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: