I spent the first day in the village with the medical team. We set up a clinic that included a triage where we took vitals and a chief complaint, three exam rooms, and a small pharmacy. My role this day consisted mostly of painting the fingernails of the little girls and teaching basic toothbrushing skills.
The next two days I spent with the dental team. These days were much more intense and difficult. With the help of a translator I did exams and then gave the injections to numb their mouth for the dentists. We did only fillings and extractions. It was emotionally and physically hard. The Peruvians were stoic but at any given moment there were children screaming and crying. The line went on and on and we had to eventually turn people away.
This girl was especially nervous, but her mother said her tooth had been hurting for over a year. I had to coax her through the entire procedure and by the end I felt like we had accomplished something major together.
All my life I have been taught that by serving others you learn to love them. Now I can testify that to be an undeniable truth. I do not speak Spanish well, and many of our patients only spoke Ketchua. But the look of gratitude in their eyes endeared them to me forever.
I don’t know if I will ever have another opportunity to provide service in another country to people so different from myself. But I believe the principle applies everywhere. My dad always taught me, True happiness comes not from the way others treat us, but from the way we treat others. And when I got there, in that moment when I was thinking entirely about the well-being of these people, one at a time, it felt wonderful.