Sunday, June 8, 2014

Last words of reflection...

This trip has transformed me in more ways than I had ever thought possible, not only by improving my skills and knowledge as a health professional, but I have grown an incredible amount personally, socially, and spiritually. I learned just how important it is to practice awareness and mindfulness at all times. As a student, being present allows me to make the most out of my learning, and as a health professional, being present with my clients ensures that I am providing the best care possible. I am beyond grateful to have an instructor who cares so deeply for her students and for the health of underprivileged communities, so much so to make this experience possible, especially before our final year. A month in paradise has been an amazing opportunity to learn more about myself and the wonderful girls in the program, thank you so much Ada!....................Siarra

Overall, our time in San Pancho was hard work, but more importantly it was heartwarming, rewarding work. I can honestly say I have never felt so welcomed into a community and given as much trust as quickly and easily as the residents that we worked with gave to us. The language barrier taught me a lot about the importance of effective communication.  While clients were incredibly trusting, it was essential to remind myself that many of them had never experienced a dental hygiene treatment before. Explaining (through translation) each step of care along the way was appreciated by my clients, which you could see on their faces when they understood their condition and how to improve and maintain it in the future. I am so grateful for the residents of San Pancho that trusted us with their care, the connections that I made with my clients, and the invaluable clinical experience. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity that I will always remember and treasure........  Heather

This opportunity has been one that I will remember for the rest of my life. Before I arrived in Mexico I imagined that the benefits would be an improvement in my clinical skills and a greater appreciation for what I have, but nothing I imagined compared to the experience I had. Imagining and experiencing are two completely different things when you are working with individuals and their emotions. Every day was a new experience that I couldn’t compare to anything I had encountered in my life. Seeing the difference we can make in people who don’t know that they have infection until we help understand what it is all about is unbelievable. Seeing children with completely blackened decayed teeth  was very sad and the realization that I had one shot to make a difference in their future and educate them was overwhelming. The people we worked with has such a positive impact on me, and the kindness of people who we saw every day in the stores and on the beach was so heartwarming.  Everyone was so helpful as a community. This trip has tested me in many ways that are difficult to put into words, but it has made me more grateful, compassionate, empathetic, confident, and sure of myself that this is what I want to do. I can’t thank Ada and all those involved enough for this experience, it really was a once in a lifetime opportunity and I can’t wait to go back to San Pancho one day........................Maria  

It has been a dream of mine to volunteer in another country for quite a few years now. I was very grateful and fortunate to be given the opportunity to utilize skills that I have acquired over the past year as a dental hygiene student at Camosun College. This field school has given me a whole new appreciation for this prosperous country that we are lucky enough to reside in. When basic needs is the focus, dental health is obviously not a priority, some of the local residence have never been to a dentist. This field school allowed us the opportunity to treat and educate people but hopefully really make an impact on how they view and care for their oral health. Over the past 4 weeks my skills as a clinician have greatly improved, as I have been able to experience more difficult cases that will help prepare me for my senior year at Camosun. …….................................................Rachelle

It's difficult to sum up how amazing of an experience this trip has been in just a few short sentences. It was a once in a life time opportunity and I am grateful that I had the chance to be a part of it and learn as much as I did. This trip has reminded me that we shouldn't take what we have in Canada for granted. We are beyond fortunate to be from a country that has dental care available for everyone because whether one has access to care or not can have a huge impact on ones overall health and well being. Through this trip I have been able to pinpoint the type of person I am and who I want to become as a dental hygienist and an individual. I have felt my skills really come together over this past month, I am confident and excited for new challenges in the many years of a dental hygienist to come!  I also want to thank Ada again for her amazing coaching and all the hard work she put in to making this trip a success! We couldn't have done it without you!!!......Dallas

I am so privileged to have been given the opportunity to travel to San Pancho and provide dental care for its citizens. From the moment we arrived, we were greeted with open arms. I will never forget the graciousness and kindness that was shown to us by the people of San Pancho. Whether it be the restaurant help on the beach or a patient in our chair, everyone was genuine and grateful. It was amazing to see how hard working and dedicated they are, something I see  less often in more industrial countries. I have learned such patience from this field school, the poise and composure that all our patients demonstrated, (even after being in a chair for 6 hours) is something I admire. I feel that I was able to share my knowledge of dental hygiene and in turn my  skills have improve greatly. This field school was very humbling, and I hope to one day go back to San Pancho, or a similar community, and help out those with less fortunate. I could not have done this trip without the wonderful team of women in the program and the dedicated teacher and mentor we are so fortunate to have guided us. We were all brought together here as a cohesive team, and for that I am grateful.

