Rotarians provide dental care to children in Peru

| 12/08/2010

(CNS): A 15-member team, partly sponsored by the Rotary Club of Grand Cayman Sunrise and led by Sunrise Rotarian Dr Bert Thacker, recently traveled up into the High Andes of Peru on a dental mission. The team visited five villagesin five days and performed sealants, fillings, extractions, examinations and fluoride treatments on nearly 1,000 children. Dr Thacker has been leading dental missions for six years, from the Amazon region to the High Andes of Peru. Generally the team has two dentists and a cadre of qualified dental assistants, but the bulk of the effort is made up of amateur volunteers with no medical or dental training. (Left: Photo by Jonathan Adam – the youngest member of the team, 14-year-old Parker Godwin performs dental procedures at 15,000 feet)

The Rotary Club of Grand Cayman Sunrise contributed $5,000 towards the cost of this year’s mission, which covered about 1/3 of the costs, with the remainder coming from Smile Dental Clinic. Individual team members were responsible for their airfare, hotels, and personal incidentals.

Dr Eduardo Ochoa, a native Peruvian, and his father Marco, a hotelier and tour operator in Peru, were instrumental in arranging the trip, and also acted as “kid wrangler” for the five days. According to Rotarian Frank Balderamos, without them and their skilled bus driver, Americo, the trip could not have taken place.

Rotarian Jonathan Adam was in charge of sterilizing all of the dental tools, while his wife, Sian, acted as dental assistant to Dr Ochoa. Chantel “Smoothly” Moodley of Grand Cayman’s Smile Dental Clinic performed sealants and small fillings, as well as keeping everyone organized and on track. Fourteen-year-old Parker Godwin acted as her dental assistant for the five days. Balderamos said his son, Parker, displayed an unusual level of professionalism and poise for a fourteen year old, and was as vital a member of them team as any adult.

This year the team had extra help from Lindsey Brown and Sarah Vaughn, two dental students from Texas. Sunrise Rotarian Frank Balderamos alternated between being a dental assistant and providing entertainment for the team to keep everyone awake and alert.

According to Dr Bert, the most important part of these missions isn’t the dental work performed but rather the education provided to children who have been raised with no regard (or instruction) for proper dental care. This part of the effort was guided by three people. Chris Roides led the “Tooth Brushing University”, assisted by Nick Kladitis, who was also in charge of fluoride treatments, and Nora Balderamos. Kladitis is a former flight attendant from Canada who spends a large part of his retirement working with the poorest of the poor in Peru. Besides helping with the “University”, Nora’s main task was to hand out toys and clothing to the children after their treatment and education were complete.

Despite being extremely ill for the first days of the mission, Roy Rojas was a vital member of the team. A former Cayman resident now back in his native Costa Rica, Roy set up equipment, then quickly fixed any equipment that broke down, assisted with tooth extractions, and also prepared meals for the team.

Balderamos said of the team leader, “Dr Bert’s patient demeanor under tremendous stress was wonderful and his dedication to ensuring these missions are successful is impressive. Vocational Service is a key Avenue of Service in Rotary, and Bert is a superb example of how to travel down this Avenue. Bert is not only committed to his patients, but also to promoting his vocation and training new dentists (as evidenced by his patient work instructing the two dental students on the 2010 team).”

He continued, “The team members all had a fantastic time, though they were exhausted by the end. Sixteen-hour days along with high altitudes, language barriers, and a lack of toilet seats, combined to wear everyone out. But each one of them would do it all again. The scenery, the fellowship, the connection with native Peruvians, and the sense of having accomplished something will not soon be forgotten.”

Dr Thacker has dreams of building a permanent clinic (or two) in Peru and there will be future announcements regarding fundraising initiatives toward that end.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Category: Local News

About the Author ()

Comments (3)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Anonymous says:

    Caymanians and Expats coming together to do something good. I get so tired of the negativity it is really nice to see us working together.

  2. Frank Balderamos says:

    Dear Anonymous,

    Both the George Hicks and John Gray High Schools have a dentist, along with a dental hygienist, visit the schools at least once per week, for cleanings and checkups.

    The children of Cayman are well provided for, with regard to dental care.


    Frank Balderamos


  3. Anonymous says:

    Admirable effort, but what about dental care to the children of Cayman?