NEGRIL, Westmoreland — ROSEMARIE Mason, a level-one trauma nurse from the Bronx, New York, has been volunteering for over four years with the United States-based non-profit organisation JAHJAH (Jamaicans Abroad Helping Jamaicans At Home) Foundation.
The foundation has been providing health-care services to Jamaicans free of cost through its annual 'Mission for Change' initiative for the past 16 years.
Mason, who immigrated to the US over three decades ago and who participated in this year's mission, is already looking forward to next year's staging.
"Once I learned about the JAHJAH Foundation and got on board, it just makes you want…, as soon as you get back home [in the US] from a Mission for Change, you're packing for the next year. That's how exciting this is. For me, it's a privilege to be able to come back to Jamaica and not go into places where people are already privy to health care and can afford health care, but going to places where people otherwise have not had their dental care done in years, and women to be able to have Pap smears done and all. It is just my pleasure to take care of Jamaicans," stated Mason.
Mason, who is a native of Maverley in Kingston, highlighted some of her experiences with the Jamaica Observer West at the Negril Community Centre during the final day of the mission team's week-long trip, last Friday.
"It is amazing to see that even some of our elderly people will tell you, 'I have never been to the dentist in my 79 years of life.' Or someone will say to you, 'I really need you to check my pressure and my sugar because I can't afford to go to the doctor right now [because] the wait is too long and I can't afford a private doctor.' So, it is amazing that you are able to be right there. They don't have to come to you, you are going to them to get these basic things done in health care," said Mason.
Andrea Medwinter, a registered nurse in Miami, Florida, and volunteer, is a childhood friend of Mason who introduced her to the mission and already, she too is looking forward to the next trip.
"It has been humbling just being able to give service, and I will definitely be on board for next year," Midwinter told the Observer West.
While Midwinter, who immigrated to the USA 16 years ago, had been to Jamaica on JAHJAH Foundation's special COVID-19 trip in 2021, this is her first journey on the foundation's Mission for Change trip.
Darren Campbell has been catering for the mission team over the past four years. His company, Darren's Food Palace Caterers based in White House, Westmoreland, provides hot meals for the group. This time around, Campbell decided to benefit from the services provided by the team.
"I am going to get some [teeth] clean-up done today," Campbell told the Observer West on Friday.
It was a similar case for Felicia Lawson of White House who is an employee of Campbell. Lawson, who had a broken tooth, did a tooth extraction and cleaning. She was happy with the results and is encouraging Jamaicans to be a part of next January's mission.
According to Delta Wright, the foundation's sponsorship and communications coordinator, five community health fairs were held across Jamaica during this year's mission.
While the mission team hosts a Mission for Change fair every January, this year's event was the first since 2020 because of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Wright said over 200 people in and around Westmoreland benefited from this year's mission in the areas of blood pressure and glucose checks; women's health, ranging from Pap smears to breast cancer consultations; general medical consultations; and dental check-ups which included extractions and cleanings.
Additionally, more than 300 people in other sections of the country benefited from health fairs held at Haile Selassie High School in Payne Land, Iris Gelly Primary School in Arnett Gardens (both in Kingston), and the Negril and Little London health centres, both in Westmoreland.
The group also participated in an 'ultrasound conference'; the training of doctors in ultrasound technology; and the launch of a maternity and newborn initiative called the Start Right programme — an initiative of the Ministry of Health and Wellness and the American Friends of Jamaica.
The group consists of mostly medical personnel from the US and non-medical volunteers from Jamaica who are charged with responsibility for logistics.
Wright said the execution cost alone, which does not include the services of the doctors, amounts to over $10 million annually. The foundation is funded through annual events such as a boat ride in the summer and a gala in November, both held in the US.
Wright said at the end of each mission a report is submitted to the Ministry of Health and Wellness.
"We are in partnership with the Ministry of Health and Wellness so in everything that we do here, the Ministry of Health and Wellness will know what it is that we do. We have to submit a report to them at the end of our mission to tell them what are the cases that we saw, what stood out to us, and what is it that they need to be doing in terms of bolstering the outreach to the community and the health-care services that are provided to individuals at the individual health centres," she explained.
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