The surgical team is performing the last lip and palate repairs in the operating rooms today, and is taking pride in being able to treat every child that showed up, and was healthy enough to receive a safe surgery.

While this is going on, the rest of the team embarkeds upon another outreach mission today as we had an opportunity to visit a public school in the municipality of St. Barbara. Our local Rotaria, Rita Morales, has been taking care of this school for many years.  We traveled in a “chicken bus” – to find a large group of children and their teachers eagerly waiting for us as we arrived at noon (past their regular school hours).

I would say we are a well oiled and well prepared team now when it comes to these outreach missions: We tell the kids about why brushing their teeth is important. We have a song and booklets that everybody enjoys and while Cassie plays the ukulele we perform a little dance – we surely got the kids attention and they readily joined in. They hang on Paco’s every word as he is telling them about the “sugar bugs” that need to be brushed away regularly to keep the teeth white, and you can see how this tiny little bit of embellished is seared in their minds now.

The whole emphasis on dental health on our outreach missions originated from the frustration that the surgical team often had to grapple with.  They would frequently see children that were in urgent need of palate surgery, but because of the raging infection in the oral cavity were unable to have the surgery. This is because the healing after surgery would be heavily compromised and you typically have only one good chance to fix a palate. So in many cases the surgical and dental team had to pull all rotten teeth under general anesthesia and ask the parents to bring the child again in the following year to finally perform the palate repair.

Another aspect of dental health is flouride treatments for the teeth.  Shiny necklaces “fed two birds with one scone”, in that we were able to track who had already received the treatment and, the beads really made the kids happy!

In terms of the photo shoot, I tried a different approach today and handed the camera to a group of kids… as soon as they got the hang of it, it was clicking left and right, and we got some remarkable shots…

The experience of connecting with these children is a very unique one again – observing the peculiarities of how they approach you and how they desire to connect with you, truly teaches you more about your world. I get choked up again and again: Just this little boy who is fascinated with the camera, who hugs me again and again, insists to have a picture taken with me in front of our chicken bus.  The little girl Maria, who is fascinated with touching my wife, Amy’s blonde hair – you would like to pick them up them all and take them home with you.  While they are certainly relatively well off here at the Santa Barbara school, it does not take much to see how much more these highly agile and intelligent little beings would thrive if they would have access to more – more information, more intellectual stimuli, more care. —

One cannot help but realize how much your life’s possibilities are formed and/or stifled by the circumstances you find yourself born into. Yes, we all worked hard for what we have, and for where our kids are in life now, but there is a gigantic factor in which pure luck or fate  seems to come into play.

We conclude our day at the school handing out books, provided by Iowa MOST Rotarian donations, to the children.  Paco, in his inimitable way, read one aloud to them — it was about the dragons who like to eat tacos, in case you wonder…;-)


Should you be interested in supporting activities like this and making a difference in those kids lives, please consider a donation to the mission:


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