A group of Canadian dental professionals and volunteers are heading to Haiti next month to provide much-needed dental care.
On a previous trip to the Caribbean country, they saw hundreds of patients, 10 to 12 hour days, and very poor working conditions.
Calgary dental hygienist Diane Nguyen was on that trip, and spoke to Alberta Morning News about the experience.
“We don’t have any suctions or anything like that, so they spit into a cup, and then we have a blood bucket,” she described. “So conditions are unfortunately very poor, so we’re hoping to find funds to help with conditions and better equipment that we can keep down in Haiti.”
Nguyen performed teeth cleanings standing up, with patients’ heads propped up on pillows as they sat at dining room tables. Patients would have to lie on wood boards as the dentists worked on their teeth. As of now, volunteers must bring most of the equipment they require, as the dental clinics in Haiti do not have much to offer.
“We do have to look around and see what we can get from our office and any other offices,” Nguyen said. “And we have to pay for luggage to bring all the equipment down and then back again.”
Despite the difficult conditions, Nguyen will be returning in March to help again.
“(It’s) by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. But what you take from it is amazing. It changed my life forever, it changed the Haitian’s life forever. Just doing the work that we do here normally, that they don’t have in Haiti,” she said.
“Seeing their faces, and being able to help them with their oral help — in general it does affect overall health as well. They’re very grateful for what we do down there. It’s a lot to take in, it is very hard work, but it is very, very worth it.”
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help fund the trip and will help with volunteer registration fees, food and ground transportation in Haiti.
Any extra proceeds will go towards Haiti Health Initiative, an organization that helps provide equipment for dental clinics in the country.