 Becoming immersed completely into a completely foreign culture can be daunting and intimidating, but the amazing community of San Pancho was so warm and inviting and made my transition from life in Canada easy. Although we were obvious foreigners and majority of us spoke little to no Spanish, we were still greeted by each and every person we passed by with a cheerful "Hola!" This caught on fast and became second nature to me that I have found myself carrying this habit back home to Vancouver, greeting strangers with a more subtle smile (although I have accidentally said "Hola!" a few times, but have gotten strange, blank stares in return. Hmmm. The experience I had in San Pancho unexpectedly helped me grow considerably as a person. While living in the small Mexican town, I tried my best to maintain a positive and 'go with the flow' attitude, an attitude which I found escaped me while I was living in Victoria. Since returning from the trip, I have done my best to continue on with the attitudes I formed while living in San Pancho.

The long but satisfying clinic days at both Entre Amigos and at the hospital granted me to improve my clinic skills immensely. The opportunity to work with the seniors at the community centre provided a mentorship-type arrangement. When we had to take what we've learned from our first year in the DH program and what we learned from our clinic sessions at Entre Amigos, it helped prepare us for our time in the hospital. I am so impressed with how all of us performed and how we were able to tackle very difficult cases on our own. All of our time spent working in our makeshift clinics has made me extremely grateful for our clinic setting back in Victoria, where everything is easy to access, ergonomically friendly, and, for the most part, remains on plan and schedule.

Before departing for Mexico, we were forewarned to not have any expectations about the trip. Prior to departure, I started thinking about what everything would be like once we arrived, but my four weeks in San Pancho was nothing like I would have expected. Every single aspect of my stay was amazing and couldn't have been better thanks to Ada, Glades, our translators, my classmates, and of course, a big thank you to the small community of San Pancho. Hasta luego...........................................................................Danika

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Saying goodbye...

At La Ola Rica to celebrate the end of our field school...waiting for our guests to arrive.

What could be so funny?

More funnies!

Siarra, Danika, and Dallas showing off their well-earned tans.

Thank you cards from us to Glades and Estibaliz, our Mexico host and school presenter.

I will miss the warm evenings and the bike ride home...this time in the rain. Love it.

The next day, breakfast at the hotel and final debriefings completed.  Thank you Victor for the wonderful service.

At PVR. All bags checked in and ready for the flight home. Thank you to the students of the 2014 field school. Thank you for your hard work, tenacity, sense of humour, leadership, and grace. All the best in your senior year.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Sorry...the postings are not in their proper location.

"Tres dias in la hospital" showed up as the latest entry when it should be the "Reflections of our graduates", in case you are interested.

tres dias en la hospital....

We were exhausted but very satisfied of the work that we did. The most difficult part of being in the hospital was to turn away many people as we could not accommodate everyone with our limited space and resources. We appreciate that they valued their oral health enough to at least be curious about getting an appointment. Glades was always busy on her phone and on the premises talking and strategizing as to how we can squeeze more people in very tight quarters. Here are many pictures of our three days in the hospital.

Waiting for the key to the dental clinic prior to set up.

We were ready and prepared the following morning. Here Danika knows that a dull instrument will
only be a hindrance to her work.

So she is sharpening away while Maria prepares the ultrasonic machine.

Heather also understands the value of a sharp instrument.

Dallas was in charge in setting up the portable suctions.

Working in pairs, the students took turns in working with our patients.

Folding lounge chairs. Check. Pillows to sit on. Check. Red plastic cup to spit in. Check. Then we're ready!

Thank you to Kindness in Action for the use of the ultrasonic machines. The cases also made great tables!

We rotated through three chairs, one of which is this 30+ year old dental chair with a non-working light!

Danika exhibiting good posture. Siarra assisting.

Heather and Rachelle working nicely together.

