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2014 June

Corneal Transplant Program

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From its very beginning the Jamaica Outreach Program (JOP) has dedicated many mission trips to the eye clinic on the compound of St. Pius X in Kingston. Those trips are made possible through the service of the lay missionaries who visit there two or three times a year. The journey to improved sight is a long and involved process for those Jamaican patients who are in need of corneal transplant surgeries. This type of surgery is not available in Jamaica and therein lies an untold story about what the JOP does to make a difference in the lives of the people we meet at our clinics.

In August 2013, while working at the JOP eye clinic in Kingston, Dr. Jeffrey Zimm identified nine patients who would benefit from corneal transplant surgery. Since then, four of those patients have come to Naples and benefited from the transplants with Dr. Zimm  and his staff performing the surgeries at no charge and other out-of-pocket expenses paid by donor-sponsors (sometimes supplemented by the patient’s own fundraising efforts) . The process for these patients is a long one involving many people who help them along their way to a more perfect sight and a better life.

The following report has been submitted by Dr Zimm’s surgery coordinator, Alison Burberry:

When Dr Zimm identifies a patient who would benefit from a corneal transplant, the patient is then put on a priority list based on age and the severity of the problem. The need for a corneal transplant is usually from keratoconus (a corneal dystrophy), or infections causing scarring or trauma. Once the patient has been identified and the JOP has found a donor willing to fund the costs associated with the transplant, Dr. Zimm writes a letter to support the granting of a non-immigrant visa by the U.S. embassy in Kingston.

The average out-of-pocket cost of a transplant is $ 5,000. Corneal tissue is $3,200 and visa applications, air flights, post-op prescriptions and surgery center fees account for the rest of the cost. In many cases host families are arranged by the JOP for our patients who generally come for a 10-day stay. During that time, a patient is placed with host families for three or four days each. The hosts provide shelter, sustenance, and transportation for their guests. While in Naples, the patient undergoes a pre-operative exam, the surgery, and several post-operative exams by Dr Zimm.

In our dealings with Jamaicans, we have been impressed with their graciousness, patience, and gratitude. The entire surgical team is also impressed by the dedication of the JOP and its commitment to the eye care mission. We are fortunate to work hand in hand with them.

Anyone interested in serving as host for a future corneal transplant patient or interested donors are invited to contact us through this website.

Jammin’ for Jamaica Festival Feb. 2014

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The Jammin’ for Jamaica Festival held February 7 was a great success.  Fun and joy were reflected on the faces of attendees as they enjoyed  fine food and drink and got great deals in the Treasure Chest, Silent and Live Auctions. Cappelli’s Catering served the delicious main entree to175 people in 25 minutes!

Volunteers from Kohl’s Department Store in Naples contributed time and talent which will result in a $500 grant to JOP for education programs. Melody Merrymaker the clown made balloon hats and painted faces adding another element of fun to the casual and festive evening. Attendees danced the night away to the happy sounds of DJ Bob Cox.

Thanks to all the committee members, volunteers, donors and participants who made this a memorable evening to benefit JOP.  It was a barrel of fun and raised  $12,000 for the poor in Jamaica.

See all the photos here

Choir Visits Naples, Feb. 2014

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The weekend of February 7-9, 2014, was special in many ways.  A Jamaican choir under the direction of Kevin Williams graced the liturgies at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Naples, FL with beautiful voices and hymns. That weekend a special collection was taken up in the church to support our sister parish St. Pius X, the medical, dental and optical clinics at St. Pius X as well as education programs there and elsewhere in Jamaica. We extend heartfelt thanks for your support and loyalty to our mission to help the poor in Jamaica.

Hosting the choir for three days in private homes involved a concerted effort on the part of many.  Hosting involves chauffeuring, lodging, feeding, and providing a home away from home to a choir that gives its all with cheer and good will.   The fact that those amenities are extended by our hosts to people they have never met says a lot about our parish. Inviting perfect strangers into your homes takes a leap of faith and a special kind of courage; they delivered both with grace and style.

Other groups and families “hosted the hosts” and their Jamaican guests for their evening meals throughout the weekend.   It was a great service to many by a very special few.

We told our Jamaican guests that they were missionaries to Naples.  As they shared their energy, time, and talent on behalf of their fellow Jamaicans, they renewed our own energy, time, and talents on behalf of the very same people.

And aren’t we all lucky to have someone like Kevin Williams befriending our cause? What a great ambassador he is for Jamaica’s poor!
See all the photos here 

Dental Volunteers Needed

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Jamaica Outreach Program needs dental professionals to volunteer for upcoming mission trips to Kingston, Jamaica.

