This is a summary of the development of our dental program in the provinces of Guayquil and Manabi, Ecuador. It is also a shining example of our principles in action. It began with one person caring enough to speak out, and blossomed into an entire program, that has now established five dental clinics in rural Ecuador.
Joan Hayden, a volunteer dental hygienist from Chicago, was on our Mission Trip in 1998. She was shocked to find a high occurrence of tooth rot in the infants she was examining. Eventually, she discovered that parents were using sugar cane milk to nurse their children. The high sugar content was rotting their teeth. Joan couldn’t keep quiet. She began to teach the parents basic dental hygiene.
This discovery and Joan’s efforts led us to expand our efforts in dentistry. We began bringing more dental volunteers and focusing more on education. More dentists came on board and more dentists were being moved by what they experienced in the villages. In 2008, Dr. Maria Gracias donated the first dental chair to establish a clinic in the tiny village known as Kilometer 26. This chair was later relocated to the School of Dentistry at the University of Milagro, where students help many people for low costs (including the villagers of Kilometer 26).
Building on this start, in 2010, Dr. Jeff Kapp donated five dental chairs to Causes. But, now there was a problem. How do you get five dental chairs through customs? With the gracious support of the Imani and Maanaki Foundations we were able to raise the funds to get the chairs into the country.
Initially, the intention was to create a mobile clinic that could drive to the remote areas of Ecuador. But after the equipment arrived safely in Ecuador, we realized that this idea would be far too expensive to make a reality. Instead, we decided to divide the chairs among several communities and with the help of the local government, establish fixed location clinics. In keeping with our core values, we thought it best to establish facilities that would be self-sufficient and rely community involvement.
The first clinic was founded in the village of Ayampe. The village pulled together to make it a reality. At a town hall meeting, the community approved the accessible blueprint, as donated by a local architect, Mr. Daniel Zea . A local donor volunteered the land, and the workers of the village committed time and labor to make the bricks need to construct the clinic.
The clinic was built, but the community wasn’t done yet. Within the year, Ayampe had expanded the clinic into two more rooms, one dedicated to physical and massage therapy, and the other devoted to an obstetrician.
Within the same time period, approval was granted by the local government to begin the development of clinics in Jama, Bahia, Colorado and Guayquil. In Colorado, the clinic will be located on the grounds of a school and service nearly 400 children that would otherwise be without dental care. In Guayquil, the clinic will work in coordination with the University of Milagro’s School of Dentristry. The clinic will serve low-income families in the region of Alborada within Guayquil. Students will work in the clinic to complete their senior year.
Causes for Change is working with it’s sister charity in Ecuador, Causas para el Cambio, to greatly expand the project. We are currently in negotiations with the Vice Prefecta of Guayas to allow us access to many more cities and towns.
Five dental clinics will soon be operational in Ecuador, serving low income and low access communities. In Guayquil the students will shadow dental and health professional that will volunteer to provide on the job training. A mobile dental unit was donated Illinois Masonic Hospital in June of 2011 and is under repairs to make it fully functional.
All it took was one person caring enough to speak out. This small act of kindness has taken root and grown into a thriving project. And it’s still growing. Who knows what will come next? Our Dental Clinics project, we are proud to say, is truly causing real and lasting change in Ecuador. If you would like to support the Dental Clinics project in any way, please go to the Donate or Volunteer pages, or Contact Us to find out how you can help.