The cords are always a problem...more challenging in Mexico.

Busy clinic.

Rachelle ready to "mine" some calculus! ;-)

Day 1 completed. All smiles...okay...maybe three smiles! 

Later that evening, we celebrated Dallas' birthday at the local pizzeria! Yes, pizza in San Pancho at  Darjeeling. The best!

Live music, pizza, and cocktails. Happy birthday Dallas!

The next day, the clinic was overflowing. We saw patients in the back hallway of the hospital.

A succession of children entered the clinic with their parents.

All our patients received lots of focused attention.

A very patient child waiting for his mama.

The waiting was just too he decided to fall asleep.
Heather and Dallas teamed up today!

Jenna up and ready today!

Another happy and satisfied customer! Way to go Dallas and Heather.

Literally, there was no room to move. We were very cautious as there was a high risk of knocking things over.

End of Day 2. Peace out!

As Maria massages Heather's shoulders (no worries- those are clean gloves), Dallas and Danika share a laugh. Siarra, I think is contemplating about her day.

No rest for the weary, Day 3 was busy right from the get go. We created a 4th chair so that Siarra can screen this client.

Saving the back, Jenna kneels down to work on Quadrant 2.

Where there is room, there is an opportunity to work on somebody.

Siarra using her right arm as her patient's head rest. Worked!

Our 9am patients! Happy campers in the end.

A quick 30 minute lunch before we head out for our afternoon session.

This small room was most desirable because of the well-working air-conditioner.
This time, Rachelle and Maria were teammates.

Starting to clean up at the end of the day.

Taking inventory and more cleaning.

The portable suction clean up crew!

With two more school presentations, good to know we have lots of gloves left.

Reflections from our graduates...

The experience I had in San Pancho helped me grow both professionally and personally. My clinical experience there reinforced the need for individually- based treatment planning and recommendations. It is important to know the resources that a community and the individual has for themselves, so unrealistic goals are not made. 

The people of San Pancho were very thoughtful and enjoy building new relationships. I was welcomed into their lives with open arms and built new friendships. They believe that family and friends are a major priority in their lives. I also consider this as a priority in my life, however during school I did not get the opportunity to see my friends as often as I would have liked. Now that I have graduated,  I look forward to reestablishing my relationships.  I believe our own community can learn from San Pancho and step back for a moment and be thankful for everything and everyone in our lives................  Brittany

The Mexico Field School was an amazing experience that I will cherish for a lifetime. It was so hard to say goodbye to a community that displays so much love, support, and happiness. The San Pancho community welcomed us like we were family. Personally, I feel like I gained a sense of what family is really about. Family is much more than who you are related to, it is about coming together as a community. This is something that San Pancho showed me by simply saying "hola" with a smile while walking down the street. This is something that is so simple but yet so hard to do back home because we are always rushing or we have our heads buried in our cell phones. I didn’t see anyone ever walking down the street looking at their phones or rushing as if they were late. The San Pancho people enjoy and live within the moment. Another aspect of San Pancho that moved me were the kids. I always saw them playing outside with a ball, swinging on a rope swing or just getting dirty. They always had smiles on their faces even though they did not have electronics or fancy things. They seemed far more happy than the kids back home even though they had much less. This made me think that we could learn a lot from the people about what fun, family, friends, and love is all about. Overall, the two weeks that I spent in Mexico allowed me to grow in so many ways and I will continue to become a better person in our community back home. Thank you to the whole community of San Pancho!...................................................................................................................    Tami

I went into this trip excited for the clinical experience I would gain by working within a practice model that was very different from private practice. I knew I would be challenged,  and I welcomed that concept openly.  I was not disappointed in this aspect.  I was indeed challenged daily in clinic by the equipment, instruments,  ergonomics, and the level of difficulty of the clients,  and grew tremendously in my client management,  efficiency and deposit detection.  
Before arriving,  I expected to build relationships within our small group and have limited interactions with people within the community. However,  when I arrived,  I was instantly welcomed into the San Pancho family with wide open arms. I am leaving deeply touched by the level of trust I feel towards the people in San Pancho.  I was invited to share a meal or a swim with the people I met,  and I was approached on the street with a smile,  a "beso" on the cheek and an "abrazo". Taking the time to stop and greet people fully,  with full eye contact and genuine interest in another person allowed me to build incredible relationships and connections that I will treasure always.  When I was with my San Pancho family,  I always felt safe and looked after and cared for,  whether it was showing me the best spots to eat,  teaching me how to be "chilo", introducing me to their friends, or not leaving my side when out on the town.
 The community places such high value on family and community,  and once I was part of their family,  I was watched and protected and welcomed just like anyone in their immediate family. 
On my last day,  I was told: 'you will always be welcome in San Pancho'. So although leaving is breaking my heart,  I know I will return home to my San Pancho family soon..............................................     Carla

