Dental Mission Trip Helps 163 Belize Patients, But Helps American Dental Staff More

The staff of St. Charles Family Dentistry in St. Charles, Illinois was challenged in late 2015 to meet specific revenue goals for 2016.

The reward for meeting that goal included a one-week trip in July 2017 to serve the children of Northern Belize with complimentary dental care.

Dr. Edward and Lynn Lipskis have participated in a day of complimentary dental care in Chicagoland every year through the “Dentists with a Heart” program, so they are no strangers to helping those who can’t afford dental care.

In fact, many Chicagoland dental practices join them in this annual Valentine’s Day gesture to the community.

Staff at Lamanai
Little did the team know that a week in Belize would change the way they view the world. Giving back is a direct route to getting back more in return. Here, the staff at St. Charles Family Dentistry experiences the wonder of the Lamanai Mayan Ruins.

So a trip to Belize was a natural extension of the program and a chance to show their staff about the needs of those in a third-world country.

Preparation for the July 2017 trip started in late 2016. Dr. Ed, Dr. Lynn and Dr. Dana visited Northern Belize to lay the ground work for the trip with Pastor Antonette Young of United in Christ Evangelical Church in Orange Walk Town who would serve as their local coordinator for the project.

the scope of the trip was determined and all logistics were discussed 6 months ahead of time. Pastor Young used her contacts in the Northern Belize area and selected two elementary schools in two distinctly needy villages.

Trinidad, about 20 miles West of Orange Walk in the Orange Walk District (off of San Antonio Road) and Santa Marta, a village about 30 miles Southeast of Orange Walk in the Belize District (off of the Old Northern Highway) were selected due to their close proximity to Orange Walk, which served as base for the mission activities.

She met with local school and health personnel to secure the help of a few local dentists to help oversee the dental procedures and serve as on-site consultants.

 

Dr Edward Lipskis discusses a treatment plan with Dr. Gustuvo, a consulting Belizean Dentist.

Hotel De La Fuente in downtown Orange Walk provided the 10 staff members who came with discounted rooms thanks to the generosity of owner Landy De La Fuente.

Hotel De La Fuente on Main St. in Orange Walk served as headquarters for the mission trip.

He also coordinated a boat tour down the New River to the Lamanai Mayan Ruins for the dental team after a few busy days of dental procedures.

During two days, 163 dental procedures were completed. Everything from cleanings to extractions were performed in make-shift dental offices in school classrooms.

Because of the lack of full dental facilities, the creative staff used portable camping stoves and pressure cookers to sterilize instruments. Much of the necessary tools and supplies were donated by Henry Schein, Inc. headquartered in New York through Henry Schein Cares, their global corporate social responsibility program.

Below you’ll find highlights of the two days of dental care as well as photos of the rest of the week which was used to reward the staff with relaxation, tourist opportunities and other team-building activities.

DAY ONE: SANTA MARTA

Even before the team was able to settle into their first day of work, Dr. Ed was asked if he could visit the Regional Hospital in Orange Walk to see if he could assess the needs of a patient that was in a car accident the day before and was in need of dental surgery. Even though Dr. Ed was thrilled to help, after assessment, he knew he wasn’t able to help because the person’s jaw was broken and needed to be wired shut before any dental help could be offered. Above, the team waits outside the hospital before heading to Trinidad.
Even though the setting wasn’t perfect, the team was organized and up to the challenge. First, the prep tables needed to be organized for efficient work flow.
Dr. Lynn didn’t waste any time getting right to it. With no adjustable dental chairs, much of the work was done with hunched backs and inadequate lighting, but makeshift camping headlights helped out quite a bit.
Although Dr. Ed spends most of his time back in the states on Jaw-related dentistry, orthodontics and lecturing, he was happy to get back to the basics while in Belize.
Patience, a little humor and a helpful mother were sometimes necessary to get children to open their mouths. Most have not seen a dentist before and according to Belizean officials, this is the first dental mission trip ever in their country.
Dr Dana Lipskis handles much of the general dentistry in Illinois, so she was in her element here, although limitations kept her from being able to complete typical fillings. Planning will be necessary to include full-service dentistry in any future mission trips.
Linda Castillo works in administration in St. Charles and because she is originally from Orange Walk, she was relied on for much of the translation necessary. Her heart for the Belizean people made a mission trip to Belize an emphasis for her.
Invention is the mother of necessity. Dental instruments were sterilized through the use of small camping stoves and a pressure cooker. When he wasn’t sterilizing instruments, justin captured the entire trip with his photography.
Alyssa used all of her charm to execute her hygiene duties. Use of a battery-powered tooth brush is taken for granted in the U.S., but was a new experience for these children. They no doubt had much to talk about at their homes that night. Wouldn’t it be nice to see one of these brushes in the hands of every family member in Belize?

