The story begins one Saturday back in July, when I took a day off from my work with the mission teams to go to a dentist appointment. It was one of the few days in July we were going to be in Lima, so I had to get my appointment in while I could. I woke up early to help get the team on their way to Pachacutec, and then took the bus over to the dentist. When I arrived, I was told that my dentist wasn't able to come in that day, but that I'd have to reschedule for later in the week. Bummer! A whole day off in vain...or was it?? I stuck around for a few minutes and started chatting a few of the dentists. They asked what I do here in Peru, and we got to talking about mission trips and the team in Pachacutec that week. Then I threw it out there..."If you guys would ever be interested in working with kids in some sort of free clinic, let me know. We could help you put it together." They seemed really excited about the idea. Their only hesitation, they said, was that kids' toothbrushes and toothpaste are expensive and hard to come by in Peru, and if they were to do a clinic, they'd want to make sure all the kids could have toothbrushes and toothpaste. Noooo problem, I thought.
Once the donations were here in Peru, it was time to make this thing happen. First we spoke with the dentists to put together a game plan for how we could provide dental hygiene education, a basic check-up, and a fluoride treatment for the maximum number of kids possible. Then we met with Pastor Sergio in Pachacutec to put together a plan of how to personally invite children and their parents to attend the clinic. For many, this would be their first trip to the dentist! (The idea was to invite not only the kids from the school, dining hall, and Sunday school, but also to invite kids from the community as a sort of community outreach on behalf of the church.) Finally, we invited some friends of ours to join us as volunteers and helping hands on the day of the clinic.
On the day of the clinic, we met up at the dentists' office and piled into the van. We had 6 from Nikkeident and 6 from our ministry. During the hour-long drive out to Pachacutec, the creative juices were flowing. Some of the guys put together a song about brushing your teeth, and we quickly added dance moves as well. Then finalized the plans for our hour-long program, which would be repeated 6 times throughout the day:
- Introduction: As the kids arrived with their parents, we had cartoon movies playing on the projector about dental hygiene.
- Song: The song the guys invented was short and catchy, and the kids caught on really quickly. And most importantly -- it had a great take-home message about brushing your teeth three times a day!
- Skit: The star of the show was quite possibly "Chiki," the big white giant with a tooth as a head (see pictures in our Facebook album). One of the dentists narrated a story about Chiki and his encounter with plaque and cavities, and his subsequent trip to the dentist where he learns to take care of his teeth properly. One of the dental assistants was "Chiki" for the day, and he had a blast dancing around in the costume. And Chiki's giant brush was a hit as well -- a genius creation by the dentists using two brooms, three broomsticks, some fabric, and lots of masking tape.
- Magic tricks: One of the dentists is also a magician, so he did some tricks for the kids and magically tied it all into a lesson about brushing your teeth and getting rid of plaque so you don't get cavities. The kids were super impressed.
- Time to brush: After the show, we handed out toothbrushes and toothpaste to all of the kids, and they all marched up to the sinks to brush their teeth. Some of these kids may have had a toothbrush at home, but most of them didn't have one small enough for their little mouths...and they definitely didn't have brushes with cool designs on them like the ones many of you sent from the states. I wish you could have seen the smiles on their faces when they got their new brushes!
- Check-up and fluoride: After their teeth were all clean, the kids met with the dentists. Each child had an individual appointment with a dentist for a basic check-up, and the dentists explained to the parents what kind of extra care, if any, the child might need. As I said, this was the first trip to the dentist for many of these kids. Not surprisingly, there were many cavities. Unfortunately, basic dental hygiene is something that not everyone knows about nor realizes the importance of teaching their children. After their check-up, the kids received a fluoride treatment to protect their teeth. It was really fun watching the dentists work with the kids. They have incredible patience, and they clearly have experience working with little ones. And many of them worked the whole day with colored clown noses on, just to make it a more festive atmosphere for the kids.
- Goodbye!: After completing their check-up and fluoride treatment, the kids went to visit our friend "Chiki" for a balloon. They also took home a little tooth-brushing chart that they colored while they waited in line...hopefully positive reinforcement for brushing their teeth at home. Parents were given a toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss to take home for themselves so they can brush their teeth together with their kids.
After six rounds of our program, along with a break for lunch, we were all exhausted yet satisfied. At the end of the day, the dentists were able to see over 100 kids!! Big smiles all around.
Looking back on this day, we have a lot of people to thank for helping make this dream become reality. Thank you to...
the planners and the prayer warriors
the toothbrush donors
the donation deliverers
Betty in the dental supply store for donating a few extra supplies
our awesome, creative volunteers
the dentists, who for a day doubled as dancers and teachers
Pastor Sergio for personally inviting the kids and parents to the clinic
the ladies at church who cooked our lunch
the folks at Cornwall church for the beautiful guitar
our dear friends who gave us the projector
...we could go on and on!
Every piece was important, and we thank you all for playing a part in this wonderful day.
We hope that this clinic will be the first of many of its kind, in Pachacutec as well as other ministry sites. In the future, we hope to give many more people the opportunity to jump on board with this project.
If you would like more information about how to be a part of future dental clinics, or other ministry projects, please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you!!
Erin and Pepe