It is hard to believe that just four weeks ago nine of my classmates and I were waking up just yards from a beautiful ocean. Water so clear it actually changed colors depending on the angle of the sun. Maybe it was the warm hearts of the Jamaican people or the picturesque scenery, but I immediately felt a sense of calmness as I stepped my feet on the island of Jamaica. I forgot about the stresses of school, boards, residency, or personal relationships that weighed me down back at home. Each person I met in Jamaica came with a story. Ask a local to tell you about themselves and you were more likely learn about their loving family and love of country before occupation or money entered the conversation. Even with the overwhelming poverty, the people of Jamaica were optimistic, calm, and soulful. It was contagious. It is understandable the Jamaica Project will not appeal to every student at VCU. This trip will fit someone who is open to a non-traditional clinic setting, enjoys traveling, giving back, teamwork, and getting out of his or her comfort zone. The VCU Jamaica project was started over 28 years ago and has been supported by various benefactors and continued by the leadership of Dr. Robert Barnes and Dr. Mick Pope. The project has been able to survive each year by the generous donations from dental faculty, alumni, students and also by the continued mentorship from area practitioners. Without this faithful support the project would no longer exist.
The project consists of 24-27 dental and dental hygiene students broken up into three individual weeks. Each group is mentored by volunteering faculty coming from Virginia. Most days are spent at the main clinic at Long Pond in Trelawny. However, a lucky few will get to travel inland up the gorgeous mountains to Albert Town Health Center. If that isn’t enough to suit your fancy the last day of clinic is spent at Good Hope Plantation. Here, your afternoon will be filled with horseback riding, zip lining, or 4-wheeling; a thank you for your service to them.
So, if you are looking to learn how to become proficient with extractions, help those in need, make lifelong friendships, and have the time of your life, I encourage you to get involved. Each class is responsible for fundraising to help aid with supplies, equipment, and housing. Numerous fundraising events are planned each year and are dependent on students like you for their success. I promise you, this is a once in a lifetime experience. To this date, I have not met a group of people more thankful for your time and skills. Furthermore, each of my classmates on the trip said they wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. To quote one of my classmates and aspiring oral surgeon,this was the “BEST DENTAL WEEK EVER!”