Guatemala Service Brigade
by Steve McBride
Guatemala is picturesque, a mountainous region with lush green forests and live volcanoes. Unfortunately, the landscape socially is filled with chaos. A few months before our arrival the vice president stepped down amid allegations of defrauding the state out of millions of dollars. Currently, the ex-president is in jail, being ordered to stand trial for taking bribes and customs fraud.
With a very small middle class, there’s a huge disparity between the super wealthy and the majority of people who are extremely poor and lacking the most basic services.
Last month, I had the privilege to serve the people of Guatemala at the Medical Service Brigade where hundreds of people were bussed in from remote areas throughout the region to receive free medical services. Every person, people of all ages, who came for medical attention, were treated to a tooth brush, tooth paste and fluoride treatments. Being that most every person had never seen a toothbrush or toothpaste we took the time to give instructions and demonstrate the basics of dental hygiene. Before brushing their teeth, each person had to learn how to wash their hands with a bar of soap, again, for most, this was a first in their lives as well. Fortunately, there was a dentist and a dental assistant on site providing fillings and extractions to alleviate people who had lived with dental pain for years. One memorable moment was showing an elderly woman how to brush her teeth. Though many of her teeth were missing, she imitated me as I demonstrated proper brushing techniques as toothpaste ran down her chin. Have you ever laughed with a mouth full of toothpaste?
If you ever have the opportunity to take a few days off work and want to make a difference serving those less fortunate, you’ll be greatly rewarded with the joy that follows at the Medical Service Brigades that take place every six months throughout Central America.