Local dentist visits four villages in Mexico to provide dental care
Receiving dental care while spread across a table or plastic chair wasn’t an usual occurrence during a group of Schenectady based dentists’ trip to Mexican villages.
Local dentists Dr. Barry Loffredo and Dr. Donald DeLuke for the third consecutive year left their Schenectady practices to travel to the State of Guerrero, Mexico to provide dental services for residents in four different villages. Other members of the group were Dr. Anthony Maiello, Cynthia Coletti, Meagan Orologio, John Manning, and Rasonia Squire. St. Helen’s Church and Lady of Fatima Church sponsored the trip, which are in a sister parish relationship with the Church of San Agustin.
The communities the group visited were much different than the modern conveniences found locally, which can leave you being thankful for the things you normally enjoy without much thought.
I come home and instead of wishing I had a BMW and my kids went to Harvard, I come back just saying, ‘Thank you lord, life is great here,’ said Loffredo. `I couldn’t wait to come home and my favorite when I take a hot shower I am grateful for that. It is something the rest of us just take for granted.`
The theme for Loffredo this year on the trip was enrichment through breaking barriers and how much someone can gain from taking a step outside their normal routine or cultural surroundings.
`I can’t help but think your life is enriched when you break barriers,` said Loffredo. `When you go down and you are working on people with a whole different cultural background and helping them, you are breaking a cultural barrier. I come back so refreshed and invigorated from going I can’t help but think that is enrichment.`
The group arrived in Mexico on Saturday, Jan. 29, and then spent the following four days providing dental services before departing on Thursday, Feb. 3 at Acapulco’s airport. A total of 131 people were seen for tooth extractions and 96 people received teeth cleanings. Dental Hygienist Meagan Orologio also met with over 700 school children and their mothers to provide information on appropriate oral hygiene and toothbrushes were passed out to help promote dental care.
`Imagine having your mouth full of two or three rotting teeth and no way to get rid of them,` said Helen Moon of Our Lady Fatima Church. `It just seems like a wonderful way to help people that might be in pain and don’t have another way to get this kind of help.`
Since Loffredo has done similar volunteer work for over 20 years, Moon said when he heard about this he was eager to help out.
During the trip the group traveled over 600 miles on often unpaved roads through mountainous regions, which sometimes had them driving through streams and other tough terrain. Besides the travel conditions there are some other difficulties to overcome.
`When we get there the language barrier is a problem,` said Loffredo.
Father Massimo Segu assists the group with translation between the Spanish-speaking citizens and Loffredo said he created a translation page including key phrases to know while working, such as open mouth and close mouth. When the group deals with rural Mixtecos, descendents of the Mayan Indians, that barrier increases because they speak their own language.
`When we are working with the Mixtecos I’ve learned two words, but after that we can get by with gestures.`
Getting equipment into Mexico can also be another problem.
Two years ago, Loffredo and DeLuke brought down $20,000 worth of their own equipment to Mexico, but customs confiscated it and refused to give the equipment back to them. Ultimately they got the equipment back due to DeLuke’s persistence said Loffredo.
`This year we managed to have all the right papers,` said Loffredo. `We left all the equipment down there, so all we have to do is buy supplies. We could bring supplies, but it is cheaper to purchase them in Mexico.`
Since the church funds the supplies used during the trip they request the dentists to give a presentation to parish members about the experience. Next year’s trip is already in the works too due to the amount of planning that needs to happen.
Loffredo also said the group needs a translator to come on the trip next January, because Segu will not be able to attend since he’s going to Rome to study. Anyone interested in being the translator should know Spanish fluently and can contact Loffredo at his dental office at 346-4111.
The presentation of the trip will be on Monday, Feb. 28, at 7 p.m. in the community room of Our Lady of Fatima Church, which is on 2216 Rosa Road, Schenectady, and members of the public are welcomed to attend.