The school is transformed into a dental office. The front desk is at the door of the school – manned by Yanet and Marina – teachers at the school. We have to squeeze our way in just to get by. Each person is checked in and then they sit in a row of tiny school chairs, waiting to be assessed by Marika and Sonja, part of the dental team. In the hallway, sits about 14 people waiting to be seen by Jacque.
They wait and then are called in one by one, according to Marika’s evaluation. They are given anesthetic and then assigned a chair. There are three chairs operated by hygienists and Jacque. The team is really only performing extractions and fillings – cleaning is something we are supposed to teach the villagers. Each station has an assistant who translates as well as holds the head lamp so the dentist can see well. John sterilizes all the instruments and makes sure everyone has what they need.
It’s really an incredible operation. I can’t get over how swift and efficient the team is under such conditions; they make it look very easy. It’s hot, loud and well, a little stinky really. Funny though, within about 3 hours we are all used to the smell, the noise and the heat. It becomes our way of life for the next several days.
Liz, Eileen and I head into our classroom and set up for our first lesson. The children are curious about what we are doing. They stand outside the classroom watching us through the blinds. David, our translator is awesome. He rounds up about 15 -20 kids and brings them in. I swallow back tears as the children walk in. They are so gorgeous and happy. As they sit I am overwhelmed and a little nervous because really, I have no idea what I am going to do with this lesson. I just dig deep and talk from my heart with David translating every word, sentence by sentence, giving me a chance to breathe and think about what comes next.
We are there to teach the children about personal hygiene and why it’s important. These kids have access to a river nearby but the water is undrinkable. Lots of children get sick and some have died from something as simple as drinking contaminated water, no transportation and then no money to get to a clinic for help.
We review where they should defecate and urinate, why and how to wash their hands, how to brush their teeth and how important it is to stop the spread of germs. Each time we do this presentation it gets better and better until we cover everything in a way the kids can understand. It boggles my mind that these kids don’t know this stuff but I am swiftly reminded when a child raises his hand and asks me “What if I don’t have running water." This is tough pill to swallow for a privileged American like myself.
When you travel to a village like this – your first reaction usually is to want to give them everything to make it “better”. But we all know this doesn’t help. Education is key. Again, my heart is full of love and I choke back tears.
After about 8-9 hours of educational lessons, watching the dentists and playing with the kids, we are all wiped out and exhausted. We head outside to do some yoga with the dental team. They had just spent all day hunched over and just some simple stretches can really do the trick. The kids follow us everywhere and this yoga sessions was no exception. We end up teaching the kids some yoga poses….they love it! How great to end a day with 40 smiling faces and laughing eyes.