DAY TWO: TRINIDAD

As set-up for day two of work was underway, some of the kids were eager to gather and wait patiently for their turn.
The School doubles as the local hurricane shelter since many of the homes in the village are made of wood. These homes would not fare too well in a tropical storm. Perhaps they need an additional sign now that boasts “Dental Office”.
It took a bit of time, but Dr. Lynn was relieved that the final authorization to perform dentistry was signed by the local officials. Work can begin!
Dr. Lisa Reust gets the help of a father to open the mouth of this hesitant patient. Despite his best efforts and the training of Angela the Dental Assistant, this young boy would not cooperate and left untreated.
Sometimes it takes a team to convince a child to cooperate. Linda interprets the treatment of Dr. Reust for a young girl in Spanish.
Dr. Lynn ignores the heat and engages with a hygiene patient while Dr. Ed entertains a brother who watches his sister under his care. A number of adults were also treated during both days.
Stephanie does her best to communicate with this boy about how he needs to care for his teeth after he leaves. The second day beat day one in total number of patients seen.
The church van, used to transport the team the 20 miles to Trinidad, showed its age and would not start for the ride home. Tony, the driver, puts water in the radiator while the team waits for another vehicle.
The team was not going to let the unforeseen circumstances spoil their day. They were happy to reminisce in the back of this small pickup truck as they headed back to the hotel. The wind would be welcome and they would look forward to the next 5 days of fun to come.

THE REST OF THE WEEK: DISCOVERING BELIZE

After 2 successful days of serving the residents of Northern Belize, the staff celebrated with a boat tour down the New River to the Lamanai Mayan Ruins South of Orange Walk on Wednesday.

Then a bus ride down to the Ocean Club Resort on the Placencia Penninsula for 3 days of relaxation and tourism on the 16 mile long Penninsula.

The Ocean Club Resort sits about half way down the Placencia Penninsula with all of the rooms and amenities necessary for a stay on the seaside. The resort is outside of the main town down to the South, and offers all the relaxation and excitement you could want from a Belizean resort.
The team spent time by the pool bar, enjoying the drinks, the team-building, the cool breeze and sharing what each had learned during the week in Belize.

Casa Blanca By the Sea Hotel: A “Great Buy” or a “Black Eye” in Consejo?

Casa Blanca Hotel view from the sea
Casa Blanca By the Sea in Consejo.

Imagine bringing your boat up to this pier on the Northern tip of Consejo looking to experience Northern Belize.

The Casa Blanca Hotel looks like a jewel, inviting you for a night stay or two, for a few cocktails and some great Belizean food. You can’t wait!

But then you realize that the cast iron gates are chained. You can’t get in. The place is empty and you’ll need to find other parts of Northern Belize to whet your whistle.

Casa Blanca by the Sea is for sale.

The location that hosted local conferences, and tourists for a number of years is now empty due to the owners’ unforeseen circumstances.

It’s weird to read the reviews on tripadvisor.com. It’s also confusing that the same listing invites you to check out possible stay dates.

But that’s what happens when you close rather abruptly and the owners want to put it into the hands of someone who can take it on.

I know what you’re thinking. “I bet I can make a go of it as the owner of Casa Blanca!”

I thought the same thing when a local real estate agent showed us the place during our recent trip to Northern Belize.

Karen Wilkinson of Corozal Belize Properties in Consejo Shores told us the sad story of how the Hotel came onto the market. She showed us the rooms, the land, the bar and the kitchen.

You could still envision a bustling business within its walls.

Enjoy this pictorial of our tour and decide for yourself if Casa Blanca is worth a look.

