Chiropractic Mission to the Dominican Republic
May 9 - 16, 2009Six Chiropractors, including myself, decided to go beyond our local community involvement and participate in a Chiropractic Mission in another country where it is desperately needed. The 6 Chiropractors were: Dr. Peter Buzek from Leamington, On., Dr. Ken Heinrich from Kamloops, B.C., Dr. Kelly Polzin from Edmonton, Al., Dr. Brian Fitzgerald from Toronto, On., Dr. Michael Reid from Ottawa, On. and myself, Dr. Darrren Poncelet from Newmarket, On.. Dr. Peter Buzek organized the week long Mission with IDDI. IDDI is a non-profit organization in the Dominican Republic dedicated to improving the lives of impoverished Dominican residents. I must thank IDDI and its workers for organizing the week as the 6 of us adjusted over 15,000 Dominican children and adults. Here is a synopsis of what happened.
Saturday May 9, 2009Today is travel day. I am very nervous as I have never been South to a warm climate. I do not like heat and humidity so I have been given fair warning. I had a buzz cut for my hair and brought dry weave sport shirts, shorts and running shoes as we will be outside all day adjusting people. I collected a lot of small items(50 lbs) like soap, shampoo, pencils and toys for children from my wonderful patients in my clinic. I never realized how intense the colors of the ocean were from the plane when flying to the Dominican. We landed in Santo Domingo. As I stepped out of the airport the 43 C humid air hit me. It was like stepping into an oven. A 34 minute ride to the hotel was a truly eye-opening experience. I never realized the widespread level of poverty.
Sunday May 10, 2009We all meet and agree to go to Boca Chika. I cannot sit on the beach so after a few minutes of fidgeting I walk into the ocean and explore the water. 3 of us decide to walk down the beach. This reminded me of family time in Sunnybrook Park in Toronto where there would be large groups of families playing games and eating food. The beach was filled with loud music, guys selling there wares and children playing in the water.
Monday May 11, 2009Dr. Pete, Dr. Ken and I are put in one group and Dr. Mike, Dr. Brian and Dr. Kelly are put in the other group. IDDI sent us to a school. Children attend school for 3 hours either 9-12 or 2-5. The same school has 2 sets of children. At first I thought we were driving up to a prison. Full concrete walls with razor wire on top surrounded the school to keep the school kids in and the other kids out. There were no windows in the school and only concrete walls and steel doors for each class room. There were as many as 50 or so kids in each class room with minimal supplies like a black board and chalk but no brushes. It was so loud with the echoing of the voices. When we went to the centre court or play area we would be absolutely mobbed by the children. Children were asking us "What is your name?", "Will you take me home?" This was very emotional for me. It became very apparent very quickly that the future of these kids was going to be uphill.
While we were waiting for lunch we started to adjust people on a park bench along the street. Within a few minutes we attracted over 75 people. It was a lot of fun seeing there smiling faces after adjusting these people.
That afternoon we drove to the next school. We ended up having a police escort as we went through a very difficult area of Santo Dominica. This was a very poor and violent area. The school had mesh grating over the windows and next to nothing in the classrooms. You could feel the pent up energy. It was absolute chaos. We drove out with the police after adjusting the officers as well. The area was a flood plain beside a large river so every time they had a heavy rain the shacks would get flooded. In one day I could see the widespread poverty and the realization that this was a 2 class society - the haves and the have-nots. We adjusted about 1750 people that day. We were tired but it felt good knowing we reduced a lot of pain and quite possibly gave people a reason to keep trying instead of giving up.
Tuesday May 12, 2009We drove to San Pedro to adjust families at sugar cane camps. These people exchanged their physical ability to work all day chopping sugar cane for a place to live. Children had no schooling other than from their parents. I thought yesterday was bad. This was even worse. A 10x20 room would be the house for up to 8 people. There were about 150 people per camp. I used chairs and a kitchen table to adjust people. Each adult had back and shoulder pain from years of chopping sugar cane. We saw 3 cases of people with 6 fingers on each hand.
