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New Year – New View

Thursday - August 4th, 2016
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With the new year fast approaching, I’ve been thinking about what really matters.

As always, family and friends top the list, so I’d like to share a story about both. Recently, I had the opportunity to lead a team of fellow volunteers on a mission to provide free dental care to people living in isolated and low income communities in Paraguay.

Before we ever got on the plane, we had to meet some pretty daunting challenges. Imagine having fewer than six weeks to round up all the things needed to operate a modern dental office with no budget. We put a call out to all our Bright Now! dental offices and our vendors. These friends really came through with generous donations of supplies and equipment. We left for Paraguay with 24 crates.

More challenges awaited us in Paraguay. Some supplies didn’t arrive intact and a lot of our equipment died soon after arrival because of power compatibility problems. We faced language barriers and 12-hour days. Once again, friends came through. Members of our team scrambled around the countryside to find replacement parts, while our local translators and guides pitched in as needed.

We visited Paraguay’s most remote areas. In some places, the children had never even been to a dentist. Their trust and cooperation was touching. Before long, we’d made more new friends. One of them was a small boy with a life-threatening tooth infection. Fortunately, we were able to drain the abscess, remove the tooth and put him on antibiotics to cure the infection. By the time we left, he was already feeling much better. At another village, I noticed a shy little boy who kept moving to the back of the line. Eventually he found the courage to tap me on the shoulder and show me the baby tooth he’d pulled out all by himself. I had another new amigo!

During our visit, we were also able to befriend local dentists, who had never seen many of the surgical techniques or instruments we were using. With a little training, they were quickly able to see what could be done with these new tools. It was a pleasure to leave 13 crates of modern dental equipment with our Paraguayan colleagues.

At the end of eight days, we had accomplished much more than we set out to do. We’d helped some great little kids, made new friends and gained a greater appreciation for what we have and what we can give. That’s what matters most of all.