Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Dental team in action: Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

     This photo will serve to express our deepest gratitude to all the Rotary Clubs and individual benefactors who generously provided the funding through ICO ( to acquire the digital X-ray system. This includes the portable NOMAD X-ray device, intra oral sensors for picking up the image, and the laptop for displaying the pictures and recording/storing the data. Since 40% of our service involves surgery, we can now confidently "see" the procedure, whereas before, we were going in blind. Both Maria (our angelic CDA) and I are truly overwhelmed with gratitude for this essential diagnostic tool.
     We began our clinics in the poor aldea of La Cruz in San Lucas Toliman, traveling daily by lancha (boat) from our home base in San Antonio Palopo. We were fortunate to have the assistance of a local university grad, Felix, who is also assisting in the many Rotary sponsored projects. It is so critical to have a local person who can speak both Spanish and Kakchiquel (a Mayan dialect), as many of our patients do not speak Spanish. We then transferred the clinic in all it's tubs and boxes by lancha across the lake to the north shore to the small village of Jaibalito. This village has no road access, but has a small and very active "gringo" population providing leadership in health care. Here we were assisted by 15-year-old "Pedro" whose enthusiasm was exemplary.  We then moved the clinic by lancha back to the east shore and San Antonio Palopo where we have just completed a 2-week clinic. Here we were blessed with the capable assistance of a local woman, "Olivia". It must be commented that our paid assistants are thrilled to have an opportunity to give back to their own indigenous community and do so with pride.
     Today we move the clinic once again, this time by "picop" (pick up truck}, the preferred mode of transport on the east shore which enjoys the luxury of a paved road to Panajachel. We will then set up the clinic in Santa Catarina Palopo for the coming 2 weeks. We will be joined by another CDA, Vicki Calder (her husband is a Rotarian) as Maria returns to Canada.
     There are many "Island Rotarians" here in Guatemala involved in a variety of projects;  we are all traveling to Antigua this weekend to attend the annual Central American Rotary Project Fair. There will be Rotarians from Guatemala and all the way to Panama in attendance to present projects on Health, Water and Education. We have been working non-stop for almost a month now and are looking forward to the fellowship at the Project Fair, and the opportunity to share with other compassionate Rotarians our various services.
     Blessings to all who have provided the support to make this amazing opportunity possible to be of "service above self".

Dr. John and Maria
And if you're wondering how the dental team makes its way around the lake, here's a clue.


  1. Hang on there, John. That lake can get outrageously wild. Thanks to you and Maria and the team who are doing so much for the health of the Mayan people around Lake Atitlan.

  2. Hey John - thanks for all you and your team are doing to improve the lives of the Mayan people. Truly Service above Self - not that I would expect anything less! Well done and keep yourself well!

  3. Peter JohannknechtJanuary 29, 2014 at 5:57 PM

    Hi John, this is indeed an impressive service and it makes us Rotarians proud to follow your trip step by step to help others who are in need. According to the smile on your face you also have a good time. Excellent job and I'm looking forward to more stories. Stay safe!

  4. Thrilled to hear of your adventures; very pleased that our club is a small part of your success with the dental work. I venture to say you are enjoying your time. Keep safe

  5. Holy John and Vickie! Oak looking forward to my week with you. Please let me know ASAP what burs you need. I am bringing hygiene instruments and 50 mirrors and 50 explorers. .. Se you soon! With excitement to be of service. .. Colleen