Story by Dianne Altuna, Volunteer Mission Co-Lead
A large part of the LEAP mission trip to Belize is the dental clinic. Through this clinic, LEAP provides free dental services to the community of Orange Walk and other surrounding communities. In a country with limited resources, free dental services are highly unusual.
Saturday was another “typical” day for the dental clinic. It was filled with LEAP volunteers: those who have provided care in Belize on recurrent missions and a few new volunteers as well.
Dr. Matt McBride is an Orthodontist who practices in Plano, TX. Dr. McBride has traveled to Belize with LEAP 5 times. He is quick to share his smile and warmth with team members, patients, and families.
Dr. McBride shared the story of one particular family that came to the dental clinic. A six-year-old boy was brought to the clinic by his older brother. They recently lost their father in a motorcycle accident, and the older brother felt he needed to become the parental figure for his younger brother, which included bringing him to this appointment. For Dr. McBride, this exemplified the importance and love of family in Belize.
Lisa Blanton is a Dental Hygienist in Dallas; this was her first LEAP trip. In agreement with Dr. McBride, Lisa spoke about the importance of family in Belize, evidenced by the comfort provided by a husband to his wife during her first dental cleaning.
Longtime volunteer Cyndi Banish spends countless hours in the LEAP warehouse and provides support on special projects. This was Cyndi’s first mission trip with LEAP. She spent Saturday in the dental clinic and recalled observing the mother of a young family transform from a stoic, quiet woman to someone who engaged with the dental staff as she grew to trust our team members..
Dr. Lauren Bourell has traveled many times with LEAP; this is her fifth trip to Belize. She and Dr. McBride set up the dental clinic in 2014, and she has returned to Belize every year since. As a Oral/Maxillofacial Surgeon, Dr. Bourell was quick to help with the extraction of a problematic tooth in a young adult.
Ruby Palenco is a tutor in Orange Walk City. Ruby provided translation services, completed paperwork, and organized the waiting patients and families. We appreciate the support and dedication of our local volunteers and partners in Belize.
So many people benefitted from the excellent dental care provided by this group of LEAP volunteers. We look forward to returning next year!