A group of five Piatt County women are headed to the Caribbean next month, but their week in the Dominican Republic will be far from a vacation.
Dr. Ann Marty, Christy Barre, Judy Ooten and Marita Romine have volunteered to serve on a medical mission through Great Opportunities in Global Outreach. Also attending will be Marty's 13-year-old daughter, Leah.
The group — the first three are employed at Monticello's Carle Clinic — will see up to 300 patients in a day as they set up a clinic at Batey Nueve aimed at treating the families of Haitian workers in the Dominican sugar cane fields.
That's a far cry from the 20 or so Marty sees daily at her local practice.
"We're going to share God's love. Really, that's why I go," said Marty, of Monticello, who along with Barre made a similar mission trip in 2007.
"It gives you a different world vision, and you feel like you help," said Barre, a nurse practitioner at Carle. "And they are the most loving, appreciative group of people you'd ever want to meet."
It is Ooten's first mission trip, and it was spurred by her daughter and son-in-law's upcoming adoption of a 7-year-old boy from Haiti.
"They've got me all excited about the country, and the orphanage, and the desperate need," said Ooten, a receptionist at the Monticello clinic.
Romine, of White Heath, is retired from the University of Illinois. She grew up in Peru and said she has "seen places like this (Dominican), and I'm excited to be able to help." The group also hopes to make liberal use of her fluency in Spanish.
The mission trip runs from Feb. 12-19. Participants raise about $1,700 each to travel with the 13-member group, with a portion of that amount going to purchase medical supplies. The effort is being organized by Windsor Road Christian Church in Champaign.
Marty and Barre are excited for Ooten and Romine to see what they saw in 2007 — an appreciative people being treated for everything from scabies and hypertension to heart murmurs and machete wounds.
"What struck me most is how happy the people were," said Marty of her first trip. "In their poverty, they are really happy."
And families stick together, said Barre, who was touched by what she saw when midday meals were served to children as part of the effort.
"It was moving to watch 4-year-olds take their plate and immediately take it to their 2-year-old sibling before they even touched a bite," said Barre, noting that for most of the children it would be their only meal of the day.
Volunteers are hoping to gather enough oral-care supplies to hand out toothpaste and toothbrushes for each patient they see. Many children chew on sugar cane, which makes for frequent tooth decay in the Dominican Republic.
Other common maladies include skin conditions such as scabies, and goiters that result from a lack of iodine in their diet.
With the entire staff on this trip being women, participants also hope to address as many female health issues as possible.
The main reason the clinics are so popular is that they don't occur regularly. Clinics come through only when volunteer groups visit, and set up in local churches. Once a clinic is on site, some volunteers order patients by need, then medical personnel see and treat them. A pharmacy is also set up.
There are no medical computers or even charts on clipboards. Instead, instructions and prescriptions are written on a paper bag that patients can take with them.
It's fulfilling work, but Barre wishes they could do more.
"One of the frustrating parts is you can't take down unlimited amounts of medicine to keep them covered until the next group happens to come down," she said.
How to help
Those wishing to donate toward the medical mission can help in the following ways:
— Monetary donations can be made to WRCC (Windsor Road Christian Church) and sent to the church at 2501 Windsor Rd., Champaign, IL 61822. Please write "Medical Mission" on the memo line.
— Bring donated oral care items to Carle Clinic, 1002 Medical Drive, Monticello.