Our first humanitarian trip to Guatemala was in the summer of 2008.
It started out as a small idea: educate children in the village of Santa María Cahabón about oral care. Cahabón is in the east part of the township of Alta Verapaz (east of Cobán), which is about 10 hours by car from Guatemala City.
Cahabón is beautiful and rich in culture. Its economy is sustained by agriculture, like most of Guatemala, and the city has steadily grown over the past few years. However, the lack of paved roads make it slightly isolated, and this inaccessibility has lead to limited opportunities that reinforce a poverty cycle among the people.
The knowledge of these circumstances, along with our passion for public health and education helped us to craft the idea for our first trip.
We decided to reach out to our family in the area, and they helped us get in contact with local leaders. With the help of these key members, we decided that the purpose of the project would be threefold.
1. To provide public health education
2. To encourage education to break the poverty cycle
3. To provide emergency oral care
The first two objectives were scheduled as part of presentations in public schools. We reached out to local teachers that were kind and welcoming. With the help of local dentists from Fresno, CA, we put together oral health kits that included toothbrushes, tooth paste, and dental floss. After giving a small presentation on oral care and the importance of education, each child received an oral care kit.
To accomplish our third objective, Dr. Hugo Coronado, DDS, offered emergency dental care in one of the town buildings. Care was limited to extractions, but it offered more insight into the types of help that we could provide in the future.
This trip was short, but that is how our story began.