Wednesday May 13, 2009We drove 1½ hours north to Bonao. We were in the rainforest area. I did not expect to see Scotch pine trees! Dr. Kelly and I worked at a hospital. The medical staff was very pleased to see us and they all got adjusted. This hospital had no diagnostic equipment. It was basically a pill dispensing station. There were about 6 beds per small room and the mattresses were like hammocks. We adjusted a lot of people on steel benches. The hospital was paid 15,000 pesos to distribute vaccines. The laundry room had 2 pet chickens. The kitchen had a stove with 2 burners and an oven.
We spent time at a cigar plantation where they take homeless children and provide them with a place to sleep, have food and a full education. The student that graduates with the highest grades gets a full scholarship to go to school in the United States.
We went to another school in the afternoon. This school had no electricity. We were also in an area with a high incidence of T.B. During the whole week I might have seen 3 mosquitoes.
The drive home was in a full rainstorm. The rain started to run down the streets and into people's shacks. There was a guy having a bath on the side of the road in a barrel. I guess this is nature's way of cleansing.
Thursday May 14, 2009OK the rooster has to go. He starts crowing at about 4AM. Quite consistently I might ad.
Today we were in the north end of Santo Domingo adjusting children at schools. By now we are not surprised to see the schools. One school had a Kiosk in the corner of the playground where the children were getting candy. I was surprised to see the amount of candy being distributed. Some schools had some level of food program where each child received a small carton of milk and a white dinner roll.
During the lunch break we pulled out 3 chairs and sat them on a sidewalk to start adjusting people. 3 guys were sitting beside us and at first did not understand what we wanted to do. Once they got adjusted it was like releasing the flood gates. Maybe they were the street leaders or something because no one wanted to get adjusted until they did. People were coming from all directions, bringing elders and children with all kinds of health problems. One elder had such ulceration on her foot that we told her she had to go to the hospital immediately. When we had to leave I gave the 3 guys boxes of pencils to hand to everyone. The lead guy was very thankful and organized the handing out of stuff. This guy definitely controlled the street. Handing out the stuff ourselves became dangerous as we would get swarmed.
Friday May 15, 2009Breakfast at the hotel was good. The orange juice was the best I have ever tasted. There was pineapple, passion fruit, banana, pears and the best mangos ever.
We were taken to a community centre where IDDI posted free Chiropractic care. This was the first day I adjusted with Dr. Brian and Dr. Kelly. We adjusted everyone in the waiting room and then I was asked to go to the vaccine clinic. I adjusted all the children and parents that were there. Even the nurses wanted to get adjusted. Finally, Dr. Kelly and I stopped as were being dragged by our drivers to get to the next place. Everyone accepted Chiropractic and recognized the value of it even with a language barrier. At the next school while our interpreters and IDDI were sorting things out with the school Dr. Kelly and I started adjusting kids. This school had an incredible reception for us. We had crowds of children around us. We adjusted about 500 children. Then we drove to another school. When we finished adjusting at this school Dr. Pete, Dr. Ken and I sat in the back of the pick up truck and watched as a whole bunch of kids ran after the truck cheering. We started throwing the last of the rubber balls and toys we brought for the kids. It was lots of fun seeing the surprise on the children's faces when we gave them toys.
In the afternoon we went back to the school Dr. Kelly and I were at in the morning. We did not see how big the school really was. In the afternoon there was over 1000 children that we adjusted. We got all the Chiropractors together and took a group picture with some of the kids around us. It was very difficult to stop adjusting. People kept coming. You didn't want to leave anyone behind. The last adjustment I delivered was to a teacher that came running into the room insisting I adjust her. The week went by so fast.
I don't know if everyone knew what we were doing due to language barriers as we didn't always have an interpreter handy, but I do know that everyone appreciated our effort, felt better and woke up the next day in a better state.
Saturday May 16, 2009I woke up very content and tired. The week was very physical and emotional. The heat was relentless. I walked to a store and gave the last 3 hats to 3 guys. I gave 50 pesos to a guy at a fruit stand. He was very gracious and gave me the biggest smile of thanks.
Dr. Pete and I left for the airport with Augustin - one of our drivers during the week. Dr. Pete and I agreed we would definitely do this again. It has to be done.