Robert Mintz and Jim Dopler just returned from our 2016 Dental Mission to the Dominican Republic. The Mission was held at a parochial school in La Vega, Dominican Republic. Other members of the team included Rotary members from the Cherry Creek, Colorado Rotary Club (Dr. Scott Johnson, Dr. Sarah Werner, Dr. William Bissell, Patty Nelson and her son JP) as well as from Scottsdale, AZ (Shirley Berk). This group was supplemented by about 10 local Rotarians, several of which were also Dentists, as well as several volunteers from the school. Still other Rotary volunteers helped out with all ground transportation.
La Vega is the third largest city in the Dominican Republic, originally founded by Christopher Columbus in the late 1400;s. The metropolitan area has a population of nearly 250,000. It also has a poverty rate exceeding 35%, far eclipsing that found in the United States. Much of the local housing surrounding the school consisted of very small stucco type homes, mostly with metal roofs and dirt floors.
The team saw nearly 300 students over the course of the week, many requiring secondary visits during the week. The was the first time nearly all of the students had every received dental care.
The Rotarians set up a six chair dental clinic in the auditorium of the school. Three chairs were used mostly for cleanings while the others were for more difficult dental procedures.
At the end of the trip, team members were invited to attend a weekly meeting of the local Rotary Club in La Vega, which has been in existence for 75 years.
Club flags were exchanged and Certificates of Appreciation were provided to team members. Host Rotary members were also very gracious in opening their homes on two evenings and hosting dinners for team members. Our thanks go out to PGD, Aura Basilis De Mena, for serving as our primary point of contact for the project in the Dominican Republic, and Robert Mintz, for arrangements for those coming from the U.S.
Next year, plans are already underway for a Dental Mission to Ecuador..