Cool breezes flow from the waters of the Pacific Ocean and offer a slight reprieve from the hot and humid days in the small community of Montericco, Guatemala. The surrounding villages consist of just over 22,000 people who live in poverty with no sewers, toilets or running water, let alone any type of water purification system.
But these people do have hope of a brighter, healthier future because of the work of Healing the Children and members of the Rotary Club of Lake Stevens.
Last September, Dr. Tracy DeLorm, her mom Judi Richardson, Kathy Little and Barbara Knowles, along with Healing the Children’s Executive Director Ann Anderst, took a trip, using their own funds, to Montericco to provide dental services for the people in the villages surrounding Monterrico.
The group of women from Lake Stevens, joined others at the small clinic in Guatemala to perform medical services to children and others in need of treatment.
They worked for two and a half days providing villagers with whatever care they could give them, whether it was filling cavities, extracting teeth or helping them with tooth pain.
“We helped whoever was there whether they were children or their mothers,” DeLorm said. “I noticed that the age of the Guatemalans is very young. Some of the mothers were in their early 20s and had three or four or even five children. I would guess that the oldest person I saw was in their early 50s.”
DeLorm, Little and Knowles are all members of Lake Stevens Rotary Club and became involved in the project because of the Club’s involvement in trying to raise $85,000 to construct a medical and dental clinic and education center there.
Their efforts began last summer and they are still continuing to raise funds.
“Eighty-five thousand dollars is a lot of money to raise,” Debe Franz, 2010 L.S. Rotary Club President said. “We have never done anything that big. Rotary can turn one dollar into many miracles down there.”
DeLorm and her traveling group met up with members of Centro Cristiano Cultural of Guatemala, or CCCG, which is a non-profit based in Guatemala. They support the many health and education needs of the Guatemalan community. CCCG partners with Healing the Children and work in conjunction with the local Ministry of Health.
Once in Montirrico, the daily work began and DeLorm, along with another dentist, saw over 75 patients in two and a half days, using Little as their dental assistant and tool sterilization specialist.
“To put it into perspective, I see around 35 patients a day in my dental office and I have six staff members helping me,” DeLorm explained.
Deciding the needs of patients was the hardest part of the treatment. Their goal was to get those who were in physical pain in first and then work from there.
“It was really hard to triage. You’ve got a line of people with all sorts of problems,” DeLorm explained. “I could do fillings but they take a lot of time and I had to have Kathy help me. Pain was a priority so we had an interpreter who would ask if they were in pain. Those people would get moved to the front of the line.”
DeLorm and the rest of the crew were able to help dozens of people while they were in Monterrico while her mom, Richardson, who is a Pharmacist, was able to help in their medication needs including pain medication and antibiotics even translating adult doses to a dose sufficient to the needs of the children.
“My mom was a true asset to the work we were doing and they were really excited that they had a pharmacist on hand to help them with dosing,” DeLorm said.
The memory of one little boy stays in DeLorm’s heart. He was a small, maybe six-year-old boy who had most of his baby teeth and a couple of his permanent teeth. All of them had cavities.
“This little boy had all of his baby teeth and two permanent teeth. He had visible cavities on every tooth but he would never let me touch them,” DeLorm said. “He kept turning away from me. I’m sure he was in pain, I don’t really speak Spanish but I could tell that his mom was trying to tell him that we were trying to help him. I don’t even know how he was able to eat.”
Their experiences in Montericco have created an urgency to go back and help. They are planning another trip in 2012 and Richardson is trying to go again this year.
“I an definitely planning on doing it again,” DeLorm said.
Healing the Children and CCCG continue to teach villagers basic sanitation needs including the importance of washing their hands after they go to the bathroom, brushing their teeth regularly and offering prenatal and women’s health screenings.
They have created a system where they can track the work that has been done for the community in the last three years and even keep records on flash drives for each individual so that whomever is there at the time can see what treatment, medications and which immunizations have been received.
“I highly respect the physicians who have been doing this the last three years. They go down every six months or so and have created a way that we can track charts,” DeLorm said. “They already had all of that organization, all I needed to do was to figure out how to be a dentist. The set-up is so remarkable. They are trying to set it up like a regular doctor’s office.”
“My dream is that this project is not only a Lake Stevens Rotary project but a community project,” Franz said.
If you would like to donate to the fund for the Monterrico Community Clinic and Education Center go to www.htcoregonwashington.or or www.lakestevensrotary.org.