Monday, July 19, 2010

Transforming Smiles in Bolivia

Part of a dental team from Highrock Church in Arlington, MA, Hubert Park, Tony Chyn, and Dr. Joe Lee spent the first week of July in Bolivia working to clean teeth, fill cavities, and overall to improve the smiles of many boys and girls at Kaya. While the team witnessed how a simple dental procedure could boost the confidence of a young boy, they experienced so much more.

A Bolivia Reflection by Hubert Park

One week flew by. Everyone on the team kept saying "it was more than what we had expected". It was more than just a humanitarian trip from which you come back elated, but that chapter (or page) of the book is finished and you move on. It was more than just treating the teeth of these children. It was more than just going overseas and experiencing being in another culture. We witnessed the reality of children given another chance to live the kind of life they deserve to live and the space in their heart that used to be filled with fear and despair of being out on the streets now being replaced with hope and love. Beyond the cultural and language barriers and time limitations, there was a mutual exchange of appreciation between the team members and the children at Kaya -- one thanking the other for the dental treatments while the other was genuinely and profoundly moved by the brightness of the spirit they displayed.

We also had special moments amongst the team members ourselves. The beauty of the team this year was the breadth of different generations represented, from budding, youthful high school students to a parent and overseer of the church. We had wonderful discussions and "pillow talks", ranging from very serious ones to ones we could not stop laughing. It was the perfect way to end the long, hard days of work.

On the personal level, I was humbled. Humbled by the maturity all of the children possessed and by the amazing work Chi and Kristin have been doing in all of these children's lives. One afternoon Tony and I had the chance to talk with the older kids in the waiting room outside of the dental clinic. Some of them had known Chi for five years, eight years, even eleven years!
We thank Kaya and everyone who's supported us to have this experience. We hope to return perhaps next year, we'll just have to work on our Spanish a little more next time =)

Dental Days by Tony Chyn

Logistics appetizer
The work at the dental clinic has been nonstop to meet the needs among the Kaya children. Each day begins at 9 and ends at 7. We have about 8-10 children/adolescents that have one appointment in the morning and one in the afternoon. In the morning we rent a space in a local hospital. There we do examinations and cleanings and plan for work we will do later on. In the afternoon we rent out a dental clinic where the more invasive procedures take place. We are providing care as well as teaching preventative measures to protect their teeth. The majority of the children have fair to poor dental hygiene and many have problems that required more than we were able to give. Many suffer regular pain, gum disease and rotting teeth. Our hope and prayer is that we can enable Kaya to provide dental services that can act as preventative measures for protecting these children's teeth.

Highlights main course if appetizers aren't your thing
Amidst our busy schedule, there are still too many highlights to speak of here. The native people that we've encountered in our work have been a gift from God. Our translator Marti is great, and also Andrea and Ursula, two folks we work with in the clinics, have just been amazing to work with also. Not only do we work well together but we have shared tons of laughs (most of them at my expense).

Our shared joy opened up some really great dialogue. Today we talked at length about Kaya and some of its history as well as the work they have been engaging in. An impression was made, and Marti has already been inquiring about ways she could help Kaya long term as a volunteer.

Simple dental work has also made an impression. Julio had some decay in his front teeth and quietly asked if it could be fixed. We all shared in his excitement 20 minutes later when there were as good as new thanks to tooth colored fillings. Today, Henry missed the morning exam and cleaning and came late to the afternoon clinic hoping to get an appointment. Our dentist working at the clinic was able to stay so we ushered him in. After the work was done, we showed him the final product. The gratitude on his face was unforgettable, rewarding and beyond describable words. Though we ended up being late to dinner, all of us were thankful for the experience.

Personal Note dessert if that's what you want
The feeling of privilege to be here and participate in this cannot be overstated. I am jealous of these people we call Bolivians. They are the second poorest nation in the world but many of them have a joy I do not have the right currency to buy. People here greet with a little cheek kiss (its so cool) and their warmth and welcoming spirits are truly touching. When I get back to the states that's what I want to take with me. I hope that I will have the resilience to experience the joys that God has provided, regardless of the circumstances.

"First shall be last and last shall be first." It's been an honor to rub elbows with the princes and kings of our next life. Those that this world have dismissed and society brushed aside, will be reminded by our Lord that they were never once forgotten for eternity.

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