Beyond Borders: Guatemala 2018

Day 1: Community 

Dr. Keiko Wada is back in Peronia, Guatemala for her fifth consecutive year to help the impoverished suburb of Guatemala city by providing expert dental care with a nominal fee for the residents. Here to also help provide for the community is Dr. Wada’s assistant Jeni Fulford, who is now contributing her time and expertise for her third year, as well as Brian Fulford, who is an electrician in the States and is putting those skills to good use by helping restore the well-used Peronia clinic. The major change this year is that Dr. Wada is now an ambassador for Open Wide Foundation, and she will be taking part in deciding the future for the now fully self-sufficient Peronia clinic. Now with the first day done of handing out food and clothing donations from back home and restoring smiles for the people of Peronia we prepare for another long but fulfilling day in Guatemala. 

Day 2: Smiles

The second day in the Peronia clinic in Guatemala started off by finishing treatment plans made the previous day and getting people the help they need as efficiently as possible. Dr. Wada and her assistant Jeni Fulford started off the day by helping restore the decayed teeth of a very grateful patient from the day before, who left with a brand new smile. Aspiring dental student, Erin Mullowney, has been getting her hands wet in dentistry by assisting, learning to take photographs of teeth and consoling young and old fearful dental patients. She has been a great new addition to Dr. Wada’s team this week from taking the initiative to assist dentists to painting nails of young kids waiting for their appointment.  Erin has brightened smiles for all the Peronia patients as well as all of us working at the clinic. While the Opalesque dental team was with the patients, Brian Fulford helped restore the Peronia clinic itself by sharing his knowledge of electricity and carpentry to repair many of the problems at the clinic. He has made the clinic a safer place by repairing security lighting, broken doors and non-functioning lights in bathrooms and offices. 

Our contributions have been returned by such grateful staff and patients.  We are thankful for the donations of clothes and money by friends and colleagues at home in Washington that have enhanced the smiles of these very special people here in Guatemala. Off to bed to rest up for another meaningful day at the Peronia dental clinic.

Day 3-5: Highlights

Even though most Guatemalans were in the middle of celebrating the Easter holiday, our last day at the dental clinic was packed with patients of all ages that walked, biked or took public transportation to wait for treatment.  Over the last 4 years I and my team have volunteered at the clinic, it has become a very reputable and busy dental clinic. I have watched the transformation of the dental clinic move towards local sustainability with the advancement of the local full time dentists, administration and dental team.

Peronia lies within the borders of Guatemala city and is one of the poorest communities. Unfortunately, crime rates and violence are high in Peronia so everyday we were escorted by the police to get to the dental clinic. Once at the clinic, armed guards patrols the vicinity 24 hours. The bright side of this reality is that the dental clinic has never been vandalized in most part because of the gift it has been for the community and other surrounding areas of Guatemala city. The truth is that the dental clinic is protected by the local people. It has become a place that takes care of the dental health of the people and supports careers for local dental professionals and their team. It is now a fully self sustained dental clinic that provides efficient, quality dental care for individuals of all ages in need, a learning/training center for rotating Guatemalan dental students and career/job opportunities for local dentists and staff.

My role at the Peronia dental clinic has become focused on sharing my passion for creating esthetic anterior restorations within the confines of limited expenses and to innovate restorations that are long term for badly broken down anterior and posterior teeth. I have spent the last 3 years rehabilitating badly decayed teeth with esthetic bonded restorations and this year I implemented a technique to directly fabricate posterior crowns without a laboratory cost.

Not only am I passionate about my dental contributions, but I am also passionate about recycling almost brand new clothing to the patients seen at the clinic.  My dental community and personal friends in Gig Harbor, Washington have supplied me with suitcases full of clothes for all ages. There is never a piece of clothing left at the Peronia dental clinic when I leave.  This year we also asked for a small financial donation to purchase non perishable food items and sundries for the Guatemalans. We were surprised and grateful for the generous financial donations we were given, but not as appreciative as the people from Peronia. The most coveted item was the boxes of milk we purchased. Milk is such an expensive item that it is purchased as powder milk.

The gifts given by those here in my local community of Gig Harbor that I have the great opportunity to provide to those in Peronia, Guatemala remind me everyday how meaningful it is to be kind, respectful, caring and giving in as many ways we can to everyone, anywhere, anytime.

THANK YOU to everyone for caring.

Dr. Keiko Wada


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