We have a group from Atlanta, GA in place to conduct the September 10, 2014 dental mission trip, and a Springfield, MA Dental professional has come forward and agreed to organize and head up the November 19th. mission.   At present, we are half staffed for the July 23 mission trip and still in need of one dentist, one assistant and two additional hygienists.   The October 15th mission has a few hygienists and assistants offering their services and we are always looking for dental professionals to staff our future missions.   If any of you know of other dental professionals (family, friends and acquaintances) anywhere in the US who might be willing to give of their time and energy for this service, please refer them to me, Roger Plante, for follow-up.  Many will be needed to make future missions a success.  ( – 239-948-2145).

Dental Mission Report March 26, 2014

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Jamaica Outreach Program Dental Mission, March 26-30, 2014

Our dental team consisted of professionals from  Massachusetts, Montreal, Canada and Florida. They came to us through the grace of God and a little networking on our part.  Each of them worked tirelessly day after day to get the job done and at the end of the third ten hour day, they were still smiling (although very tired) and enjoying every minute of their venture.  They worked through brownouts, faulting equipment, and never lost their enthusiasm.

Interaction with the local Jamaican residents was incredible and the warmth of the smiles combined with the gratitude of the patients made it a highly rewarding endeavor for our volunteers.

In all 127 patients were treated.  (76 full cleanings, 26 fillings, 42 extractions, 10 surgical procedures plus 11 consultations which resulted in referrals to oral surgeons etc.)   Many received free medications for infection and pain, all received dental kits consisting of brushes, paste and floss donated by the missionaries.   Unfortunately, many had to be referred to our next dental mission because of our inability to handle the need.   All in all, we were rewarded by many smiling faces leaving the clinic.

In addition to the actual treatments, our hygienists conducted three educational sessions in the DuPont Primary School auditorium consisting of basic introduction to dental hygiene,  teeth checked for treatment needs (11 treated immediately  and 50 at a future date), and handing out toothbrushes, toothpaste and other items.  Approximately 308 students were involved and the sessions were very dynamic and extremely interactive.

We have a group from Atlanta, GA in place to conduct the September 10, 2014 dental mission trip, and a Springfield, MA Dental professional has come forward and agreed to organize and head up the November 19th. mission.   At present, we are half staffed for the July 23 mission trip and still in need of one dentist, one assistant and two additional hygienists.   The October 15th mission has a few hygienists and assistants offering their services and we are always looking for dental professionals to staff our future missions.   If any of you know of other dental professionals (family, friends and acquaintances) anywhere in the US who might be willing to give of their time and energy for this service, please refer them to me, Roger Plante, for follow-up.  Many will be needed to make future missions a success.  ( – 239-948-2145).

See mission trip photos here. Photos are limited because the Jamaica Ministry of Health no longer allows photos in health facilities.

Dr. Tom’s review of Optical mission Nov. 2013

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Dr. Tom’s Review of Nov. 2013 Optical Mission

Received Dec. 2, 2013 by Jamaica Outreach Program

It has been almost a month since we returned home from Jamaica.  Hardly a day goes by without thoughts of the St. Pius experience. It was a wonderful time with Jamaicans and  Americans working hand in hand to give caring, hope and the gift of sight to those less fortunate in the St Pius Community.  The day could not have started out any better with an excellent mass by Father Thomas.  The ride back home (the convent-hostel where we stayed) at day’s end stands out with that good feeling of tiredness that comes with knowing that everybody gave all that they could.  It was after we were physically and mentally drained that we could experience the simple joy of doing God’s work.  Thank you for allowing me to participate in this wonderful time.  I hope to make more trips in the future. -Tom K.

Michelle’s Review of Dental Mission -March 2014

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Michelle B’s Review of the March 2014 Dental Mission Trip

If anyone has ever considered volunteering for a dental mission I would highly recommend not thinking about it and just going. That’s what I did.

I received a phone call from my good friend, Lois, a dental hygienist, asking me if I would like to accompany her on a mission to Jamaica. Without any explanation or hesitation I responded with an immediate YES!  And that’s when it took on a life of its own. We were now in the hands of an extremely kind, compassionate, determined and persevering man, Roger L. Plante, Dental mission coordinator for JOP-Jamaica Outreach Program.

Joining us all the way from Montreal, Canada was Marc, a dentist who came out of retirement just for this mission and another hygienist Kathy from Massachusetts.  We were in need of one more dentist. I went into work the following week and spoke to my doctor about the mission and without even a second thought he said yes.  With Dr. John on board all that we needed now was a dental assistant. I telephoned a former dental assistant friend, Donna and before the call ended she committed herself to the mission knowing that she was going to be paying well over what we paid for her flight because of it being last minute. People like Lee, from Florida who doesn’t know a thing about a dental office, never mind dentistry came along to be an extra person to lend a hand. But these types of people are what make up a mission and I can guarantee you’ll be a changed person when you return back home. Or at least your outlook on life will be changed.

