Couple returns from medical mission

First Posted: 2/17/2014

Pediatrician Dr. Dennis Dawgert and his wife, speech pathologist Grace Dawgert, recently returned from their week-long medical mission in Mandeville, Jamaica.

The couple, who are parishioners of Our Lady of Snows in Clarks Summit, are the initial organizers of the trips and have been volunteering for the overseas missions for the past five years.

The Dawgerts began organizing missions because they “thought it would be nice,” Grace said. St. Ann’s church in Scranton helped the couple to find a location to visit.

Grace describes the Our Lady of Snows “Twinning” program, as one where, “You do things with people, not just for people.” It’s run with the Passionist priests in Jamaica.

In preparation for each mission, an announcement is placed in the church bulletin. Events like the turkey dinner fundraiser which will be held Sunday, Feb. 23 from noon to 4 p.m are set up to supplement costs.

The trips are open to doctors, nurses, dentists, plumbers, electricians, construction workers and anyone else who wants to lend a hand.

Not only do parishners offer medical aid on their missions, they also help with any repairs needed at the Mt. Calvary Retreat House where they stay for the duration.

Dennis said the landscape in Mandeville was “fairly rural, fairly poor.”

There are some homes built in the middle of cane fields and doctors sometimes have to travel over ravines to get to patients. The city of Mandeville has only two hospitals to treat 60,000 individuals.

On his last visit, Dennis treated 56 people per day with everything from skin fungi to tumors and lacerations.

“(The residents are in) a lot more dire straits than we are,” Dennis said.

The medical team worked at three different clinics; St. Paul of the Cross Clinic in Mandeville, the Holy Spirit Clinic, and the St. Croix Clinic in Santa Cruz.

“There is an ongoing clinic in Mandeville that is open all the time,” Grace said. “We bring more people to see more people.”

During their visit, the Dawgerts not only helped with medical needs, but also visited the sick, the elderly, and the home-bound. Tutoring is provided at local schools in areas where, according to Dennis, up to 13 years ago had no schools or clinics.

Using her knowledge as a speech pathologist, Grace assisted at the Catholic College of Mandeville by creating a workshop for nonverbal people using picture techniques and language boards.

She also ran a workshop on Autism for the local teachers. Grace also helped repair the Mt. Calvary Retreat House. This year, they painted a community room along with six bedrooms and four bathrooms. Plumbing repairs were also done in five bathrooms. The nun who oversees the retreat house, Sister Bernadette CP (Passionist Missionary), “Likes to have the retreat house in good shape,” Grace said.

Currently, the Dawgerts only plan a mission retreat once a year, but if more people were willing, they might go more often.

“Once a year, it’s really nice to be down there when it’s -6 here,” Dennis said.

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