Atitlan Dental Health Initiative - Jan 2020

When we arrived in Chel this past year the clinical components were in dire need of being “aired out” as the rainy season humidity had taken its toll. The computer briefcase had mold growing all over it and when we opened the compu there was water dripping down on the inside of the screen and nothing would work. Against all cyber principles I placed the compu in the direct warm sun for several days and eventually the screen cleared up about 90% leaving behind a few streaks. The keyboard wouldn’t work but we were able to plug in an old external keyboard and make it through our 3 clinics. We stored the clinic again in Chel but this time in a drier location and the person in charge agreed to check the compu on a regular basis. One of the 2 rechargeable batteries for the NOMAD X-ray had failed so we began the search for a replacement which proved daunting. The device is not recognized by Health Canada therefore we had to source it out in the USA. So many obstacles that we eventually gave up. Fortunately though, one of our helpers from Minnesota was able to find a replacement on e-bay and we hope it will work when installed in March.

We the volunteers in the field cover all of our personal expenses re food/travel/accommodation and I am truly grateful for their generous support. I purchased a variety of sundries in Canada for this year’s clinics and had some donations of materials from dentists in Nelson BC. We will be supplementing those with gloves and local anaesthetic here before I head up to the Northern Highlands the end of February by “chicken bus”.
We have continued our search for additional dental teams to join the service but alas “nada”. We were however able to attract 2 former assistants, along with our long standing sterilization expert (a retired biochem university professor) so we’re all set this year to do 2 clinics, in Chel and Chajul. We’ll be in Chel for 2 weeks and Chajul for about 10 days, each village deeply grateful and supportive through the NGO’s and 

Our primary expenses beyond personal are private shuttle transportation between villages and wages for local women to assist with patient intake, translation from local dialect to Spanish and help with sterilization.

I arrived back in Guatemala in late October 2019 and immediately began meeting with local NGO’s and Guatemalan dentists in an effort to promote the idea of bringing the clinic back here to Lake Atitlan for community service and to be made available for the entire year. I have also been having regular discussions with officials and other compassionate NGO’s regarding whole health, in particular nutrition, diabetes and of course dental health and its implications in general health especially children.

There is a likelihood that after these clinics in March we will return to the lake with the clinic to set it up somewhere else or store it till the coming year. This would also reduce expenses. If anyone reading this has a contact with a dentist who would value being of service to those in desperate need please let me know.

Thanks again to all those who have shown support, including the volunteers at ICO who tirelessly provide guidance.

Yours in the true spirit of service above self,
drjohn snively