February 12, 2018 9:01 pm

Calgary dental hygienist says volunteering in Haiti was an ‘eye-opening experience’

WATCH: Having access to good dental care is something we might take for granted in Canada, but people in several parts of the world aren't so lucky. Now, as Gil Tucker shows us, some Calgarians are heading to one of those places to bring smiles to many faces.


Diane Nguyen was taking care of a patient in her state-of-the-art Calgary clinic on Monday but knows she’ll soon be working in much tougher conditions.

Along with a couple of other hygienists and a dentist, Nguyen will soon be heading south to volunteer her services in the hills of Haiti.

“It’s a small little village that we’re trying to make a big difference in,” Nguyen said.

Nguyen and the other Calgarians will be running clinics with the Haiti Health Initiative, a non-profit group she first volunteered with a year-and-a-half ago.

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“It was a really eye-opening experience to see how much need there actually is,” Nguyen said. “The lineup was all the way down the mountain. So that’s why I wanted to go back as soon as I can.”

READ MORE: Dartmouth dentist to provide free dental care at Syrian refugee camp

Her last visit to volunteer left Nguyen shocked by how little dental care people in the impoverished Caribbean country had previously received.

“A lot of people 50 years old had never got their teeth looked at or cleaned, so you can imagine the buildup,” she said. “Some of them don’t even have toothbrushes or toothpaste.”

Nguyen also remembers the challenging conditions the volunteers faced.

“It isn’t the easiest thing because you have to hike mountains, and the humidity,” she said. “It is very hard work, but very rewarding.”

Nguyen will spend 10 days in March seeing patients at the clinic in Haiti.

She’s trying to get support for her trip on a GoFundMe page.

“The Haitians are so appreciative and they are such kind people,” Nguyen said. “I just can’t wait to help even more this time.”

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