More than 500 children received free treatment at a first-of-its-kind clinic jointly organized by six Seventh-day Adventist churches on the Caribbean island of St. Maarten.
The “Healthy Me” clinic, held in the main city, Philipsburg, attracted children and their parents for free medical screenings, dental work, and eye tests in an effort to bring awareness to obesity, poor nutrition, and other juvenile health problems.
“I think it’s great for the community,” said Yvette Dupuis, the clinic’s coordinator. “It’s a way of letting them know that, as a church, we’re not only interested in their spiritual development but that the church caters to the whole person. We take care of their social, physical and spiritual needs.”
Dupuis said the free clinic was immensely popular with the local community and plans to make it an annual event.
Children’s ministries and health ministries departments from churches across St. Maarten enlisted a medical team from the American University of the Caribbean as well as the St. Maarten Dental Care clinic to provide the health checks, which also included dental care instructions, oral checks, height and weight monitoring, and blood pressure checks.
Colgate Dental Mobile Clinic, which partnered with the church for the event, provided dental treatment to more than 60 children. After being treated by dental hygienists, children received a gift packages complete with T-shirts, toothbrushes and information on the importance of good dental hygiene.
For parents, Adventist schoolteachers provided wellness demonstrations and healthy living presentations along with development-related seminars and healthy cooking classes.
The free clinic’s main message sought to remind children that God wants everyone to enjoy a long and healthy life, said Margaret Peters, children’s ministries director for the church in the Adventist Church’s North Caribbean Conference.
The idea for the free clinic stems from the Seventh-day Adventist world church’s desire to share its resources with the community under a program called Comprehensive Health Ministry. Free clinics have also been held elsewhere this year, including major events that treated thousands of people in San Antonio, Texas, in April; near Harare, Zimbabwe, in May; and in Spokane, Washington, in August.
The children’s free clinic comes as the number of baptisms in St. Maarten has more than doubled this year to nearly 200 compared to 85 for all of 2014.
Local church leaders have attributed the jump in baptisms to the united efforts of laypeople and five pastors on the island, adding that church members have been more intentional in reaching out to their communities, according to the Adventist Church’s Inter-American Division, whose territory includes St. Maarten, a 34-square mile (87-square-kilometer) Caribbean island about 300 kilometers east of Puerto Rico that is divided between France and the Netherlands.
The Adventist Church in St. Maarten has more than 2,000 members worshiping in seven churches.