Thursday, September 24, 2015

Honduras Dental Mission Trip September 2015

Back in 2012, I went to Jamaica as a pre-dental student with dentists and dental students from UCSF, and that was when I first realized how much great work you can do in the world as a dentist. Through dentistry, your hands can give people freedom from pain, shame, and insecurity. So from September 6th-16th, I went with a group of 7 classmates, 2 pre-dental students, and 1 lead dentist to Guaimaca, Honduras to set up shop at a church in Guaimaca.

And now, for some real talk.

This has been a difficult post for me to write because:
1) It's obvious that free dental care in any part of the world will be appreciated and I don't want to make us sound like saints. We're not.
2) While I was completely thrilled by the chance to volunteer, I was also really troubled being in Honduras.. I will reiterate this in the most cliche way out there.. but really, life is just not fair. 

Here's a random word cloud of how I experienced Guaimaca, Honduras:

Donde duele?
Juice bags hanging from people's mouths.
"I have black on my teeth".
Brushing teeth with bottled water.
Bugspray all day, every day.
Stray dogs everywhere that were only skin and bones.
Can't eat fruits or vegetables D:
22 Lempiras to 1 dollar, and apparently, 500 lempiras is a lot of money (do the math, thats only ~$25)
Lots of people sitting on porches, doing nothing.
Unpaved roads.
Pan dulce.
Kids playing with floss because they think it's a toy.
I don't feel safe.
"Well of course, I want to be in America.. but.. you know, I can't."
So much calculus, that just looks like hard cottage cheese.

I thought about spin classes, and Trader Joe's and tap water, and fluoridation, and how I really wished I had my electric tooth brush. And above all, I was reminded how blessed I am to have the opportunity to have the education and career that I want for myself. Man.. we really have it good. I felt so spoiled, sitting in my air-conditioned room, dreading being outside.. and feeling like I couldn't go anywhere on my own because it just wasn't safe for a woman - especially one who looked so different from everyone else. Sidenote: I swear, we were the only asians in the entire country lol.

Would I go again? Absolutely. Do I feel like I made a difference? Like how volunteer trips are "supposed" to make you feel? No. It felt pretty hopeless because I know these restorations will fail because their oral hygiene will not change.. but.. at least we did what we could.

And now I will leave you with a picture of me, talking to a kid who was not happy with me for pulling his tooth. lol poor little guy. 


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