I had heard about the San Pancho field school prior to applying for my seat in the dental hygiene program, and thought, "that would be an amazing opportunity to help those in need".   

This field school allowed me to not only work on my clinical skills, but showed me how valuable and needed these skills are for this community.  Many members of this community would not normally receive dental hygiene care as access to dental services is limited.

Meeting clients who had come to us for their very first dental experience in their lives, reminded me of how lucky the majority of us are in Canada.  I felt these clients truly appreciated the care provided and had a genuine desire to improve their overall health and their oral health.  I remember one client in particular that I had run into by the beach where she was selling her hand-made crafts.  She instantly recognized me and pointed to her teeth, then gave me a huge smile.  At that moment, not only could I see how healthy her gums looked after her treatment, but I could see how happy she was.  Although there were times that I felt I hadn't done enough work to help the community, it was  moments like these that told me that what help I did give had made a difference in those patient's lives.
I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to go to San Pancho and meet the wonderful people of this amazing town.  I won't say goodbye, because I know that I will be back one day to continue on with providing dental hygiene treatment.  Until then, ¡hasta luego!..............................  Jenny

Saturday, May 31, 2014

"The soul is healed by being with children."

Our last oral health promotion activity was at the local kindergarten school. A new palapa roof was being built while children were playing around it.

Except for this little boy who was patiently waiting for his class to begin.

Waiting for all the kids to arrive that morning.

The first class of 5 year olds begins with education on oral health.

Que bonitas! we listened intently as well.

Then, we showed them how to brush their teeth.

Then they showed us how to brush their teeth.

Jenna with a captive audience.

Dallas having fun.

We held the caries screening under the palapa. It was already very warm by 9:00 in the morning.

The children are always such eager participants.

Say "ahhhh" or "abre por favor". 

The cuteness was everywhere!

Jenna cradling his head for support.

Our second group of 5 year olds.

Now it's your turn, says Danika.

Siarra had this group of girls' attention.

Now spit! Heather was spat on many times this trip. ;-)

Under the palapa.

Rachelle rolled up her sleeves and got to work!

Very well behaved kids and the students weren't bad either. ;-)

"Smile, look, and listen"...that's one way to get their attention. Way to go, Jenna.

I think Heather got spat on again!

Saw 60 children, 34 had obvious decay.  When we first started 8 years ago, it seemed like every other child had decay. Happy to see progress, but we have a long ways to go.
Soda pop is so commonly consumed here and a very difficult habit to break.

Later that day, we travelled two towns south of San Pancho to visit an after school program at Casa Clu in a small community called San Ignacio. Very poor, isolated, and limited access to social resources. Thank you Jessica for the invitation to come see your beautiful kids.

One child was there when we arrived, then these two became curious and  hung around.

Soon, they started coming out of their homes to see what was going on.

Along with our interpreter, Glades, we explained why we were there.

And the crowd began to gather.

...and gather until we had about 30 children.

The toothbrushing lessons were a hit.

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Eager learners.

Not camera shy at all.

Beautiful in every way.

Maria getting right in there to help the children.

Danika making sure that this child feels more confident with his toothbrushing.

Siarra doing the same thing.

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Dallas and Glades talking about the benefits of fluoride.

We were very grateful that some parents showed up to see what was going on.

Heather applying fluoride and about ready to get spit on. ;-)

Oh my goodness, the cuteness continues!

Sorry Rachelle to not have captured you on camera. I saw how hard you were working...and again you were hidden from view with this shot.

Ah, there you are Rachelle and some of the gang at Casa Clu.  Well done everyone!