In July, our Smile Angel Foundation, Inc. traveled to Guatemala on an oral health mission. When we arrived at the Primary School in the Village of Las Conchas, Guatemala, we were overwhelmed with unexpected cheers and group hugs from the children. They were so happy to see us and were so filled with love for us. It was then when we knew our mission was already a success.
While we set up and disinfected the school’s classrooms, two Guatemalan volunteers began organizing the children and explaining the proper steps for brushing and flossing. Each child was provided with a new toothbrush, toothpaste and floss to help improve their oral health. There were 100 children waiting to be seen, and each was then given fluoride treatments donated by the Henry Schein Cares Foundation. The children would hug us and say “thank you” in English before sitting down.
Then we walked into the village to visit families and were invited into some of the homes to see new construction and to better understand how they live. Some villagers still living in 20′ x 40′ one-room homes, built with metal siding, holes for more light and most of the older homes with dirt floors. Recently, volunteers have been building concrete floors and walls with electrical throughout as well as a water system for the entire village.
We then made our way to Basurero Zone 3 (dump site) where they teach children English. Here we provided additional dental hygiene kits and 45 fluoride treatments. We were in a small church to provide our education, supplies and fluoride treatments. It never crossed our minds that we would literally be in the middle of the dump where families live and sort all the trash brought there from several zones in the area. The smell took a bit to get used to so we decided to stay in the van until we could get acclimated to it and begin our day with positive love and excitement for the children we were about to meet.
The next day we visited the Village of La Bendicio. No matter how much you prepare yourself for what you think it will be, it’s always ten times worse. The children are in tin classrooms with no electricity and the only light is through the holes made in the tin to see. There are dirt floors and a makeshift “lunch table” where snacks and food is prepared for the school. Skinny, hungry dogs run through the village everywhere, yet the laughter of the children running around the courtyard makes you forget about the conditions and focus solely on them and how truly happy they are. What we experienced is something that can’t be explained fully, only understood by those who are blessed to see it and experience it for themselves.