Holy Family Dental Clinic – Cerca Cavajal
My first dental mission trip to Haiti was in 2015. I had no idea how much it would impact me. As a practicing dentist in Richmond, VA, this trip was a lifelong dream of mine. I was eager to use my dental experience to help the people in Cerca Carvajal. Following a brief meeting with our Haitian dentist Dr. Tony, I was ready to begin work the next day. Dr. Tony had a full schedule of patients waiting. I admit, I was more than a little shocked by the conditions of the dental clinic. Maybe I had been spoiled by my pristine and well-equipped American dental office. Before coming to the US, I had practiced in India for four years. But the conditions in Haiti were unlike anything I had ever seen in India or the US, and so was the overwhelming need. I have great appreciation and respect for the parishioners at St. Edward Church who generously contributed both time and money to make this dental clinic in Haiti happen.
My first patient was a handsome teenager. He had dreamed of joining the police department, but was rejected for failing the medical examination. Decay caused him to lose four of his upper anterior teeth, and he had no money to replace them. In my American clinic, we could offer several options to patients in a similar situation – implant, bridge, or partial. I was saddened by his story and frustrated that his dream was ruined by a situation I could easily fix in my American clinic. I wanted so much to help him. Dr. Tony alerted me, “Don’t feel bad. This is your first patient and he’s one of the better patients you will see today.” As a charity clinic, their main focus was cleaning, fluoride applications, and necessary extractions. Over that day and the days that followed, due to overwhelming need and limitations of the clinic, I could only offer exams, cleanings, and extractions.
When I left Haiti, I was heavy in heart. It was frustrating to see such need and be so limited in helping. They needed a better clinic. On my way home, Dr. Tony and I stopped at a dental supplier in Port Au Prince to check prices. The dental fund for our trip was minimal, but I knew the committee was committed. Back at my Richmond office, I couldn’t escape the vast difference in conditions. My thoughts remained on Haiti’s needs. I decided to buy a new dental chair for the Haiti clinic, so I contacted Dr. Tony. He made the purchase and sent pictures of the chair. At last I felt like I was making even a small difference.
About four months later, I got a devastating message from Dr. Tony and Fr. KeKe. There had been a fire in the dental clinic and the new dental chair was badly damaged. My heart dropped. My disappointment made it hard to continue with my patients that day. I realized I was more saddened by the loss of that Haiti chair than one from my own office. I asked Dr. Tony to check on the warranty, but the Haiti warranty was of no value. It turned out that the chair was still usable, but all the features were lost due to electrical damage from the fire.
In 2016 and again in 2018, I made two additional dental mission trips to Haiti. Aside from exams, fluoride applications, and necessary extractions, I couldn’t do nearly as much as I’d hoped. Now my dream is that one day we will have a decent dental clinic in Haiti with sufficient materials and equipment to handle all their needs. The humble and kind people of Haiti are God’s children too. They deserve the best I can give. Our clinic is the only dental clinic in the entire town of Cerca Carvajal, population of about 40,000 people. I know there is much to be done. I believe the Almighty Lord will provide a way for us to improve the conditions of the dental clinic and improve the health of Haiti’s people. I don’t want any other broken-hearted teenagers to lose their dream due to lack of simple dental care. The lovely people of Haiti deserve much more.