The experience reminded me of the reason I became a physician. The local support staff was extremely helpful in acclimating me to the environment by providing me the background information that I needed to access the Mayan populations in the remote villages that we visited. Seeing the simplicity of their way of life and the joy in the faces of all the villagers that we visited was a reward in itself.
Belize is the perfect place for a first time mission doctor because the transition is made easy by the language (which is English) and the closeness to the US. Although I would try to learn some of the Mayan languages, the rest of your day to day life is really not very difficult.
My trip to Belize was my first mission trip as a physician. I was there for very long, but it was long enough to form an attachment to the place and to realize that there is still so much more to be done. I was very fortunate to be able to take my 2 teenage children and had my husband visit for a week.
The people in the villages have no running water or electricity and would have to travel at least two hours by bus to get in to town for even the most minor procedure. However they were always very pleasant and grateful for the care they received.The Hillside clinic has the only EKG machine in the area, and therefore patients who present to the hospital in town with chest pain are referred to our clinic for an EKG.
The real asset to this program is a team of very hard working and dedicated local individuals who do a lot with very little but always maintain an aura of kindness about them. They have a very well organized program for medical students involving the clinic work, the mobile clinic as well as home visits and involvement in the community with a liaison who teaches them about the different cultural groups in Belize and community education programs.
From son Chris:
The highs were 95 and the lows were quality of life – my clothes stuck to my back and I was beginning to sweat right through my designer jeans and into my well-nourished myth of self importance. I watched the sun rise higher into the dusty sky as I walked towards my bicycle with a small troop of primary school children dressed in green plaid swung off my arms and legs happily. “Sir, Sir, don’t go I want to show you my home sir – come with me sir, let me show you my house sir – it is very pretty sir!” I laughed at the beautiful smiling children and delayed my ride home, following them on the dirt road that leads away from St. Benedict’s R.C. School. Domingo led the way with his group of friends to his house, which quickly broke down my suburban-elitist- concept of what a “home” is.