Friday, January 07, 2005

Tsunami disrupts opening of pediatric dental clinic



Four years ago, Mike PeQueen, a financial manager based in Henderson, co-founded the national non-profit organization, Children's Dental Care International (CDCI). The aim of the project, which PeQueen and local pediatric dentist, Dr. Dawn McClellan, oversee, is to provide dental care to impoverished children across the globe who would otherwise go without any form of dentistry, either preventative or acute care. The organization delivers its services through fixed clinics and mobile clinics, which travel to areas where a high concentration of medically neglected children can be treated at once (usually refugee camps).

Until three weeks ago, the not-for-profit had a secure, bright future ahead, with one fully operational facility in central Sri Lanka and two in the works, one in the northern region of the same country and another here in Las Vegas. Today, the fate of the second Sri Lankan center is uncertain and PeQueen is scurrying to find both information regarding its status and funds to aid the community around it.

Since the devastatingly fatal earthquake and tsunami hit two weeks ago, PeQueen hasn't been able to get word on the condition of the planned dental clinic. "The second [clinic] in Sri Lanka is under construction, but we don't know the whereabouts of that one or the people building it," he says.

Last June, CDCI took ownership of the building that was formerly a residential home and completely refurbished it to make it more suitable for its intended function. The building, located in the town of Jaffna, was in the final phases of construction when the tsunami hit. With final plumbing adjustments being installed, it was scheduled to open in March. Although he feels the clinic's concrete structure would have been strong enough to possibly withstand the strains of the natural disaster, PeQueen still isn't completely certain of the building's condition. The only thing he feels confident in proclaiming now is a postponement of the opening date.

"The March opening is on hold for now," he says. "The clinic is probably intact, but right now we have to focus on helping the people there."

More than $20,000 in donations have already been shipped over to Sri Lanka courtesy of CDCI. Although he's what now seems to be worlds away from the Asian country, PeQueen is pooling resources together to ensure CDCI is contributing to the relief of the tsunami victims in Sri Lanka. Rather than ship products and/or money through the mail, PeQueen has instead been wiring funds to the home base clinic in Kandy where equipment is then transported to Jaffna and surrounding areas. This way the relief reaches the towns within days, whereas going through the mail would take weeks.

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