THE ROOMS: COMFORTABLE AND INVITING

Mayan Door Carving
Each door of the dozen or so hotel rooms invites you in with a Mayan carving on it. No detail is spared to make this an inviting hotel.
two levels of rooms
The rooms look over the sea from the top or bottom levels. The sea breezes hit you smack dab in the face as you scan the horizon from your balcony.
room interiror
The rooms are fully and smartly furnished, complete with ceiling fans and some with air conditioning.
The featured suites boast comfortable wicker furniture and large window access to the Caribbean Sea.

THE GROUNDS ARE CHARMING AND SPEAK TO OPPORTUNITY!

Palapa dining
A full palapa has seaside dining written all over it and has weathered the storms wonderfully. A small palapa sits at the end of the sturdy pier and entice those who want a more private dining experience on the Sea.
Parking
The cobble stone courtyard area is perfect for parking and a late night stroll.
Land to the West
Vacant land to the west of the Hotel could be used for lawn games such as futbol or volleyball or could be used for future development of private cabanas?
Seawall palapas
Shade palapas serve as nice shade spots along the sea wall, offering a great view of Chetumal about 2 miles across the Bay.

ADJACENT HOME IS A BONUS!

Adjacent Home
A two-bedroom home sits empty across the street from Casa Blanca and was used for the Hotel manager. A full workshop also is on the land and provides a perk for the absentee owner to offer to his on-site management.
The adjacent home comes fully furnished with plenty of space.
Bedroom
The master bedroom in the adjacent home is quite cozy and would make a perfect place for the on-site manager and his family to call home.

DINING, SERVING AND ENTERTAINING AREAS

Although the kitchen, bar and indoor dining area on the ground floor of the Casa Blanca Hotel were too dark (no electricity at present) to take decent photos, make sure your tour of Casa Blanca includes some time in these areas.

The kitchen is large, well laid out and boasts all of the stainless steel appliances needed by any full-service restaurant. All are included in the price of the Hotel.

The bar is rustic and expertly made from local exotic hardwoods, while the dining area is fully furnished with complementary wood tables and chairs.

An office area also serves the owner and/or manager a comfortable air conditioned area to attend to daily administrative tasks.

THE VERDICT: “BLACK EYE” OR “GREAT BUY”?

As you see from the pictorial above, Casa Blanca features everything a thriving Hotel and Restaurant needs, such as great sea views, perfect sea breezes, a nice design and an infrastructure that could be sustainable with a bit of tender loving care.

According to local real estate sites, the reduced listing price for Casa Blanca is $799,999 USD at the time of this writing.

From our visit, we assessed that the price seemed like a bargain based on the quality of the construction, the layout and location.

Of course, any possible investor should get a hold of the financials of the business when it was in operation and thoroughly investigate the future tourism potential  of the area.

Bottom Line: Although at first site, we determined that it has potential for the right investor, it was above our budget.

The longer Casa Blanca sits vacant, however, the work required to get it back into operational condition will increase.

The assessment of whether it is a “Black Eye” for the area, or a “Great Buy” for the right business person should be left up to the person who does extensive due diligence.

Have you viewed Casa Blanca? If so, give us your opinion below.

Do you have information that will help inform future investors, please add to the discussion below.

Did you ever stay at Casa Blanca? Tell us about your experience below!

Here are a few links to start your research:

A Belizean Artist’s Interpretation of the Trump Presidency

 

It adorns the 6-inch wide post of Quidi’s backyard palapa, lending color and serving as a conversation piece for all those who visit to play domino’s or relax after a day of work.

Quidi boasts about it with all the pride one uses to describe his favorite tattoo. And he’s animated as he describes how it came into being.

It’s colorful and quite a piece of art, but what does it represent? Is the story behind it just as interesting as the artwork itself?

You bet.

Quidi is a lifelong Orange Walk town resident known as “Quidi Cas” by many who know him.

Quidi is known as the Crocodile Dundee of Belize and here helps his brother, Netty, break in his pony.

I’ve hung with him every time I’m in Belize. I’ve been on Canoe trips on the Caribbean Sea with him.

I remember stopping on the road side on Old Northern Highway after a tour of the Altun Ha Mayan ruins.

He spotted a local with a python around his neck out in his yard and just had to stop. It was my first experience with voodoo-like powers this man used to control this large snake. But that’s a story for another time.

