Dental / Medical Mission to Belize
Offering compassionate care to the people of Belize since 1989
Information for team members - and those who are considering joining our group one year. Still have questions? Just email us - we'll be glad to fill you in.
Serve. Give. Help them smile.
DOS AMIGOS MEDICAL and DENTAL MISSION
Team Orientation Manual
We're glad that you have chosen to come be a part of God’s work through the Dos Amigos Medical and Dental Mission. May your stay be pleasant and memorable. To help you prepare for your visit, we have prepared this orientation manual. You will find some basic information about the people, our work and some suggestions about what to bring, along with other helpful information.
One of the most exciting aspects of a Volunteer Mission Trip is the chance to meet and work with all types of people. You will experience a lifestyle and culture very different from your own. When God leads you here your life will never be the same.
1. HOW DO I STAY HEALTHY?
Be careful of what you eat or drink is common advice to travelers, but very few understand its implications. Diarrhea affects an estimated 20% of all travelers. It may cause anything from discomfort and inconvenience to misery and disruption of travel and plans. Contaminated food and drink are the most common sources of infection. Careful selection and preparation of food and drink offer the best protection. Do not buyor eat from street venders. When in doubt, do not even have ice in your drinks. Bottled soft drinks or bottled water are the safest. Hand sanitizer is not a substitute for soap and water! Use it but wash your hands often.
The water at Dos Amigos clinic and at Machaca Camp is from a deep well and is safe to drink. DO NOT drink any water while out at any village.
2. WHAT CAN I DRINK AND EAT?
PIPING hot food
PEELED OR PREPARED fruits and vegetables
We eat lunch out in the field when visiting the villages. You need to bring snacks and lunch items such as peanut butter crackers, trail mix, packaged tuna, etc. (Chocolate or any other soft candy does not survive the heat and will melt, although candy-covered chocolates do fine and taste great after a long day!)
3. WHAT ELSE CAN I DO TO STAY HEALTHY?
Wash your hands frequently (with soap) and keep them out of your mouth. Hand sanitizer is not a substitute for soap and water, but use it often if there's no soap / clean water access.
Do not drink after other people.
Do not pet animals that you don't know, especially dogs and cats.
Wear shoes when out of doors. Do not wear open toed shoes unless going to the shower.
Wear Insect Repellent containing 20% DEET.
Wear Sun block when out in the sun for more than a few minutes. Belize is closer to the Equator than most of us are used to and sunburns happen quickly and at a deeper level than in the U.S. Drink plenty of liquids to prevent dehydration in the heat. The first sign of dehydration is a headache. So if you get a headache drink a full glass of liquid before taking something for a headache.
Shake your shoes out before putting them on in the morning. This will shake out unwanted critters.
Do not bite your nails or put your hands in your mouth.
Although no specific immunizations are required, it would be wise to be up to date with the typhoid and tetanus immunizations. Dos Amigos will provide the anti-malaria medication.
5. WHAT CAN I DO IF...........?
The safest and most effective treatment for traveler’s diarrhea is a preventive treatment. Pepto Bismol (or imodium) is one of the best treatments for diarrhea according to the Journal of Internal Medicine. Take it according to the package instructions. It has been found to be very effective if you take twice the amount the first 2 doses. Some people might want to take 2 tablets before every meal. If you still have problems, then you may want to take Imodium or similar medications. This must be done cautiously as this can bring on dehydration and other related problems. While taking medications for diarrhea, you should be drinking 10 -12 glasses of liquid per day. Remember public restrooms rarely have toilet paper. Carry your toilet paper with you. The flip side of diarrhea is constipation. Because you are in an unusual situation you may not take the time necessary to prevent this problem. To prevent constipation, drink plenty of water and take the time necessary in the toilet. The same muscles of the intestines cause constipation and Pepto Bismol will work to relieve constipation. Please let your Team Doctor know immediately if you even think that you might be developing a problem. Early attention from the Team Doctor can prevent the onset of a much more serious problem.
6. WHAT TO DO IN CASE OF ILLNESS OR EMERGENCY?
Bring any medication you will need with you. Advise the team doctor of any special medical needs you have before you leave. If you become ill enough to need medical help or in case of a serious injury, your leader will know where and how to get help. If they are not available, someone with the Mission will transport you or make arrangements for you to return to the States. The insurance provided in your team fee covers “extraction” for serious emergencies. You may be transported by air ambulance or by a commercial flight depending on the seriousness of your case. It's very rare when a team member needs care beyond what the Dos Amigos medical team can manage.
