It’s the season of giving so I’d like to share a gift I received recently. This past fall I had the opportunity to lead a team of volunteers on a mission to provide free dental care to individuals living in isolated and low income communities in Paraguay,and learn how much we gain by giving back.
It wasn’t a slam dunk trip. There were plenty of challenges to overcome before we ever got on the plane. We had just a few weeks to put together a mobile dental office. A call went out to all our Monarch Dental offices and to our vendors who generously donated the equipment, supplies and instruments required. We couldn’t ship ahead, so each member of our team had to carry the provisions in our personal luggage. Some supplies didn’t make it and a lot of the equipment died soon after arrival because of power source compatibility issues. Despite the challenges, we managed to pull it off. Members of our team scrambled around Paraguay for replacement parts. Local translators and guides stepped in to assist as needed.
We traveled to some of Paraguay’s most remote villages, to places where many children had never seen a dentist. We were touched by how trusting they were. And we saw first-hand the severe impact the lack of simple dental care can have. At one orphanage a small boy lay in his bunk with a tooth infection so bad he should have been hospitalized. Fortunately, we were able to drain the abscess, extract the tooth and give him antibiotics for the infection. By the time we left he was already on the mend.
We were also able to help local dentists in rural villages. They had never seen some of the instruments and surgical techniques we used, and were amazed at what could be done with these new tools. It was a pleasure to train them and a privilege to leave behind 13 crates of modern instruments and supplies.
The goal was to improve lives, so I’m happy to say we accomplished our mission. What really surprised us, though,was what we received in the process. All of us gained a greater appreciation for what we have and what we can do with that abundance. That’s one present none of us will ever forget.
How about you? What’s the best gift you received this year?