February 2016, in Nicaragua
Kindness in Action and Change for Children are two charitable organizations based in Alberta which organize projects around the world for helping underprivileged kids and adults in different ways.
The Change for Children Association (CFCA at www.Changeforchildren.org) is an Edmonton-based charitable organization with a 35-year history of supporting sustainable grassroots community development in Latin America and Africa. The Change for Children Association organizes “brigades” or groups of health care providers to deliver health care in areas of the world where no such care is available. All participants volunteer their own time and pay their own expenses.
Kindness in Action Service Society of Alberta (KIA) was founded in 1993 andis a non-profit charitable organization whose primary focus is oral health. KIA provides dental health services to under-privileged countries all around the world. KIA sends out brigades annually to different locations. The typical project is nine days and each project helps approximately 500 people. All participants volunteer their own time and pay their own expenses.
Dr Alvaro de la Fuente volunteers regularly with these organizations.
DR ALVARO’S RECENT EXPERIENCE
The last project I participated in, took place in February 2015, in Nicaragua.
The logistics of this event was quite involved. The dental teams have to basically bring all their equipment and supplies from Canada as there is very little of this in Nicaragua.
Some of the things we have to bring are: gloves, dental handpieces, dental units and suctions – to name a few of the instruments we have to bring. Since in many places there is no electricity we have to rent electrical generators to run our equipment. Water has to be transported as there is very little clean water in certain places.
On this trip, a total of 23 persons from Canada participated in providing dental services in the town of Puerto Cabezas (Bilwi), Nicaragua. Puerto Cabezas is a port on the Caribbean Sea. The population is mainly indigenous. They are the Miskito people. Although the language in Nicaragua is Spanish, in certain areas the people only speak their Miskito language.
The volunteers for this project ranged from hygienists, dental assistants, dentists, nurses and helpers.
We rotated our clinics in different areas of Puerto Cabezas. Meaning that we had to unpack, set up and then repack all our dental equipment every day. The group of volunteers were all extremely professional and hard workers! Sometimes, the town that we were going to was far away so we had to be up around 6:00 AM. On some occasions we took a boat to carry all our stuff to the desired location.
Some towns we went to had few or no dentists. Also medications such as pain killers or antibiotics were not available at all in certain regions.
The main dental problem is that sugary foods and soft drinks are being consumed in large quantities by the population. Because there is no oral hygiene to speak of, dental decay is rampant. It is not unusual to see a young teenager with 5 to 6 teeth that needed extraction because of they were badly decayed.
Unfortunately, since we could not provide any root canal treatments, a lot of these teeth had to be removed.
The patients we had were all very appreciative of our services. Some of them waited for hours to be seen under a hot sun.
All in all, I have found these trips to be extremely rewarding. Helping people is a great booster for morale. We got a lot of "thumbs up”. Working with all the dedicated volunteers is also a great feeling. Furthermore it makes you humble considering all the comforts we have in Quebec. One tends to whine less and be more appreciative of how good we have it here…
I am looking forward to my next trip…
Learn more about Change for Children Association click here
Learn more about Kindess In Action