We cannot believe it is our final day in this amazing place! We came here with little expectations, but the trip has been life changing. Despite the difficult living conditions of the indigenous communities, the people of Santa Caterina have shown us great kindness and consideration. It was an honor to convey oral health knowledge and to interact with fourteen indigenous communities of Guatemala.
Just like previous years, we had two rooms set up at the clinic site. One room was primarily for adults, performing only extractions and surgical procedures. The other room provided restorative and hygiene treatment as well as pediatric dentistry. We had to rely on our limited resources rather than the high tech equipment we are accustomed to. Garbage bags were used as cuspidors, plastic lawn chairs served as dental chairs, and gauze was used in lieu of suction. The providers would have to contort their bodies in ergonomically frightful positions to give proper treatment.
With the nearest oral provider being 45-60 kilometers away, many of these communities have never seen a dentist. Many people do not own a toothbrush, let alone know how to use one. Despite the heavy language and cultural barriers, these communities were so desperate for care that they traveled hours to be seen and put complete trust in our hands. Unlike in the U.S., our patients were not concerned with esthetic procedures or minute details; they simply wanted to alleviate pain so they could go on with their daily lives. Overall, this was a very humbling experience. We have met incredible people and were able to contribute to the overall goal of this mission. While it was difficult to adapt at first, our leaders were extremely effective in assembling us into a cohesive team. We treated over five hundred patients within the short time here, even with our limited resources. This speaks to the support we have received from the local leaders and well as our teamwork, with everyone willing to do whatever that is necessary.
We’d like to thank many people without which our journey would not be possible. We would like to thank the Global Penicillin Girl Project and Vivamos Mejor for organizing this mission and helping things run smoothly. We would like to thank Drs. Pfail, Pantaleo, and Hyacinthe for their unwavering guidance and support. Lastly, we are eternally grateful to the leaders of the fourteen indigenous communities that we served. Their hard work, passion, and open heartedness did not go unnoticed.