Trip Número Dos

Three years after the first trip, in August of 2011, we embarked on our second trip to Guatemala. The success of that first initiative moved us to perform the same service. Once again, we prepared by gathering dental and school supplies and putting together kits for children. This time around, we presented formal proposals of our project objectives to dental offices and various acquaintances. We named the project the "Happy Smiles Initiative." 

We made a contact at Colgate in Guatemala, who happily supplied us with extra dental supplies and a Dental Hygiene Video. We planned to use this interactive video to help kids learn about oral care in a fun way. 

With the supplies that were donated, we were able to reach out and present to a pre-K school, an elementary school, and a high school. 

The presentations were pretty basic. We demonstrated the proper oral hygiene technique and encouraged all the students to reach their potential by staying in school.

One of the volunteers that came with us this time plays the violin. We thought it would be awesome for the children to see and hear some fun music, and our friend was more than willing to play for such a willing audience. The children loved hearing her play classical songs, and even Disney songs. 

Another one of our volunteers that came on that trip has a passion for soccer. He shared with the students his experiences playing for a team in the U.S. and mentioned how, despite his love for soccer, he acknowledged the fact that an education is of the utmost importance. After our presentation at the high school, he engaged with some fellow soccer lovers in a scrimmage. 

The joy seen in the children and teenagers' faces as we handed out school/dental hygiene supplies was astonishing. Once again, we were privileged to see smiles in reaction to items that are so basic here in the U.S. 

This trip contributed to our eagerness to formally organize. The success of two consecutive trips, as well as the response in help with materials and donations that we received as a result of presenting formal proposals, strengthened our desire of making a long-lasting commitment to initiatives like these. 

First Trip

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.