is reflected in the continued increase in the number of patients served.

Hillside offers learning opportunities in a variety of settings and situations. The freestanding clinic meets the needs of local residents and villagers who leave their own homes as early as 3:30 AM on the market buses in order to come to Hillside. Additionally, mobile clinics are operated in coordination with the Belizean Ministry of Health twice a week into remote Garifuna, Creole and Mayan villages. A growing home visitation program in Southern Belize provides care to the homebound. Approximately seventy patients are visited in their homes each week. Finally, community education programs are offered for village healthcare workers and the community at large. Students/Residents participate in all of these components. Guidance for the education program is provided by the Stateside HHCI educational committee along with the Hillside physician, nurse administrator, and other clinic staff.

While at Hillside, the students/residents are exposed to a variety of cross cultural experiences as they work with the Maya, Garifuna, Creole, East Indian and other Belizean cultures. They learn to evaluate patients while working through language barriers and cultural differences. Confidence is gained in evaluation skills as participants are required to make diagnoses and treatment plans without the reassurance of diagnostic tools they may be accustomed to. Many participants report gaining a much greater awareness of the barriers to medical care that are incipient in impoverished communities as they participate in home visits in areas where 79% of the population is living below the poverty line. Most return home with a greater appreciation of the healthcare and basic living needs of the medically underserved in their own home countries.

Below was the staff of students when I was at the clinic. All were from the UK and all were exceptional. They will be great doctors!

Students/residents at Hillside participate in the program for a one month elective. During that time, they are involved in many aspects of the operation of the clinic as they work closely with the clinic medical and support staff. The clinic is closed on weekends so that students have the opportunity to take side trips in the unique Central American country of Belize or into neighboring Guatemala. Participants normally find that the month passes quickly as they take advantage of the learning and cultural opportunities.

All of the activities in which students/residents participate are aimed at improving the health status of the population served as well as establishing long term relationships with local health care providers and educators at all levels. Through these varied activities, participants will gain an appreciation of how medicine and health promotion are conducted in a developing environment, representing a large segment of the world’s population. Concurrently, participants will gain an understanding and appreciation of the unique cultures of Belize and of the unique medical conditions encountered in the tropics.

I went down with my niece Mary Jo who is a marketing person. She was an awesome help to me in every way. She also was pleasant to be around which made the trip a delight.

OK, enough babbling on for me. Just watch the video below and you will get a taste of what Belize is like from the eyes for a medical person! Or, you can click on the slide show below to be taken to the photo album. Enjoy!

Until Soon!