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A different student ritual
The students of the Iguanaisy, Achutupu, Guna Yala school enjoy a special distinction. How many others can mark the opening of their school year with a visit to the dentist?.. or more correctly from the dentist. There are no dental services on this offshore community with a 2000 population including 600 grade school kids and their siblings.
The odontologists in question are all volunteer practitioners coming from the United States. They have been returning to this Caribbean island every March for the last decade, bringing much needed care not to mention welcome relief. It is also a time for renewing friendships and sharing warm greetings. This year was no exception.
It all started when visiting US dental practitioner Dr Chris Burseth and wife Patty first saw a need and became driven by a desire to help. Within a year, in collaboration with Fundacion Uaguitupu’s Mariela De La Ossa de Walker and health ministries, the first team from Minnesota and Illinois (Mission Save a Smile) began what is now their regular annual program.
For a week, students troop from classes to the wooden, palm-thatched structure and tent to receive attention There is also a room in the crowded, small government clinic – one time a morning surprise included space- sharing with a newly- born overnight arrival.
At present, the team is concentrating on the student population, but wishes to be able to attend to more adults, too. Are there any volunteers out there who would like to join in a mission or help initiate a supplemental mid-year program?
Achutupu is just a 50 minute flight from Albrook and a few minutes by panga from the local airstrip. Dr Burseth can be reached via :(507) 395-6861 cel.60700964