This summer I had the opportunity to be part of the Cedarville University School of Pharmacy trip to Honduras. I’d been hearing about the trip since I started at Cedarville three years ago and knew it was something I wanted to do. This was my
first mission trip out of the country as well as the first time I was part of a medically focused mission trip so I didn’t really know what to expect. Rather than trying to guess, I decided to set all expectations aside and simply wait and see what God would do.
Our hosts, Larry and Angie, have lived in Honduras for many years now. One of their daughters, who is now a nurse in the States, was born and raised in Honduras and traveled with us as a translator. While Larry and Angie are in the country as missionaries, they recognize that Scripture commands us to meet physical, as well as spiritual, needs. It was in this way that we came and worked alongside them, making our work part of something bigger and long-lasting.
The main focus of our team was visiting schools and providing fluoride treatments for the kids. We visited seven different schools and met kids ranging from kindergarten to about eighth grade. When we arrived at a school, a couple people would visit each classroom with a translator and use a crocodile puppet to teach the kids how to properly brush their teeth. They then handed out toothbrushes and toothpaste and sent the kids outside to the courtyard to brush.
Once they were done, the kids lined up and the rest of the team worked on pasting fluoride onto their teeth.
When I heard what, exactly, we were going to be doing, I couldn’t see how fluoride treatments could make much of a difference for the kids. Here in the States, it’s something we do more for cosmetics than health. But when I sat down across from a little boy with eyes wide, revealing how nervous he was and I saw the rotted teeth in his open mouth, I realized how much the little container of fluoride in my hand could help him. Not only were we helping him keep his teeth healthy, but we were also preventing the sickness that could come with rotten teeth.
One day that really stood out to me was the day we spent on the island. This island is just off the coast, a couple minute boat ride when the tide is in or a half hour walk when the tide is out. What sets these people apart is that the Spanish they speak is so full of slang that they basically have their own dialect. They have difficulty communicating with others which has secluded them almost entirely. This seclusion and language barrier has created several issues for them. Because they cannot communicate well, they have trouble selling the fish they catch, which is their main source of income. If they can’t sell their fish, they can’t buy any other food. Thus, they eat mostly fish which has led to the children being malnourished. When the kids first began arriving at the school for fluoride treatments, we thought they were all young. Eventually we learned that we could not judge their age bytheir size. It’s difficult for me to reconcile the image of those tiny bodies with the overindulgence I see daily in America
I have always been aware, in the back of my mind, how privileged I am and how many people don’t have that privilege and that has affected some of my decisions. But now I have names and faces and voices to constantly remind me that there are people who have a fraction of what I do and have a full life. Those beautiful children will always be on my mind, reminding me of one of the reasons I decided I want to be a pharmacist: so I can someday provide for them.