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Making an Impact Around the World One Beautiful Smile at a Time

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It’s easy to get caught up just living that we don’t realize how privileged we are to have all that we do. So many times we take basic needs for granted without considering that in some other parts of the world those needs are considered luxuries that so many go without.
Jan Domanski, a local dental hygienist and therapist with Aspire Dental Centre (ADC), has not only come to realize this, but has joined a team in order to help.
For the last three years, Domanski and approximately 20 others give back with the Kindness In Action (KIA) organization, participating in annual missions to provide dental care to those less fortunate.
“Our team has been together for awhile now and we work really well together,” said Domanski. “We have dentists, hygienist, myself, and people with no dental experience.”
Each volunteer is shipped supplies such as filling requirements, scalers, anesthetic, gloves, bibs, duct tape, and any other things they may need. Medications, such as Amoxicillin and Tylenol are also brought to the site in case of abscess or to prevent infections.
“It’s the bare minimum equipment,” said Domanski. “You don’t have a dental chair and there’s no overhead lighting. We use whatever table we can find and head lamps. There’s no access to x-rays so it’s all visual assessment. You never know what you’re going to be up against. In one place, our extraction site was outside under the trees.
“We start up a triage as soon as we get to the site. From there, the patients are separated by extractions, fillings, and cleanings.
“We try to fill a tooth, whenever possible, over pulling it but we have to take into consideration that when we leave there’s no one there to look after them so, if the tooth would bother them down the road, we would have to pull it.”
Most of the patients Domanski has seen have no previous dental experience and even though there’s a language barrier, they all remain appreciative of the help they receive.
“I usually have an interpreter with me because I have the children,” said Domanski. “Some of them have been as young as three so even though they were nervous and scared, they never put up any kind of fuss. They know that if people are coming in, they are there to take care of them.”
The weather is also a factor in the difficulty of the job as the temperatures reach limits they are not accustomed to.
“It doesn’t matter how much water you drink or how many hydration salts you put in your water,” said Domanski, noting that there was even a time she’d passed out due to dehydration and exhaustion and had to be removed from the clinic for a day to recover. “You don’t understand how hot it is until you’re there.”
KIA was first introduced to Domanski after ADC owner Dr. Gurinder Kler returned from his trip with the organization in 2015.
“Dr. Kler went with KIA to the Amazon,” said Domanski. “When he came back, he mentioned that they may go to Cambodia next. We marked down who in our office would be interested and when it was finalized, the team leader decided, because I work with children, I would be one to go for sure.”
Domanski and her team travelled to Cambodia for a two week stay in January 2016. Setting up clinics in five different areas including a monk temple and orphanages. The conditions were less than ideal.
“We had a room with bunk beds,” said Domanski. “They were like sleeping on rocks. There was the odd shower but there was no privacy and you just poured a bucket of water on top of you. The bathrooms were just a hole in the ground.”
Despite the accommodations, the team worked tirelessly to help as many people as they could in the time they were there. Some of these people would remain special in Domanski’s memory.
“There was a child that stood out,” she said. “He had really bad front teeth and the look on his face when we fixed them all up was priceless. It was like he won the lottery.
“After that two weeks I didn’t think I would go back, it was extremely hard work.”
A few months after returning to Canada, Domanski received an email from the team leader asking if she would return for the next humanitarian trip.
“I remember thinking yes, I am interested, but I don’t know if I want to,” she said.“But, I’m so glad I did.”
In April, 2017, Domanski and her team travelled to Peru. This time, the stay was only one week.
“We stayed in a church on bunk beds and we did our clinic underneath,” she said. “It was easier being there and not having to unload all the time.
“We would start at about 8 a.m. and go until 5 p.m.. People would be lined up before we even opened the door.”
Being able to see roughly 100 people a day, the KIA team was able to bring help to a whole lot of people in need of it.
“We had one family that walked for six hours just to come see us,” she said. “It was important to them to get there and get what they could done because this might be their only chance.”
Domanski’s latest trip, to Nicaragua, in March of this year, also lasted a week but this time they performed their clinic in a private school.
“It wasn’t what we would consider a private school here,” she said. “They didn’t have a chalk board or anything that even a normal school would have here.”
Recently returning back to Canada, Domanski sees a future of returning even more.
“I just keep going back,” she said. “I don’t know if it will be next year. It gets costly. You’re not only paying to go but you’re losing wages while you’re gone too. But, there’s no money that can buy your experience.”
At the end of the day, it’s the patients that keep Domanski returning and working through difficult conditions.
“All they can really give you is a hug,” she said. “But, in my experience, it means so much more than anything material. It’s more genuine.
“You can’t help but have it change you. The people who have been a part of this team choose to go back because they’ve all been affected by the humanity. It’s a way to give back without expecting anything in return.”
When Domanski and her team return to Canada, the patients they see have the best souvenirs to remember them by. Not only does the team bring little toys and gifts with them, they have a smile to last a lifetime.
“It’s just amazing,” she concluded. “You’d think they had the whole world by the tail. They’re just happy even though they have nothing.”

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Jakki Lumax
REPORTER
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