In my last blog post I told the story of the origins of Project Stretch, Dentistry Reaching Out to Children. Since then Project Stretch celebrated its 30th Anniversary with a friendraising/fundraising Gala at the Framingham Country Club. Well over a hundred and fifty past volunteers, students, friends and family gathered to celebrate and fund our continued success. Our goal is to have Project Stretch continue to provide local and international outreach dental programs wherever needed.
We are currently in Teacapan, Mexico, a small fishing village with no access to dental care. Our team consists of two pediatric dentists from other locations in Mexico (one of whom brought her Spanish speaking dental assistant with her), three fourth year dental students from Boston University Goldman School of Dental Medicine, a bi-lingual operations manager, and me. Our team followed Team 1, co-led by another Dental Associates of Walpole Pediatric Dentist, Dr. Andrew Danberg-Ficarelli, with a similar makeup as Team 2. Team 1 examined and treated almost five hundred children during week one.
Allowing these teams to function are the many Canadian and American “Amigos de Teacapan”, who fundraise and provide much needed on the ground support, coordinating with local school directors for all children to come to the clinic every year for examinations and treatment as needed, toothbrushing instruction and fluoride treatments. Our hosts house all members of the teams free of charge, coordinate breakfast and lunch, (a wonderful variety of delicious Mexican fare) and volunteer as dental exam charters, chart organizers, fluoride appliers, technical support personnel, sterilization managers, broken equipment fixers, meal preparers, clinic maintainers, children herders, entertainers and at the end of each long day, refreshment makers.
This is the fifteenth year Project Stretch has had a program in Teacapan, starting first in the local schools and now in a two chair clinic. In our first two days this week we have seen many children who started with the program when they were four years old and most of them had no cavities! Sealants that were applied seven years ago have done the job of preventing cavities in the children’s molars and their increased knowledge of dental prevention has contributed to overall better dental health.
Project Stretch has been fortunate over the years to have a vast number of dedicated volunteers who all agree they derive at least as much reward as the dental care they are able to provide to children in need. Here’s to thirty more years of Project Stretch!
By Dr. John Ficarelli, D.M.D.