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Dental hygiene students return from Peru

Feb 24, 2009
Eight students at Oregon Institute of Technology in La Grande returned from Peru on Valentine's Day after a 10-day excursion to provide dental hygiene services to Peruvians in need of dental care.
Amaya Zabala and a young patient in Peru
Amaya Zabala in Peru

Eight students at Oregon Institute of Technology in La Grande returned from Peru on Valentine's Day after a 10-day excursion to provide dental hygiene services to Peruvians in need of dental care. The students, who will soon graduate with associate degrees from OIT's dental hygiene program, visited South America to provide hygiene services to children and staff in the Posada de Amor orphanage in Cieneguilla, located near Lima.

In addition to treating orphans, the students provided services to community members, some of whom traveled for miles and waited for hours in the heat to receive treatment.

In all, 71 children and 131 adults received care.

Hygiene services performed included examinations, teeth cleanings, fluoride varnishes, sealant applications; training was also provided to the orphanage staff. The supervising dentist performed extractions and restorative care and dispensed antibiotics and pain medication. The team left behind additional supplies of toothbrushes and toothpaste. All together, the team donated $68,000 in-kind.

Dental hygiene students, orphans and orphanage staff gather outside the Posada de Amor orphanage in Cieneguilla, Peru
 Dental hygiene students Stand outside with staff and kids from Posada de Amor orphanage

The eight students were accompanied by Dr. Ed Stuedli, a dentist, and his wife Pauline Stuedli, a clinical instructor both of whom are dental hygiene faculty with the ODS Companies and are acquainted with the students. The Studelis have made 24 overseas trips of this nature; this was their first to Peru.

Pauline explained that Posada de Amor operates with private funds, largely supported by churches and philanthropic organizations in the United States. Orphans living in La Posada de Amor range in age from 2 to 19, are not adopted out, and are well-cared for and educated, with the goal of becoming self-supporting citizens upon maturity.

"We got attached to the kids. They were very well-mannered," said student Jessica Christensen.

In addition to providing oral hygiene services, the students also provided an opportunity for recreation. The students accompanied the orphans to a local park for a picnic and to swim in a chlorinated swimming pool. It took three trips by minivan to transport the children and dental hygiene crew-about 50 people in all-a feat that caused students to remark on the lack of traffic regulations in Peru.

Although the students paid for their own airfare, they collectively raised the $3,000 total needed to finance room, board and ground transportation costs through a spaghetti feed and silent auction, which they organized in only a few weeks' time. Students managed to get all of the supplies for the spaghetti feed and silent auction donated by local businesses and individuals.

The work didn't stop there, though- dental hygiene clinical supplies were needed, too; dentists in La Grande, Bend, Pendleton, Portland, Walllowa, Tri-Cities, Wash., and Reno, Nev., provided toothbrushes, toothpaste, disposable gloves, fluoride varnish, gauze, disinfectant, antibiotics, pain medication and many other supplies. Two portable dental units and four portable chairs as well as dental instruments also made the journey.
The team trained an orphanage staff member to apply fluoride varnish once a month. There was enough varnish left for such treatments for the next eight months or so, when another team visits from the Medford area.

After paying for necessary travel expenses, approximately $600 remained, which the students unanimously decided to donate to the orphanage to finance construction of an outdoor play structure, which will allow for a separate play area for the youngest orphans.

Student Amaya Zabala commented that the experience was a one in a million. "We cried when we left," she said.

About OIT's dental hygiene program in La Grande
The dental hygiene program is a partnership between OIT, Eastern Oregon University and the Oregon Dental Service companies. Students may complete pre-program and general education courses at Eastern Oregon University. Professional program courses are delivered by OIT both on campus and via distance education. Students practice in a clinical facility provided by ODS. Upon successful completion, students earn an Associate of Applied Science in Dental Hygiene degree awarded from Oregon Institute of Technology.

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