Colorado Springs father-daughter dentists Dick and Monica Dobbin, and granddaughter Sophia Bricker traveled to Guatemala with Global Dental Relief (GDR) to share their skills and big hearts to help children. For ten days in March, Dick and Monica volunteered as dentists and Sophia as a general volunteer, working to provide free dental care to children in need in schools located in the Mayan Highlands village of San Martin Jilotepeque.
The family members joined a diverse team of 18 volunteers – six dentists, two dental hygienists and ten non-dental volunteers – who traveled from eight states in the US, and Denmark. Over the course of six days, the team provided 705 children with much needed dental care and oral health education, valued at $202,840.
SERVING POOR CHILDREN
School children attending the clinic ranged in age from 5 to 16 years old. Each child received an initial examination, followed by a cleaning, restorations, and extractions as needed. At the end of their treatment, patients were given fluoride treatments, new toothbrushes, and oral health education to improve awareness and encourage continued tooth brushing habits.
Guatemala is a lower middle income country with rapidly rising inequality. This can leave rural families with limited, if any, access to affordable dental care. As a result, a small area of decay in a child’s mouth goes untreated until the tooth, or many teeth, are compromised. Without care, the child suffers from chronic pain and infection throughout his or her young life. Dental decay affects a child’s ability to eat properly, sleep at night, pay attention in school and to generally thrive.
MEMORABLE VOLUNTEER EXPERIENCE
For Dick, this was one of many trips he has taken with GDR in Guatemala and India. Monica volunteered in Nepal before starting dental school, while Sophia had her first experience volunteering abroad on this trip. “It’s nice to give back,” said Sophia. “I liked working with the little kids, and working with my mom and Grandpa was so special.”
Over the years, Monica witnessed her father having many volunteer experiences and wanted to share this special work with him, while helping her daughter see a developing country in a different way. “I want her to be grateful for what she has and to experience what it means to help other people,” said Monica.
Dick and Monica worked as dentists during the entire clinic, while Sophia assisted them chairside, performed oral hygiene education, and applied fluoride varnish. She also put her Spanish language skills to good use. Days were demanding as work was done under field conditions with portable dental units and simple field lighting. “I hoped that by volunteering with Sophia, she would gain a new appreciation for my abilities and could share in one of the best experiences of my life,” said Dick, who has also travelled with his other granddaughters.
It was a wonderful time for the family members, filled with special interactions and small gestures between children and volunteers, bridging generations and cultures. As they departed San Martin, the family knew that these Guatemalan children would receive ongoing care. GDR volunteers return to treat patient populations every two years to ensure continuous care throughout their school years.
ABOUT THE FAMILY
Dick Dobbin, DDS and Monica Dobbin, DDS work together at Monica Dobbin, DDS, LLC, dental office in Colorado Springs. Dick, a graduate of the University of Nebraska Dental School, has been practicing dentistry for more than 50 years. Monica, who attended dental school at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, is in her 20th year of practice. Sophia attends at Cheyenne Mountain High School and is an active swimmer. Drs. Monica and Richard Dobbin and Dr. Charles Sabadell may be reached at 719-473-5122 for more information or to schedule an appointment.