I’ve also been under Quidi’s palapa to listen to the banter of local domino contests and watch him expertly grill an 8 lb Red Snapper.

I’ve also shared a few Belikin beers with him under that tin roof. And it’s also a great place to slam down a few Orange Walk tacos or tamales.

This whole red snapper is seasoned well and ready to be masterfully grilled on the grill under Quidi’s palapa.

That’s what you do with your brother-in-law.

And I’ve been under his palapa on numerous occasions when Ian Fabro rode up on his bike after a day of creating his concrete artwork for local businesses.

Ian Fabro and his family reside in Orange Walk town in Belize, where his art is on display throughout the country.

A thoughtful guy with a flair for the creative, Ian has spent hours sharing his artwork, talking politics, and just enjoying a beer or two.

You can enjoy more of his artwork on his facebook page here.

More cement artwork that doubles as lawn furniture at the river cabins in Orange Walk.

You can see his colorful work all over Belize. And because it’s concrete, his furniture, signage, spindles and custom artwork is made to withstand the Belizean heat and sun.

This concrete outdoor patio furniture by Ian Fabro features mayan figures and resides at the Gran Mestizo Resort in Orange Walk.

I wasn’t there when Ian quickly created the artwork on Quid’s palapa. According to Quidi, he created it with some extra paint he had from his last job.

After listening to Quidi rant about the prospects of Trump being the Republican nominee for President, Ian whipped out his brushes and painted his creation in a matter of minutes.

Ian listened as Quidi picked Trump to be the U.S. Republican nominee back when their were still 16 candidates in the field.

If you know Quidi, you know he is passionate about politics and let’s that passion spew forth as he opined on American politics.

Blood Money
Blood Money was Quidi’s race horse that was hit by a vehicle on Belize Road. This plaque is featured above the door of the palapa, a tribute to his beloved horse.

I wasn’t there when it happened, but I’m sure that Ian had different thoughts on the U.S. election.

He didn’t say much, but just took out his brush and let his artwork do his talking.

Quidi explained the painting to me like this:

“That is Quidi Cas … ME … at the very bottom … smoking some weed”

“Now follow the smoke up from my weed”, Quidi waves his hands in a smoky flutter and moves them up to widen his hands, before quickly pointing back to the painting.

“Look, it’s a lamp of a genie forming out of the smoke!” He spoke in a slower version of Kriol to help the gringo understand.

Then he widened his arms as he yells, “Then out of the genie lamp swirls the head of evil Donald Trump!”

He laughs as he points to the evil details within the head of the wolf head doubling as the likeness of Trump.

“Yah Mon,” Quidi quips, “Ian tells his stories like THAT!”

As he points again at the snout of evil Trump, you could tell that Quidi was just as proud of the painting as he was about predicting the outcome of the U.S. election.

 

5 Things That Make Orange Walk Town in Belize a Great Retirement Landing Spot

Orange Walk town in Northern Belize may not be the first place that future Expats think of when investigating a retirement home.

Situated about 30 miles from the Belize/Mexico border to the North, Orange Walk is a bustling town of about 14,000 real folks. It’s actually about the 4th largest town in Belize, outside of Belize City and the capital city of Belmopan to the South.

The New River winds along the East side of Orange Walk town, inviting Expats to consider it for their permanent retirement location.

Feel free to investigate via Wikipedia more of the Capital of Orange Walk District here.

But for those looking for these 5 things, it may be a perfect place to enjoy the rest of your life.

Orange Walk’s Location is pretty strategic

Orange Walk’s Central location is inland from the Sea about 30 miles to the Northeast and 25 miles to the East.

And for those who aren’t the “water-type” or who fear the affects of the intermittent hurricanes or rising seas, Orange Walk is quite sheltered from the elements.

There are miles and miles of foliage and sugarcane fields between Orange Walk and the nearest coast.

When the islands are rebuilding from the latest tropical storm, Orange Walk is business as usual.

And did you know that the Northern Highway, one of only 3 main roads in Belize, runs smack dab through the middle of Orange Walk?

So whether you are headed to the airport in Belize City, or to the Mexican border to the North, the Northern Highway takes you there. And you’ll also connect to the Hummingbird Highway for adventure further south or to connect on your way to Belmopan or San Ignacio.

