*This story was featured in the Hastings Tribune on July 7, 2016.
After years of classroom practice, four graduates of Central Community College-Hastings and their instructor traveled to Haiti and recently spent a week providing dental services to those in need.
During the May 23 to June 1 trip, the group also partnered with Mission II Haiti, a nonprofit organization in Kearney, to install water wells in Cap-Haitien.
“Our main focus certainly was the dental portion, which was seeing patients and applying dental sealants,” said Kim Danehey-Nibbe, a clinic assistant at CCC-Hastings.
The group of students consisted of Kayla Keep of Hastings, Chelsi Anderson of Brush, Colorado, Michaella Beck of Gregory, South Dakota, and Hannah Fleecs of Sutherland.
The trip allowed the graduates a chance to put what they had learned into action.
“It was a nice experience,” Keep said. “It was something I had never done before, so it was really nice to share the skills I learned in school to people who don’t have access to care like that.”
The trip was proposed last fall with 10 students interested at first, but, over time, the group dwindled to four.
After firmly selecting a date, Danehey-Nibbe explored grant options to help cover the cost of the trip. A month before the trip, the group was awarded what’s called a mini grant opportunity through CCC, which covered about 90 percent of the costs for the trip.
After arriving in Cap-Haitien, the students began seeing patients and giving dental treatments. In total, they saw 135 patients and applied 1,372 sealants.
The students worked in impoverished neighborhoods and lacked an office or traditional work setting.
“The first place we went was a local church,” Keep said. “It was super hot and we were drenched in sweat. It was different because we were used to being inside and basically we only had the lights on our glasses and kids were sitting on the ground. But, to be honest, as we were working, we were so focused on the kids that we didn’t even notice.”
The heat and limited lighting weren’t the only workplace complications.
“At one of the orphanages, we had chickens and cats around our feet,” Danehey-Nibbe said.
Along with providing basic dental care, the students distributed toothbrushes and toothpaste and educated the locals on the importance of dental care. They also conducted dental assessments, which wasn’t unlike what they did as part of their education at CCC-Hastings.
“They counted the total number of teeth, counted how many were decayed, counted how many were missing and how many were filled, so we could do statistics,” Danehey-Nibbe said. “They were used to doing that here (at CCC).”
Despite the lack of dental education and dental care treatment, records indicate that the number of dental problems in Haiti were similar to that of children in the United States.
When they weren’t providing dental care, the group was installing water wells throughout villages in Cap-Haitien. The water well installation process involved digging the wells, putting casing in the wells and applying pump heads to the wells.
The surrounding communities were thankful of the group’s willingness to help provide more accessible sources of water.
“They were very appreciative, especially of the wells. They were having to travel so much farther just to get water — drinking water and cooking water,” Danehey-Nibbe said.
Overall, Keep enjoyed the experience and felt the trip impacted her as much as it did the people they helped.
“Overall, my favorite part was going to know a different culture that I wasn’t used to,” she said. “That was good for myself, just to see how other people live and to be accustomed to another culture. I wish we could’ve helped more, but I think it made a difference in their lives.”