Verber Family Dentistry is steeped in a rich tradition of service not only within our local community, but also abroad. Dr. Michael Verber and Extended Function Dental Assistant Melinda Whire have both traveled on missions to Haiti to donate services for patients who would otherwise lack dental care. This summer, Melinda will be returning to Haiti along with dental hygienist Ashley Byers. After Melinda’s first trip to Haiti in August 2013, she is happy to recount her experiences and share her story with us.
Sometimes in life we are greeted with an opportunity that promises to change us for the better. Such an occasion presented itself to me recently when my church decided to sponsor a mission trip to Haiti. This trip could not have come about at a more perfect time, since my husband and I had just made the decision to participate in mission work to help us grow both individually and spiritually. Although I had previously felt that our own country’s needs would negate the necessity to journey elsewhere for missions, I appreciated the fact that this was a chance to travel and learn about another culture. I also recognized that this was a chance to fulfill my own humanitarian obligations to the world. Little did I know that this trip would end up doing more for me than I would do for it!
We traveled with “Awaken Haiti”, a small, focused mission group devoted to serving the cities of Canaan and Port Au Prince. This young organization launched in 2010, and just last year they completed both a medical and a dental clinic. While the main focus of our team was to construct a home for a Haitian woman, I also had the opportunity to work in the dental clinic, due to my career and training as an Extended Function Dental Assistant.
The dental clinic consisted of one large room, occupied only by a single dental chair and very limited amount of counter space. The entire area was coated in a thick film of dust. Needless to say, this environment was a stark opposite to the clean, sterile office I am accustomed to at Verber Family Dentistry and the Verber Advanced Dental Institute. However, we were determined to make the most of the tools and space provided, so we fervently set about cleaning and setting up the clinic. Within an hour, the space felt more like a “real” dental operatory, and our first patients began to file in.
I had the honor of working side-by-side with Junior, a Haitian humanitarian dentist. Together, we examined the villager’s teeth, providing treatment and performing extractions when needed. As we went about out work, my curiosity was piqued by the fact that many of our patient’s teeth were tinted green. I had never seen anything like it in all of my years of dental experience! Thankfully, Junior was able to solve the mystery. He explained to me that almonds grow abundantly in Haiti. While these nuts are a rich source of protein and nutrients, they are encased in a thick green shell, which the people have learned to peel away with their teeth, coating them with grass-hued residue!
Prior to the experiences provided by this mission trip, I had been feeling extremely burned out by the daily grind of my life in the United States. I had forgotten that my job is really not about me, but it’s about caring for my patients and their needs. By serving the Haitian community, I have discovered true joy. I’ve realized that I am incredibly blessed to have the ability to serve my own community every single day. The Haitian people truly value their family, friends and community over everything else. It has been a humbling and endearing experience to observe these people in their daily lives and interactions. I only hope that I can use the experiences obtained from this incredible trip to grown in my own career and personal life, and to be inspired to help others as the Haitian community was able to help me.