So if you plan to set up shop in Belize, you can count on plenty of traffic on the Northern Highway to find your business in Orange Walk.

Orange Walk
The colors that greet you in Orange Walk town are definitely caribbean in style and give the entire town a festive feel no matter what time of year.

And we haven’t even talked about the fact that the Cuello distillery and the sugar factory in Tower Hill employ a good number of the Orange Walk residents. That’s one reason that Orange Walk is known locally as “Suga City”.

Orange Walk’s Dining Choices are Diverse and Cultural

Talk to anyone in Belize about Orange Walk and the first thing that they will mention is “the best street tacos and tamales in Belize”.

Linda, who grew up in Orange Walk, is biased, but she puts it this way: “Any Belize product made with corn is best in Orange Walk. Whether it be the street taco on the corner or the tamales made to order, Orange Walk continually outranks the other areas of Belize.”

For $2, you can buy 10 of the best pulled pork tacos with hot pepper at any number of corner taco stands on the Northern Highway. So for $4, even the heartiest of appetites can be satisfied. My large brother-in-law can attest to that!

Taco stands seem to be on every street corner in Orange Walk. Their reputation as having the best tacos and tamales in all of Belize makes the locals proud.

And when the weekend parties are being planned, there are a number of spots to pre-order your made-to-order tamales. Bottom line: the corn is moister, the sauce is hotter and the folks keep coming back for more.

Several restaurants in Orange Walk are well worth mentioning as offering the Expats and locals great food at reasonable prices.

Nahil Mayab:

This restaurant is about 2 block West of the Northern Highway at the corner of Guadalupe and Santa Ana Streets. Find the Shell station on the Highway, known to the locals as Belize Road, then head west.

Besides the steak and pork chop, pasta and fish selections, Nahil Mayab features a number of great local favorites such as Cashew Wine Pasta.

Proudly Belizean inspired, according the Nahil Mayab, it includes whole shrimps and chunks of fish fillet flambéed in a cashew wine tomato sauce, served on a bed of linguini; accompanied by garlic bread.

And if you have never had Cashew Wine, it’s fermented in the nearby town of Crooked Tree from the fruit of the Cashew Tree. Quite a unique taste and an unusual kick!

This plastic bottle looks innocent enough, and the contents was bought on the side of Northern Highway near Crooked Tree, but the Cashew Wine inside is as potent as it gets. All for about $5.00 U.S.

According to local stories, it mixes with the Belizean humidity and heat to create a buzz that can come back for a number of days. Beware!

Cocina Sabor:

Owned by local Orange Walk resident Oscar Gutierrez, Cocina Sabor is on the South side of Orange Walk, right on Northern Highway.

Oscar opened Cocina Sabor after many successful years as the chef at Victoria House Pamilla Restaurant on Ambergris Caye.

Cocina Sabor boast international flavors and the expertise of Chef Oscar Gutierrez who spent many years honing his skill on Ambergris Caye before coming back home to Orange Walk.

He decribes his menu this way:

“Our menu has Belizean Cuisine with a hint of international flavor; featuring our local meats, chicken, seafood, and an array of appetizers. Our bar offers a wide selection of beverages ranging from cold beers, fresh fruit juices, to cocktails and wine.”

It features an outdoor porch as well as plenty of inside seating along with a full-service bar. Pick anything on the menu and you can’t go wrong. I have never had a bad meal here and have found myself there quite often.

I guess that fact that our parcel of land sits about 6 blocks behind Cocina Sabor made it a great place to meet with contractors, utility personnel and others. Anytime we need to escape the heat or check our email when in Orange Walk, we end up at Cocina Sabor.

I could mention a number of other restaurants for you to try in Orange Walk, but I think you get the hint. Food is king in Orange Walk. If you have some recommendations, please comment on them below!

Orange Walk is the place to go Shopping in Northern Belize

As the most populated town in Northern Belize, Orange Walk has the reputation as the “go-to” place for shopping in the area.

Sure, you can go North and across the border into Chetumal for a North America type shopping experience, but if you don’t want the wait of crossing the border, you can get most of what you need in Orange Walk.

In fact, many who live in the Corozal District find themselves navigating over to Orange Walk instead of taking the closer trip to the border.

Going to the local butcher in Orange Walk had Linda buying mutton for a birthday party.

