My Trip to Ghana .... My Eyes Were Opened!
Will French, who traveled two times to Ghana with Montana Dental Outreach Teams, submitted the inspiring post below. For me, Mama Lee Lee, it is so much fun to spend time with Will! He enjoys everything and always has his camera handy to capture every colorful / cultural moment. Thank You, Will! You are going to be a wonderful doctor!
Falling market prices, rising production costs, and the ever-unpredictable Mother Nature. In my rural farming community, agriculturalists like myself wrestle with these challenges each year. Unfortunately, I found these difficulties—in addition to those of a college student—absorbed much of my attention. I donned blinders, focusing on the problems directly ahead of me, but often ignorant of the challenges those around me faced. My trips with Montana Dental Outreach Teams helped strip me of those blinders. I could say the proverbial line “my eyes were opened,” but it falls short of describing the impact the community of Ghana had on me. It was my heart that was opened—rent in such a way that permanently altered how I view the world. The once seemingly-distant problems of third-world countries, I now see as challenges facing my global family. Despite fluctuating markets, farming expenses and droughts, never has my access to clean water and education been jeopardized. I have always had food to eat when hungry, a doctor to see when sick, and well-built housing to shelter me from the elements. Less tangible things like my future—although filled with many uncertainties—have always seemed bright and hopeful. The citizens of rural Ghana are deprived of such luxuries: clean water is often miles away; only the fortunate receive an education; malnutrition is abundant; there is little access to medical and dental care; large families cram into tiny mud-and-stick huts; children with disabilities are frequently killed; mothers live in fear of being accused of witchcraft, ripped from their families and isolated from their communities. Perhaps the saddest part of all is that few resources exist to improve their condition, often leaving futures bleak. Their unfortunate station struck me most on my first trip when I taught an elderly gentleman how to brush his teeth—he had never owned a toothbrush before. Thankfully, people like Sr. Stan, Dr. Robert Thomas Bartoletti, Mama Lee, and many loving volunteers exist who are working diligently to improve the community in a variety of capacities. Their dedication has not only inspired me, it has shaped how I envision my future practice—one that will undoubtedly involve serving disadvantaged areas abroad in addition to practicing in rural Montana. As a student hoping to one-day practice medicine, my time in Ghana has had a unique impact. I quickly realized how imperative access to healthcare was for impoverished communities and how providing such services could radically change people’s lives. For citizens of rural Ghana, easily treated complications like abscessed teeth severely diminish quality of life and can lead to death. Montana Dental Outreach Teams, of which I was a part of, sought to improve this aspect by providing free dental care. The changes facilitated by these dental interventions were immediate and concrete. People who were previously unable to chew food because of tooth pain could do so once more, dramatically improving their nutrition and health. Children living with the embarrassment of tooth staining were given confidence after a thorough cleaning. Because of extreme calculus buildup, many risked losing their teeth—a problem remedied by plaque removal. Others living with infections—who had become unable to work because of their deteriorating health—were treated with antibiotics, extending their life and improving their wellbeing. After witnessing these little miracles and innumerable others not mentioned, I have never been more motivated to enter the medical field. I strongly encourage anyone considering a dental or medical profession to travel with Montana Dental Outreach Teams—it is worth it, and it will change your life. The title of this website, “Our African Family,” could not be more appropriate. Although I have only traveled to Ghana twice with Montana Dental Outreach Teams, its’ citizens have quickly claimed a large piece of my heart. Their hospitality, kindness, gratefulness, and generosity touched me more than I could possibly put into words. I now think of them as family. I traveled to Ghana thinking I could serve the community, but they have given me so much more—transforming me in a most beautiful, lasting way. https://www.ourafricanfamily.org/contact-us
For additional information about Montana Dental Outreach teams, visit their website.