CRESTVIEW — What do Cajun red beans ‘n’ rice, Vietnamese pork tacos, Korean bulgoki, Peruvian pickled fish salad, southern peach barbecued chicken and Filipino lumpia have in common?

Together, they and cuisine from several other countries raised more than $3,300 to purchase medicine for Operation Medical Care’s ninth annual medical mission to Belize.

PHOTOS: See photos from the International Food Festival>>

Chefs for Sunday’s International Food Festival were mostly among the volunteers who leave Aug. 31 for the weeklong annual mission.

“We’ll arrive in Belize at 11:45, get our stuff to the hotel, put on our scrubs, then travel an hour and a half inland to Orange Walk,” Operation Medical Care treasurer Sharlene Cox said.

“We go to see patients at two businesses and we get done about 6 o’clock that night after having been up at 4 to get to the airport.”


Businesses throughout the Orange Walk District and neighboring communities donate facilities for the mission to receive patients.

“The places we go, maybe like a school or a business, are usually a concrete building,” Cox said. “It may or may not have window panes, and they don’t have air conditioning. We’re lucky if they have fans we can blow on the doctors as they see people.”

For most patients, the Crestview group’s trip is their lone opportunity to receive medical care in the largely poverty-stricken Central American nation’s rural interior.

“When we get there, there are 300 or 400 people already lined up,” Cox said. “We get out our soccer balls so the children can play until it’s time to be seen.”


Last year, Operation Medical Care saw 990 patients. Among them was Adair Blanco, now 21. He came to Crestview for treatment of a brain tumor after having seen the mission’s founder, retired Crestview pediatrician Dr. Joseph Peter, during last year’s mission.

Peter and Dr. John Johnson were among the more than 300 people who feasted during Sunday’s festival at Bob Sikes Elementary School.

Fort Walton Beach optometrist Dr. Tom Streeter will join them on the Belize mission.

“With the hot sun, they don’t wear sunshades, they don’t wear hats, so they get glaucoma,” Cox said of some of the Belizean patients.

“We are grateful for so much support,” Peter said.



Crestview-based Operation Medical Care needs donations of these items for its Aug. 31 to Sept. 5 mission to Belize:

●Small toys for pediatric patients

●Baseball caps and hair bows for children

●Ball caps for adults

●School supplies including pens, pencils, notebooks and paper

●Cash to purchase de-worming medicine and vitamins for adults and children

Drop donations at Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church, 550 Adams Drive, Crestview, 682-4622.

Operation Medical Care is a 501c3 non-profit. Donations are tax-deductible.

Contact Sharlene Cox, 682-6824, for more information.