Jamaican Medical Clinic Challenge Grant

Jamaican Medical Clinic Challenge Grant

Friars and volunteers pose for a photo. Photo by Roanecia Reid.

About five years ago, the friars began to address the urgent need for medical and dental care among the people in the small settlement of Revival, a rural area outside of Negril affectionately known as “The Bush.” Fr. Colin King, OFM, was instrumental in this endeavor, and he and the other friars helped turn the idea of a medical clinic into a reality.

“The building was there,” Fr. Colin explained, “but it was being used for storage and it was in need of extensive renovations to make it suitable for a healthcare facility.”

The local community pitched in to fundraise in conjunction with the friars and Church Advisory Board and the building renovations were completed. Generous donors from all over the world sent medicines or funds that were used to purchase supplies and other necessities. Doctors, nurses, dentists and dental assistants donated their time and talent for pop-up clinics. As time went on, they were able to secure a local doctor and nurse, and now the clinic is open every Wednesday for five hours thanks to Dr. Eva Johanson and Precilla Payne, volunteer registered nurse.

“The Holy Spirit brought everyone together at the right time to get the clinic up and running,” said Br. John Barker, OFM, who arrived in Jamaica at the end of June 2022. “It’s been a real success. It’s a small building, but it’s functional.”

People are often waiting in line for the clinic to open each week. If someone is delayed in opening the clinic (which sometimes happens due to unreliable transportation), Fr. Colin and Br. John get frantic phone calls.

“The clinic days are getting very busy,” Fr. Colin said. “Our numbers are growing. Luckily, we don’t have to turn people away.”

The clinic currently focuses on preventative care, such as physicals, blood pressure screening and blood sugar (glucose) testing.

“The goal is to avoid catastrophic care,” Fr. Colin explained. “Life in Jamaica isn’t set up for people with disabilities or limited mobility, so we really want to avoid those scenarios with screenings to identify and rectify potentially dangerous situations.”

Dr. Eva can write prescriptions (and fill some), which is a huge improvement and blessing for the community. They are also able to refer people to specialists, like for eyecare, and treat minor wounds and illnesses.

When people enter the clinic with high blood pressure or blood sugar, the goal is to bring them to a safe level through medication, educate them about lifestyle changes, and to provide follow-up care. Recently, two people were seen at a pop-up clinic with dangerously high, stroke-level blood pressure. Fr. Colin and Br. John immediately helped them get to the hospital for further care.

dentist and patient smiling in chair

Volunteer dentist Dr. Wolfgang Feiler and a smiling patient.

Now that the medical clinic is open and running regularly, the friars have been able to focus on coordinating pop-up dental clinics with mission groups and other organizations. Since the clinic doesn’t have a regular dentist at this time (although that is a hope for the future), a five-day pop-up clinic was recently held at the beginning of January. Three dentists and three hygienists from Norway with Dental Health Without Borders provided cleanings, fillings and tooth extractions. Since they served mostly children that week, Dr. Wolfgang Feiler stayed for an additional three days to help mostly adults. (He would have stayed a fourth day, but they ran out of lidocaine.) About 130 people received care.

“Dental Health Without Borders did such a great job!” said Br. John. “People who had avoided dental care their whole lives walked out with a smile.”

Br. John assists with dental work

Br. John Barker, OFM, assists with dental work.

The volunteers from Dental Health Without Borders donated tools and an autoclave sterilizer. In the future, the friars would like to amass enough supplies and equipment so that volunteers won’t need to bring anything with them. There is an emerging need for a portable dental X-ray machine, which would allow dentists to do root canals and wisdom teeth extractions. The clinic could also use another mobile dental unit (with equipment and a chair). Supplies are currently stored in an extra room at the clinic.

The friars would also like to create a fund to help people who need referrals for further medical care, as not everyone has the means to leave “The Bush” and pay for other clinics. The fund could also be used to help people get medicine and supplies like testing strips when they cannot be donated and people are unable to afford them.

“Healthcare in Jamaica is not as expensive as in the United States, but it’s still unaffordable for many people,” Br. John explained. “A fund could enable us to assist people in this way.”

To help meet these needs and make these dreams a reality for the friars and the people of Jamaica, the Jasper Foundation is offering a Challenge Grant for the medical clinic this year. All gifts up to a total of $20,000 will be matched from Feb. 15 through March 15, so there is no better time to give and maximize your impact! You can donate here. No amount is too small to make a difference in someone's life. Please choose "Missions" in the dropdown menu and put "Jamaican Challenge Grant" in the comments.

Fr. Colin and Br. John marvel at the progress that has been made over the years. What used to be a makeshift storage building in need of renovation has become a bustling medical clinic that survived nearly three years of being shut down due to COVID-19. It wasn’t a coincidence that the clinic reopened after COVID on the feast of St. Francis. With trust in the abundance and generosity of God, everyone is looking forward to the future.

“God has provided far more than we ever dreamed was possible five years ago,” said Fr. Colin. “It is a constant reminder of our Franciscan charism: to place trust in God because God will provide.”

Posted in: Missions