Image above: Volunteers spent a recent Saturday at St. Luke’s Church in Camillus, packing and preparing medical and hygiene supplies for the fourteenth Mission of Miracles. Volunteers will head to El Salvador on Saturday, January 28th, bringing these supplies–and a new piece of crucial dental equipment–with them. Photo by Jim O’Neill.
When was your last trip to the dentist? For many families living in our Companion Diocese of El Salvador, the annual visit of the Mission of Miracles medical team from Central New York is an opportunity to stay up-to-date on necessary dental care. But in El Salvador, the “dentist’s office” often looks a bit different.
When Mission of Miracles volunteers travel to El Salvador each year, they partner with the Diocese of El Salvador’s local mobile health care team. This team of Salvadoran health professionals includes physician and health program director Dr. Daniella Flamenco, and dentist Dr. Roberto Flores. Year-round, the local team travels to dozens of communities and serves patients in every region of El Salvador. Without permanent offices, they set up mobile clinics in churches and schools. Rugged, reliable, portable equipment is essential.
Bill Dawson, a member of Christ Church in Manlius, first started assisting the dental team on the 2015 Mission of Miracles. With other volunteers, he helped to sterilize implements, keep records, and distribute toothbrushes and supplies donated by Central New York parishes. A retired electrical engineer, he also discovered he could be especially useful repairing important medical equipment. But when one of the two portable dental kits began to fail, Dawson concluded that it was beyond repair—and a replacement was needed.
“To acquire a high quality unit,” Dawson recalled, “the local team in El Salvador would have to import one, which presents significant costs and logistics challenges.” So the Mission of Miracles team began to explore options to replace the broken unit. Dr. Gard Lorey, a Skaneateles dentist and long-time Mission volunteer, ultimately secured funding for the unit with a grant from the Skaneateles Rotary Club.
When volunteers with the fourteenth Mission of Miracles head to El Salvador this weekend, they will be transporting the new portable dental unit, which is valued at several thousand dollars. The unit, which travels in a wheeled case slightly larger than a typical suitcase, includes a vacuum unit for suction, as well as an air compressor and foot pedal controls to drive dental drills. When this year’s Mission wraps up, the local Salvadoran team will continue to use the unit—hopefully for years to come. “When you plant a seed you don’t know what might sprout from it,” says Dawson. “It has worked out well!”
More on the Mission of Miracles:
May 2, 2016: A Look at the 2016 Mission of Miracles
February 16, 2016: Video: The Thirteenth Medical Mission of Miracles
January 28, 2016: Mission of Miracles Team Prepares for 13th Medical Mission