The Tufts Student Hispanic Dental Association (SHDA) traveled to Haiti last April on the 14th Annual International Mission Trip to provide free dental care and oral hygiene education.
The group, consisting of 10 students, 11 dentists and four faculty members, spent five days in Port-au-Prince and the surrounding area. They treated nearly 1,200 dental patients in those five days, performing 687 cleanings, examinations, and fluoride treatments, 444 extractions and 69 restorations. The group also distributed material about oral health and preventative care. This was the third time the SHDA had traveled to Haiti for their Mission Trip.
“I knew it was an opportunity that I needed to take full advantage of,” said mission volunteer and student Temitope Maiyegun, D13. “When would be the next time I would get to go to Haiti, and more importantly would I get an opportunity to do what I absolutely love and adore – service on an international scale?”
The group was based in the Institute of Human and Community Development in Port-au-Prince, which operates as both a school and a refuge for impoverished urban youth. Local Port-au-Prince dentists provided some of the equipment and materials for procedures. The organization also worked for several days in the seaside town of Leogane, about 18 miles from the capital, in a church that was little more than a metal frame with a tin roof. Maiyegun said the 85 degree weather and oral health issues stemming from the lack of fluoridated water in Haiti made the work extremely challenging.
“Despite the prevalent oral health disparities, one thing I will always remember is how grateful the patients were to receive such care,” Maiyegun said. “The heartfelt, warm thank you’s made the days go by that much quicker, and made every moment that much more rewarding.”
Mission volunteer and SHDA treasurer Andrew Tonelli, D14, said that the sheer number of patients and the fast-paced work meant they weren’t truly able to reflect on their efforts until after the trip was over.
“The last day, we were done completely, and we were packing up our equipment. It was the first time we were able to take a breath of fresh air and reflect on what we did and where we were,” he said. “There were kids still hanging around, smiling at us. It was really nice to have that moment.”