Central American Outreach dental team travels near and far in Honduras


SANTA ROSA de COPAN, Honduras – Because the dental team has portable equipment, we travel near and far while in Honduras on behalf of Central American Medical Outreach.

We can be on the road for anywhere from 30 minutes to 21⁄2 hours, and we end up in some pretty rustic villages.

A team recently visited the Honduran city to provide medical care. A team from the area usually goes to Honduras each February. The CAMO headquarters is in Orrville.

Traditionally, we go somewhere closer to Santa Rosa on Friday, and this year was no exception. It was an extremely foggy morning as the volunteers (three dentists and four hygienists/assistants) and our Honduran counterparts (seven dentists or dentists-in-training and two bilingual interpreters) climbed into our vehicles and headed out of town.

We seemed to be on the highways for just a few moments before we turned off the pavement onto a narrow dirt road. To our left was the local slaughterhouse where there were hundreds of vultures sitting on the roof ridge and large rocks that lined the open drainage ditch. Their presence was made all the more ominous by being shrouded in the thick fog.

Just past the slaughterhouse we started up a steep, bumpy dirt road, lucky enough to not meet any oncoming traffic. It seemed for every 100 feet we climbed, we went back a decade in time.

We wound down a rutted dirt and rock road that followed the narrow ridge, which to either side was lined with small adobe houses and ground dropping away into the white abyss. We drove past a small, newly painted church and a small school next to it. Most of the time we are in a schoolhouse, and as we passed, it crossed my mind we may have missed our destination.

I began wondering how our large truck was going to turn around. But further up the road we stopped next to a large, single-roomed building sitting on top a rocky incline above the road.

This building was the town’s community center and we had officially arrived in Rodeo (row-day-oh), Santa Rosa.

We asked the neighboring house if we could run an extension cord from one of their outlets since the community center had no electricity of its own. So through a window and across to the center of the room we plugged in our compressor and our clinic was up and running.

By Friday we’ve had lots of practice and our set-up time is down to only 30 minutes. We unload, unpack and turn an empty room into a fully operational dental clinic. And this town was well prepared for us.

They had trucked in lots of tables for our instruments and had plenty of folding chairs that the community residents could use while waiting to register and receive treatment. And how quickly they descended upon the team; as thick as the vultures below.

They came in all sizes– children in their school uniforms, clutching the written permission slips that had been signed by their mothers; old men leaving their horses tied up down the street; and young mothers holding small babies.

As a group we ended up seeing just under 140 patients, most apprehensive at first but all relieved at the end. As we shut down the clinic, repacked our truck and headed back down that rutted, single-lane road, the fog had lifted and we could see all of Santa Rosa below.

And though we were only a few miles from downtown, this was the most rustic village I had gone to in my 17 trips to Honduras — where besides the large number of free range chickens and pigs roaming the village streets, I have never before been in a place where the horses out-numbered the vehicles.

– Written by Mark Gustafson, D.D.S – CAMO Succession Committee Chair

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