If you were to stand at the door of our modest cement block facility and look into the distance, you would see miles and miles of hills and mountains, dirt roads winding their way through forests and across streams. Tucked away in this beauty, in communities with names like La Culata and Mata de Palma, live several thousand campesinos for whom subsistence farming is a way of life. These campesinos have few possessions; what they do have is a deep and inspiring faith and a commitment to serve one another. They take care of themselves and of each other. Forgotten by many, they have no access to quality medical or dental care. And for that they are desperate.
From our very first clinic trip, we decided we wanted to commit ourselves to this area, to Naranjito, and gradually to the people in the surrounding countryside. Initially once a year, and then twice a year for five years, and beginning in 2008, three times a year, our volunteers travel to Naranjito and staff our clinic. We have become the physicians and dentists for these simple but dignified and grateful people.
Our humble beginnings date to 1997, when one physician and one dentist, assisted by six high school students, attended to patients in the local chapel. Inside the dilapidated structure, bed sheets hung with clothes pins provided privacy for the medical patients, and the dental patients “reclined” in a rocking chair that was tipped back atop cement blocks. There was no electricity or running water.
Today our facility consists of three buildings, powered by a diesel generator and equipped with indoor plumbing . Our groups of volunteers typically number 40 – 50 (eight physicians, six to eight dentists, nurses, hygienists, dental technicians making dentures, and a cadre of other volunteers who interpret, assist, and work in our lab, intake and records areas and pharmacy. Our dental services are state-of-the-art and extensive, and our medical care benefits from the diagnostic tools and well-stocked pharmacy we have on-site.