Posted on May 22, 2018.
Theresa arrived in Antigua, Guatemala, not sure what volunteering would look like. This was nothing like past “vacations” where you sit on a beach and drink margaritas. She had a different focus in mind – to help children in the Guatemalan Highlands live happier, healthier lives.
Theresa Tran, RDH got her degree in hygiene from the Community College of Denver in the spring of 2012. She always dreamed of using her education for a greater good. When she learned about Global Dental Relief — a Colorado-based non-profit that sends volunteers overseas to provide dental care — there was no question that she wanted to sign up for a trip!
That was six years ago. Since then, Theresa has volunteered in Nepal, Cambodia and Kenya with Global Dental Relief, sharing her passion and skills with children around the world.
Theresa pictured with children in Guatemala.
This spring she will return to Guatemala with a team of five dentists, two other hygienists and a handful of general. The mission – to help 700 children improve their oral health. The team will spend the week giving dental exams, cleanings, restorations and extractions, to children who otherwise lack access or resources to receive dental care.
Theresa reflects: “Every time I volunteer with GDR, I feel grateful being part of a team that extends the quality of life for so many children, for their families, and even the village. I believe that we provide more than just a visit to the dentist. We are making an impact that extends from one child to another, from one family to another.”
Like Theresa, Kathy Pidcock, RDH was looking to share her specialty with the world, to do something bigger than herself. Kathy entered the healthcare industry over thirty years ago with the aim to help people become healthier through education and good oral habits. Deep inside she always wanted to reach people who would never experience the dental care that so many of us take for granted.
As a hygienist, Kathy found this opportunity through GDR, first in Guatemala in 2014 and then in Kenya and Nepal. One of the things that struck Kathy as both a volunteer and trip leader is that all dental equipment and supplies are provided, volunteers only need to bring their enthusiasm and open hearts to the clinic.
Kathy pictured with patient and local assistant in Nepal.
“Working with Global Dental Relief was easy; the group is so well organized,” Kathy says. “I was completely at ease traveling to Guatemala for my first volunteer experience. I have since returned to Guatemala three times, first as a volunteer and now as a trip leader. I highly recommend this organization to fulfill a dream of being part of helping children with their oral health.”
As a trip leader, she flies in a few days before the volunteers to set up the clinic and ensure populations of children are ready to be seen. The result is a well-oiled machine, in which 100 plus children receive complete dental care each day.
After a week of hard work and many smiles, volunteers who arrived strangers, are now lifelong friends, connected by their common mission to help children live happier, healthier lives.
Sarah Muller, another Colorado hygienist learned about GDR at the Rocky Mountain Dental Convention. She was moved by the stories of past volunteers and wanted to be involved in travel that gives back. With GDR’s 22 clinics a year in Nepal, India, Kenya, Cambodia and Guatemala, it was hard to know where to go first. The following spring, Sarah joined a Guatemala clinic reuniting with other volunteers who had been in Nepal.
“I highly recommend any dental professional to do this at some point in their lives. It’s truly an incredible feeling when you find out how many children’s lives you have influenced just by volunteering for a week. It is also a wonderful way to experience different cultures and do some traveling. I love that GDR always has the option after clinic to do something cultural and open your eyes to many ways of life. Guatemala was a trip of a lifetime!”
Sarah pictured with children in Guatemala.
These three Colorado humanitarians echo the same sentiment — “There is nothing like witnessing firsthand the difference dental care can make in a child’s life. It’s a gift you have that can change the lives of thousands of children for the better. What are you waiting for?”
You can join Theresa in Guatemala this fall, or Kathy in Guatemala in July –don’t wait! Join us and see the world as you’ve never seen it before! You don’t have to be a dentist to volunteer!