With BOV grant, health science programs will change lives in Jamaica

by Chuck Gordon

The Rev. Dane Jordan is tired of sticking Band-aids on gaping wounds.

Wingate’s campus minister has spent time tending to the sick and downtrodden at the Missionaries of the Poor’s monastery in Jamaica. There, he’s helped adults with limited capabilities brush their teeth, comb their hair and eat breakfast. He’s helped kids who were missing a limb change their clothes. It’s meaningful, life-changing stuff, but after his last trip to the monastery, in December of 2019, Jordan started thinking that the University could do even more.

“I said, ‘There’s got to be a better way to do this,’” he says.

Dane Jordan head shot

He has an idea of what that better way might look like, but he needs some help to flesh it out. Thanks to a grant from the Board of Visitors, Jordan is getting to put some meat on the bones of his plan. On behalf of the University’s Office of Student Ministries and health sciences programs, Jordan has received $8,000 to fund a reconnaissance mission, of sorts, in which members of Wingate’s various health sciences programs visit the Missionaries of the Poor’s clinics to see what equipment, resources and training Wingate can provide to create long-lasting change. The trip is planned for December of 2021, provided that pandemic protocols allow travel to Jamaica at the time.

Jordan first started discussing the situation with Dr. Melissa Sweetman, director of Wingate’s occupational therapy program – and with good reason. “The majority of people we’ve dealt with there, it’s really an occupational therapy issue,” Jordan says.

“The brothers who are there are very gracious and kind and helpful,” he adds, “but are there a couple of three things we could teach them that could make their lives and the lives of those people they take care of easier? Yes.”

Occupational therapists help people who are injured or ill accomplish the everyday tasks that their physical ailments are impeding. This could range from teaching tips and tricks for getting dressed to providing equipment specially designed for the physically impaired.

In addition to training the monks to better help their residents, Jordan envisions eventually providing them with equipment that can make their job easier.

“You know, ‘This guy could almost feed himself if we had the right equipment,’” he says. “There were some times when they didn’t have enough wheelchairs. They’d have to take one person to lunch and then go and get another. Some guys are just shaky. They could feed themselves but they can’t with the utensils that they have there.”

Jordan can tap into a network of churches to provide funding for equipment, but for expertise and knowledge he’s turning to the University.

In addition to Jordan and a couple of Bulldogs who have been on previous missions to the monastery, about a dozen people from the University will take part in the trip this December to get a lay of the land. Jordan is still working on the details, but he envisions members of all of Wingate’s graduate health-sciences programs taking part.

The trip this year is designed to lay the groundwork for future missions, possibly as early as spring break 2022, in which graduate students visit the monastery to implement procedures, train monks and other volunteers, and deliver equipment. Eventually, undergraduate students would join them. It’s an extension of Wingate’s mission to provide on-the-job training for students while making a difference in the community – even if that community is on a tropical island.

Ultimately, Jordan would like to see Wingate be able to leave the monks in Jamaica to their own devices and turn its attention to other countries.

“It’s almost this idea that we want to work ourselves out of a job,” he says. “Any time you’re doing service work, you want to get to a place where they don’t need you anymore.”

July 7, 2021