If you need a butcher, it’s there. If you need fruits, vegetables and plants, the marketplace by town square is open every day.  You’ll also find clothing, groceries, automotive parts, electronics, internet and cellular services, furniture, home improvement, beauty salons and supplies, hardware and much more in Orange Walk town.

And the few times where you can’t find what you need, you can make a weekend trip to Chetumal, Mexico where Shopping Malls, Sam’s Club, Home Depot and others are waiting for your business.

Orange Walk is a Gem on the New River

The New River winds its way through Orange Walk’s East side and up into the remainder of Northern Belize before emptying into the Corozal Bay.

Besides the usual advantages of being on a river, Orange Walk boasts a number of businesses on the New River that service the culinary needs of the locals and cater to the growing tourism of the area.

One such tourist adventure on the Southern area of Orange Walk off of Naranja Street is a row of riverside cabins on the New River called El Gran Mestizo, owned by the De La Fuentes who also own the bustling downtown Orange Walk Hotel De La Fuente .

From these private cabins you can dine at Maracas Bar and Grill, and then start your adventure vacation and take in a number of adventure tours down the New River.

Maracas Bar and Grill is a welcoming place down by the New River that is part of the El Mestizo River Cabins.

You can find descriptions and rates on their web site.

The most popular tour is 15 miles south of Orange Walk to the Lamanai Mayan Temple and Ruins. Businesses that want to capitalize on this tourist traffic in Orange Walk should make Orange Walk a stop on their next trip.

Lamanai Mayan Ruins Tour is an all-day affair that takes you down the New River to the Mayan Temple.

Linda and I had the pleasure of staying at both the De La Fuente Hotel and the El Gran Mestizo Riverside Cabins on our most recent trip and enjoyed the ambiance of each.

Other Hotels to investigate in Orange Walk include:

  • Hotel St. Christopher’s
  • Orchid Palm Inn

Orange Walk offers a laid back life that encourages a healthy lifestyle

In this section, I’ll cover a number of areas that together, combine to make Orange Walk a serious consideration for you retirement years.

Healthcare:

No third-world country will offer the healthcare that will equal what you have experienced in the U.S. or Europe.

With that said, Orange Walk feature one of three regional government-run Hospitals on the North side of town.

Although it is not up-to-par with the Hospitals in Belize City and Belmopan, it is affordable and adequate for daily health concerns that may come up.

There are a few private facilities in the area that will offer better care from Doctors trained overseas.

Other medical options include going 30 miles north over the Mexican border to Chetumal, where healthcare is cheaper, but skilled.

For major procedures, many Expats choose to head to the U.S. or their home country. This is true of every part of Belize, however.

For more on the Healthcare in Belize, you might like this article.

Lifestyle:

There are plenty of things to do in Orange Walk whether it be spending social time at the town square, learning the local favorite, Dominos, or playing soccer (futbol).

Dominos
In Orange Walk, lots of time is spent chatting, drinking and teasing each other about Dominos skill.

Muffles college is close by for expanding your horizons and there are opportunities to volunteer at a number of area churches.

For those who prefer nightlife, the Hi 5 Night Club in downtown Orange Walk gets 4.8 out of 5 stars on Facebook.

Daytrips are easy from Orange Walk.

We have talked about Chetumal, Mexico, but virtually every area of Belize is accessible within no more than a few hours drive.

Belize City, Belmopan, Hopkins and Placencia Penninsula are well worth the trip. You also will enjoy the cool breezes in the San Ignacio and up in the Mountain Pine area.

And Tropic Air makes daily flights out to Ambergris Caye.

Housing:

If you plan to purchase land and build, there are a number of subdivisions in Orange Walk to Investigate.

Land is more affordable in Orange Walk than on the seaside. Investigate Dr. George Estates West of the Northern Highway where many new homes are currently going up.

This home is one of the new ones being built in the Dr George Estate subdivision of Orange Walk.

And if you need some possible architects and lawyers, we’ll be happy to refer a few that we know as well as a number of builders.

As you can see, Orange Walk offers a lot for those who want to live inland, centrally located to other parts of Belize.

Of course, we are biased due to it being Linda’s hometown, but that gives us a perspective on Orange Walk that could be valuable to you during your search.

Let us know how we can help!