Friday was appointed a service day in Belize. Citizens were asked to find something they could do to be of service to the country on the Friday before Independence Day Celebrations. Every school received an invitation from the Ministry of Education to participate.
We had already planned for a visit from MarAlliance, the local marine preserve, to do a presentation in advance of our visit there next Saturday for a school field trip. We hoped that we could do the presentation from MarAlliance, which was to begin about 9:00, and at the completion of that to do our usual “clean up the block where we live” service day and still be out by noon (because the Friday before Independence Day celebrations is a half day).
So, at 8:30, completely unannounced, the department of health sent in a dentist and his helper to examine our students. You don’t say, “No, come back another day.”
We helped the dentist get set up upstairs and began sending up one student at a time. He examined the mouth of each of the 11 students who were in attendance Friday and showed Ms. Candi the results of the exam. Only 2 of our 11 had healthy mouths. Many need fillings and extractions. Nine have gingivitis.
“Now what?” I asked Candi. Her reply was that for a payment of $2 per student the ministry would return and do the dental work needed.
Me, “Really? Two dollars? Will we do that?”
She told me that we were the second school the doctor had visited. He had earlier been to Living Hope, a school similar to ours, and that all the students had declined the treatment. These children, and their parents, do not go to the dentist or doctor because, one, it costs money, and two, they don’t want to hear what the doctor says. She then said, with some determination, “Can we fundraise the money? I will not let our students decline treatment.” The look in her eyes told me she meant it.
So, I’m considering adding a line item to the Friends School budget called Student Services. If you would like to help, just send a buck or two to FUM for Belize Friends School. If you trust us to spend it wisely, please just send it for the school, do not designate it for the dentist (see below).
Meanwhile, the nice lady from MarAlliance arrived in a taxi. We got her set up and she handed out a survey for the students to fill out about what they knew about sharks and rays. They were just in the midst of that when the dentists assistant came down and announced that they had forgotten to administer the flouride treatment while the students were upstairs, so they needed to do it now.
The assistant went around the room squirting a flouride treatment in the mouth of each student which they were to swish around in their mouths to the count of 30 and then spit out. I’m guessing from the looks on their faces that it didn’t taste all that good.
Following that interruption, the MarAlliance presentation continued. It was a very good powerpoint and she did a great job of engaging our students. Then she announced that next Saturday they would need swimsuits, sun block, and a water bottle. Candi says they all have something that they can wear for a swim suit, but they will not be able to afford sun block or water bottles. We are thinking about buying each one a bottle of water ($1) and then have them use the bottle for the rest of the day. We will need to purchase sunblock. Student Services?
By this time it was 11:30. The government lunches had arrived. There would be no ‘service day’ today at Friends School. I felt better about that when Candi said that the school does a service day once each term, 3 times a year.
After the students went home, we went to the bank to set up direct deposit for teachers salaries. Following that, we took our application for the field trip to the Ministry of Education for approval, apparently that is a requirement. When we presented the application, the woman who received it looked it over and said that they currently were not approving field trips that involved swimming. Candi protested a bit and the receptionist said that she would forward it to the minister.
When we got back in the car, I asked Candi what it meant if the ministry did not approve the field trip. Did that mean we would have to cancel it? She said, with that determined little smile she gets sometimes, “That means that we will take an unapproved field trip.” I like the way this woman thinks.
PS. For those of you who get uptight about this sort of thing, taking the field trip does not mean that we are doing something wrong, it just means that this field trip will not count toward what is expected of us each year. You can relax now.