Thursday, May 9, 2013

Jornadas Dentales/Dental Brigades!

By Anssel López

In Guatemala all high schools offer different career tracks for the young adults that are getting ready to enter the workforce. When I was in high school in Guatemala, I chose to study to be a dental hygienist. If you are thinking of the people at the dentist office that clean your teeth, then you’re on the right track. However, my time in high school was just part of my preparation for university.

Now that I am back in Guatemala, this time as foreigner in my own land, I have had the opportunity to collaborate in all of Pop Wuj’s social projects. One of the most heartwarming projects is La Guardería, as everyone still calls it. I can picture our staff and student coordinator telling us that the project is actually a before and after school program and a family support center, not a daycare. We do not have babies at the project and nearly all of our participants are old enough to attend school. But calling it ‘La Guardería’ instead of the ‘Family Support Center’ is easier and nicer.

During my time at Pop Wuj, I became very attached to the project. I loved to visit those kids every Thursday. It melted my heart every time they greeted me with huge smiles and asked for my name again because they could not remember it. Because of this and the need for good oral health, I decided that it was a great idea to contact my old school, El Colegio San Jose, where I studied and also taught for a short while. Among other career tracks, the Colegio San Jose teaches and trains students to be dental hygienists in Xela.

After a few meetings school administrators and I put together a “Jornada Odontologica.” What a wonderful experience it was! The school provided us with dental records, materials, and allowed us to take 7 second-year students to La Guardería to work on our kids’ teeth. The excitement on the kids’ faces depicted something unexpected and indescribable. They could not wait to have their teeth cleaned!

The students of Colegio San Jose brought cleaning supplies, equipment, and a great attitude to our kids who have very little. I could not believe how little Guayito and Oscar were so excited to have someone look in their mouth, or how Amy cried out her eyes because she was afraid. All of them were very interested and paid close attention to the lecture about oral health as well as common diseases.

Each cleaning session took at least 30 to 45 minutes, and every time one of the kids went out, all of the others ran towards us asking if they could be the next one. I had never seen so much desire to have their mouth poked around and to have other people’s hands in their mouths, but the excitement was greater than the fear.

Sadly we could not clean of the children’s teeth the first day, but the ones that did had the cleanest teeth that you can imagine. The students from San Jose took their time to ensure that there was not a single millimeter missed in their work. Fortunately, a second group of San Jose students were able to continue the jornada dental a few weeks later. By the end of April all of the children and youth had their teeth cleaned. Well, all of the children except little Amy. She was still too scared. We are planning future jornadas odontologicas to help our kids maintain clean and healthy teeth!

¡Gracias al Colegio San Jose y a sus estudiantes!

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