During the first week of July, Matthew, along with a group of 20 dentists from Canada, US, Australia, and New Zealand, embarked upon a mission trip to the town of Chimaltenango in Guatamala.
Over the course of four days, we saw close to 1000 patients and performed many more extractions, ranging from decayed baby teeth, to dental abscesses and infections, to impacted wisdom teeth. Going in with no idea what to expect, into an area many consider dangerous due to political unrest and widespread poverty, we were greeted instead with the most beautiful and welcoming of smiles!
Our days started at eight o’clock in the morning when we would take a bus ride from our hotel in Antigua, Guatemala (a picturesque colonial town with cobble stone streets surrounded by three volcanoes) to the town of Chimaltenango 50 minutes away. We had setup our clinic inside the mayor’s town hall space, with air compressors for suction, autoclaves for sterilization, and state-of-the-art portable dental chairs and x-ray units. Each morning, we arrived to line ups circling around the building, in addition to the sixty filled seats inside the clinic. The lines did not get any shorter during the day and our days would regularly finish past eight o’clock each evening before we board our bus back. Looking back it was hard to imagine how we were able to power through the long days with only a 10 minute lunch break! Must have been the delicious home cooked lunches and fresh handmade tortilla prepared by the lovely grandmas! The indescribable gratitude we received transcended the language barriers we faced and was topped only by a recognition ceremony hosted by the town mayor on the last night.
As I write this, I sit in reminiscence of the camaraderie of working alongside such an amazing group of dentists from around the world, each in different stages of their own career, but united by the same goals in mind. This whole experience reinforces that I chose this profession for the right reasons and that I am extremely fortunate to be in a position to give back. I am proud to say that this was not my first mission trip and it will be one of many to come!
A big thank you to our local dental supplier Sinclair and their sales representative Rick for their generous donations to help make the trip possible!