7. SHOULD I BE CONCERNED ABOUT SECURITY?
It is safe to travel in most parts of this country as long as you listen to the advice of your leaders about when and where not to go. Of course there are always certain precautions to be taken.
A potentially wonderful and rewarding experience can become disappointing for everyone if we don't follow some well proven, common-sense precautions for everyone's safety and the security of personal belongings. The leaders will be able to counsel you on the local area that you are working in. Use the "Buddy system" and never go anywhere alone in an airport or the streets around the area where you are working or staying. Always ask your team captain for permission to leave the area and agree on where you are going and when you expect to return. Do not pair off with the opposite sex (especially with villagers). A group of three or more is desirable.
Only mission personnel are allowed to drive mission vehicles.
Split up your money between a wallet or purse and other locations, e.g., money belt, camera case, or suitcase. Reduce the risk of being a pickpocket's victim by placing your wallet in a front pocket or a fanny pack carried in front. Be careful in crowds where people are likely to bump into you. Do not lay your personal or mission items around unguarded. You can leave money and valuables at the Dos Amigos clinic and it will be safe.
8. WHAT KIND OF LIVING CONDITIONS CAN I EXPECT?
Meals: We eat breakfast and dinner at the Machaca camp. Lunch is not provided so you do need to bring pre-packaged food from the States.
Bathing: There are showers at the Dos Amigos clinic - and sometimes hot water! Always remember to wear your flip flops and always shake out your clothing before putting it on. Bugs and scorpions sometimes find their way in to a shoe, suitcase, etc.
Toilet use: You will find most bathrooms in the villages are much more primitive than what you are accustomed to using. Public restrooms seldom have toilet paper available, so be prepared with some in your pocket. Even the larger and nicer gas stations usually do not provide toilet paper. Do not put the toilet paper in the toilet - there's usually a garbage can. Do not flush anything besides your waste.
There are toilets at the Dos Amigos clinic with toilet paper and all are flushable.
Bedding: There are beds with sheets at the Dos Amigos clinic. Occasionally it does get cooler at night and you may want a little extra cover. Something light usually works well. You may also want to bring a small fan (battery or plug in) to help stay cool at night.
Washing clothes: If you must wash clothes, there is a washing machine and a clothes line to dry at the clinic. You may want to mark your clothes with a sharpie so you can identify it later.
9. IS THERE ANYTHING THAT I SHOULD KNOW ABOUT THE CULTURE?
The Belizeans consider the use of tobacco and the drinking of alcoholic beverages inappropriate behavior for a Christian. Without passing judgment, we ask all volunteers to refrain from the use of tobacco (smoking, chewing, etc.) and drinking alcohol (beer, wine, or liquor) while serving as volunteers at the clinic and in the villages. In some of the rural cultures, the wearing of shorts is inappropriate. Earrings worn by men and any type of body piercing by men or women are considered inappropriate Christian behavior in this country. Be respectful of their culture and try not to complain or make negative comments about Belizean people, food or customs. Our actions often speak louder than our words. When in doubt concerning proper conduct, you should consult the leaders or team members who've been on the mission many times.
10. WHAT SHOULD I WEAR?
Belize is generally warm and tropical. Cool and comfortable cotton clothing is a must. You should dress modestly. During the day when out in the villages, long pants, Capri’s, or scrubs are a good choice for women. Men should wear khakis, jeans or scrubs. Please, no tank tops for the men or women. Scrubs are acceptable for all team members during working hours. Men and women, remember that the more exposed your body is to the elements, the more opportunity there is for mosquito bites day or night. The mosquitoes in this area often carry Dengue Fever or Malaria. For church service, men usually wear long pants or shorts and casual shirts. Women may wear casual dresses, long pants or skirts and blouses. A good pair of walking shoes will be your best friend. Make modesty a priority with all the clothing you bring to wear in public, in church and in the villages. Do not wear open toed shoes. If there is a question of certain cultural requirements in dressing, please direct your questions to the leaders for appropriate dress required.
11. WHAT SHOULD I BRING?
The following is a suggested list of items you should bring (remember you should carry at least one change of clothes and your medicine in your carry-on bag).
CLOTHING - See item 10 for more details.
Hiking sandals, aqua socks or any shoe that can be worn in water. We go to several area where you can go in water, but non-slip shoes are a must for climging the rocks.
Shorts and T-shirts for sleeping and relaxing in the clinic
Cool, casual clothes for working in the villages during the day Avoid dark colors as they attract mosquitoes. Khaki is one of the best colors.
Comfortable walking shoes - very important.
