Written by Debbie Whitehead
A year ago, I never would have imagined that a presentation on corporate philanthropy would have led my daughter and me to the Mayan highlands of Guatemala—working hands-on in a dental clinic, changing the lives of children. Outside of ensuring that my own kids brushed their pearly whites before bedtime and scheduling our twice-yearly visits to the dentist, I had no dental experience nor appreciation for the quality of care so readily available to us in the United States.
That all changed the day that Global Dental Relief visited the company I work for, Arhaus Furniture—a corporate sponsor of the charity—to share with our employees the volunteer work they do. We learned how many children around the world who live in remote areas do not have access to the dental care they need. Due to this lack of simple oral care, some children suffer from chronic pain. As decay in their mouth increases, infections grow, ultimately affecting their overall health. By establishing mobile dental clinics in these areas and committing to seeing the same kids each year, Global Dental Relief volunteers are able to impact the lives of children worldwide.
It was heartbreaking to hear the stories of what life was like for these children before Global Dental Relief volunteers got involved. I wanted to do something—to volunteer—and I knew just the person to help me. My 16-year-old daughter had just started in the dental assisting program at her high school and was loving it. I showed her the video on the website and without hesitation, she said, “Let’s go!”
Before we knew it, we were on our way to San Martin Jilotepeque, a rural community in Guatemala. Our group consisted of two trip leaders, five dentists, two hygienists, and 12 non-dental volunteers (many of whom were students pursuing a dental-related field of study like my daughter). A common sense of purpose quickly brought this energetic, hard-working team together with an atmosphere of trust and camaraderie. My daughter gained a vast amount of dental knowledge assisting the dentists and hygienists chairside. I was responsible for clinic flow, guiding the children through the clinic. Even with no dental skills to contribute, I felt very much a part of the team.
I found the people of Guatemala to be so incredibly warm and kind. Everyone smiled broadly and said, “Buenos dias!” as our team passed by. I had been worried about the language barrier, but local partners and schoolteachers spoke English, and we were prepared with simple Spanish phrases like, “¿Cómo estás?” (How are you?) and “¡Muy valiente!” (Very brave!).
During our week in San Martin, our team treated 684 children, left smiling brighter and free from pain. This trip was truly a life-changing experience that filled our hearts with love for the people of Guatemala. My daughter and I became a part of something great—helping children and making lasting friendships. Until next time…
You can help Arhaus support the important efforts of Global Dental Relief. During our Storewide Sale, 10% of every mirror and lighting purchase will go to this cause and the children they serve worldwide. Learn more at globaldentalrelief.org.