The JOP mission headquarters are located in Naples, Florida. The mission statement is as follows: If you ever have wanted to make a difference in the lives of God’s poorest and most needy Children, here is your opportunity. You can follow in the footsteps of many of your peers in joining us on a three work-day mission trip to Kingston, Jamaica at which time we hope to see some 150 needy patients of all ages, most of whom have never received any type of dental care whatsoever.  And let me tell you we came nearly close to seeing that many people in the short time that we were there.  Between dental cleaning, restorations and extractions we saw 40 patients the first 2 days that we were there and 45 patients on the last day. The days are full and non stop but that’s why you’re there.  You lend a hand wherever it is needed without question.  Just when you think that you can’t see another patient all that you have to do is go to the front desk and look out into the waiting room into the eyes and faces of these beautiful, innocent children and patient adults and your energy is restored. Some of these patients have waited years to be able to come to the clinic, saved whatever money they could to get transportation to the clinic and probably borrowed the $5.00 that’s asked of them to cover the cost of their dental visit whatever that may be. Their happy faces and the gratitude that these Jamaican people show to you revives and rejuvenates you allowing you to get up and do it all over again the next day. We can even forgive Rosemary, who works at the front desk for squeezing into the schedule 10-15 patients each day! After this mission, I believe our Montreal dentist, Marc was headed straight back into retirement.

I have heard many stories and listened to the descriptions of the working conditions at the facilities that many dental personnel have been to in various countries. This dental clinic was an actual building with a roof, doors, bathroom, front desk, waiting room and a break room. The clinic is 5 years old and has air conditioning, three rooms with full chair units, an x-ray unit and perio pro developer, an autoclave, and an(intermittently working) cavitron.  Yes, we had to work around the compressor shutting off, loosing electricity, power and water to the units. But what the heck, isn’t that what goes along with being on a mission? We were fed very well and bottled water was at a constant supply.  The clinic would not run as it did if not for the help of our now very dear friend, Boxer. The go all, be all, fix it man and if he can’t will find someone to fix it and fast. A local man who grew up right around the corner from where the mission grounds are located, turned his life completely around from being a bare knuckled boxer to Roger’s trusted right hand man.

The sleeping accommodations were at a nearby Hostel complete with an Olympic sized swimming pool which was great for using and relaxing around after our long and rewarding days.  It is very safe and surrounded by a fence and barbed wire with a gate keeper and guard dogs on the premises. The hostel used to be a hotel but now it serves as a hostel and a convent. The grounds are well manicured with beautifully colored flowers. Within the fenced in yard is a school and a nearby church.  There is van just for us and a dedicated driver, Felix, who drives the crew to and from the mission and anywhere else in-between.

Because the clinic is located on school grounds, as part of the mission, Roger asks the hygienists to do dental screenings on the school children in the school auditorium. You basically look into their mouths with a mirror and flashlight; yes it came in very handy, and record what needs attention. The children are so polite, soft spoken, shy, well behaved and attentive.  On this particular day, the children were scheduled for early release. I had already screened one classroom of 12-13 year olds. I asked the teacher if there were more classes of that age group and she said yes, but little did I know how many more! I told her that I would stay and see 20 -30 more children. Well, one and ½ hours later I screened close to 190 children! Where did they all come from?  I was just glad that we had enough toothbrushes and prizes to go around.

At the end of the day, each person from our crew had different stories to share about their days patients.  This one particular woman came in concerned about her discolored tooth thinking that it needed to be extracted.  She was obviously worried and dentally conscientious.  After cleaning her teeth, educating her with home care instructions and assuring her that her tooth did not need to be extracted, she proceeded to remove her earrings and necklace and graciously give them to me.  She was so grateful for the time that was given her explaining how to take care of her mouth.  Dr. John asked one of the children if he was going to place his extracted tooth under his pillow for the tooth fairy. Well, giving that we are in the poorest part of Jamaica, there probably isn’t a pillow for a tooth to go under! What they do instead is throw it on the rooftop. The primary tooth is referred to as a milk tooth.  If you’re lucky enough, you might get to do an extraction like I did.  One patient was so thankful that he came back to give the doctor a bottle of Jamaican wildfire rum. Back to the olden days of payments made with a cow or a goat!

All in all the stories are different but the same. A mission is what you put into it and believe me you get so much more out of it. Just show up. If anyone is interested in going on this mission, here is the contact information:  You won’t regret it. As a matter of fact, we are planning on returning next year.

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