Last month my daughter, Grace who is 17, and I did a dental charity trip to Guatemala with Global Dental Relief. GDR is a homegrown charity out of Denver that arranges for dental groups to set up mobile clinics in Mexico, Nepal, Cambodia, and of course Guatemala. They take care of all lodging and even do a day of site seeing after your five days of labor! We took Marisa, a pre- dental student from University of Wyoming, along too. Many of you met her hanging out in our office! The trip was hard and fun and heartbreaking at some points. Marisa is fluent in Spanish, so our chair got all the tough cases and nervous kids; she was awesome!
Here are the big three lessons we learned should you ever want to go:
1) Anyone can make a difference. We had a retired librarian, college professor, and NY lawyer on our team. Anyone who has a heart for kids can find a place on a mission trip. So, don’t be afraid to go! It was a great way to really see a new culture and find common ground. The language of the heart is universal.
2) Grace learned she needs more Spanish! After four years of classroom Spanish, Grace quickly learned there was a difference between her knowledge and fluency. While she was the one to listen to the kids talking between themselves and troubleshooting problems, the moms she encountered were hard to understand. Immersion Spanish seems the way to go. Let’s see how she does next year after AP Spanish 5 at RMHS. My Spanglish did not translate well at all!
3) The old guy CAN do real dentistry. I felt pretty darn special with the whole experience. We had some “home-runs,” and some tough situations. Marisa and Grace got to see how life is not always easy or perfect. They both shed a few tears of frustration seeing all that poverty. But in the end, my daughter and I grew closer over the experience. I got to see her talents and she got to see me in my life’s work. That my friends, was worth its weight in gold!
P.S. Back at Big Grins, we now have two fluent Spanish speakers! I am proud of all our staff, and when we can show off our “other” talents with Iris and Rebbie, all the better! And don’t forget Brenda at the front desk knows sign language! For questions or comments on this blog, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I love what I do, and I love helping you raise healthy, happy children!