Flip Flops for the showers
Underwear and socks for a week
Deodorant / body powder
Toothpaste and toothbrush
2-3 towels & washrags
Ear plugs (Latin America is noisy at night and so are teammates)
Antiseptic ointment (e.g., Bactine) and Band-Aids
Pepto Bismol (team doctor will have some on hand)
Advil, aspirin, Tylenol, or whatever you take for pain (team doctor will have some on hand)
Sunscreen (15 or higher SPF)
Hand wipes (antibacterial)
Cap or hat
Bible, journal, pens/pencils
Camera (Try to select a person on the team who is a good photographer and let him or her take photos for the whole team while in the Villages or communities. Try to bring a memory card that is empty so all the pictures can be downloaded at the end of the trip to be shared with all)
12. WHAT SHOULD I NOT BRING?
Please do not bring bottled water from the States. Bottled water may be purchased locally. Don't bring any alchohol or tobacco products. Don't bring or wear expensive watches or other jewelry. Don’t bring your worries, leave them at home and trust God will care for them.
13. HOW MUCH MONEY SHOULD I BRING?
You will need money for souvenirs or snacks. Bring only US dollars in small bills ($20, $10, $5, and $1). $100 is usually plenty. You have to be the judge of your spending habits. Villagers often set up shop during clinic to sell their handmade crafts, bracelets, etc. Travelers’ checks are not recommended because they are not readily accepted. Credit cards can be used in some places. Most stores will accept U.S. dollars but your change will be in Belizean currency.
Your leader will be the one to advise you concerning how many pieces of luggage you are allowed to carry and what the weight limits are. We ask that you use a duffle bag which can be purchased at any army supply store. This information is explained further during the initial team meeting.
15. DO I NEED A VISA?
No entry visa is required for US citizens to enter Belize. Everyone must have a valid passport. You will be asked for an address when you come through customs. Give them the following address.
Dos Amigos Clinic
Toledo District, Belize
In case of an emergency or if you have a need for information while the team is in Belize, your relatives can call the following numbers in Belize. (This is Gabe and Mary Edwards numbers, long-time team members who live in Belize and manage our clinic there.)
Dial as they appear, you do not have to add any additional 1’s or 0’s
Or e-mail: email@example.com
Gifts should not be given until the last day or as you are leaving. Do not give away personal items at the beginning of the week. Do not give away money or make any promises of sending money. If you make a promise, keep it! All monetary gifts to mission staff and interpreters must be distributed through the leaders to avoid confusion. Any money you wish to donate for translators, helpers, etc. will be given to the leaders to be distributed equally among all that helped the team.
17. HOW DO I PREPARE PHYSICALLY?
It's a good idea to begin walking regularly. You will probably do a lot of walking. Make sure that you have comfortable walking shoes.
18. HOW DO I PREPARE MENTALLY?
DON'T expect to live by your watch.
DON'T expect to communicate with the U. S. regularly.
DON'T expect to have a flush toilet in the villages.
DON'T expect to take a long hot shower (short showers means hot water for all).
DON'T expect to have beds like you have at home. The bunk beds at the clinic are acceptable.
DO expect a simpler lifestyle that focuses on the value of people and relationships.
DO expect that God will use this experience to cause you to reevaluate your priorities and your relationship with Him.
DO expect that God will use you and the team to encourage Belizeans andtheir families, their churches and to attract nonbelievers to a faith in Jesus Christ. It is extremely important that each volunteer prepare to be flexible in all things, as living and serving in a Foreign Country is not the same as in the United States.
There are three things that each volunteer needs to practice when on the Mission Field: FLEXIBILITY, FLEXIBILITY and FLEXIBILITY. Many Volunteers and Missionaries have ruined their witness for Christ over this very issue. Seek to be a team builder by promoting team unity and love. Be forgiving of teammates and staff and be considerate at all times. It is just like the sign that read: "Cheer up! Things could be worse. So, I cheered up and sure enough............ things got worse." We have days like this on the Mission Field but with a flexible attitude and spirit, the victory is ours!
19. HOW DO I PREPARE SPIRITUALLY?
Jesus sent his disciples out saying, "Freely you have received, freely give." Think on how much God has given you and pray about how much He wants you to give of yourself. Giving of yourself, making sacrifices, withstanding discomfort, meeting hardships head on, and committing yourself to this mission is the purest form of Worship there is, and God will bless and reward you in ways you cannot imagine. All other things such as material possessions, tithes, etc, are already His, but when you give of something of yourself, you are freely giving, freely committing, freely worshipping!
20. FINANCIAL ARRANGEMENTS
All costs for the project are borne by the volunteers and the sponsoring churches including the medicines, medical supplies, and dental supplies.