A little globe-trotting.
Dr. Janice King, centre, is accompanied by hygienists Lorraine Winters, left, and Megan Neill. All three members of the Dr. Janice King dental practice in Renfrew will volunteer their time next month at dental clinics for impoverished citizens of Nicaragua.
Steve Newman, Renfrew Mercury
It’s a holiday, but a whole lot more, for Dr. Janice King.
Next month she’s headed to Nicaragua with husband Dave and their three children, but work is the first thing on the agenda, during the first of two weeks in the Central American country.
The West Carleton resident, whose dental practice is in Renfrew, is volunteering her time for a week at dental clinics sponsored by the Canadian-based Change for Children Association in partnership with another Canadian organization, Kindness in Action.
Also volunteering their time in the Central American country are two of Dr. King’s hygienists, Lorraine Winters and Megan Neill, as well as King’s two older children, Cassie, 14, and Spencer, 11.
“I’m going for the experience, and to help out the kids and the adults who need assistance,” said Winters,
“I’m just looking for a different experience,” said Neill, who a few years ago attended a similar clinic in Jamaica. “I loved it the first time. I’m also looking forward to different travelling and working experiences this time.”
It’s not the first time Dr. King has taken part in dental clinics for citizens in need. She has also volunteered her skills at similar clinics in Jamaica, Guatemala and Peru.
While in Peru in 2010, Dr. King says she found the people accommodating and grateful.
“We did almost the same amount of fillings as extractions,” she says. Her three children, including son Alex, now nine years old, also attended a Peruvian elementary school to interact with the local children and to hand out school supplies.
Son Spencer was so touched by the experience that he recently did a presentation at his Stonecrest Elementary School, near Kinburn, about his experience in Peru and his impending trip to Nicaragua.
Fellow students were so impressed they voted to direct about $3,000 of fundraising toward the dental-clinic project.
One of the poorest countries in Central America, Nicaragua clearly needs the kind of help these clinics provide. The clinics also serve as an education for those more fortunate.
“It’s hugely important to see that not everyone has what we have here in Canada,” says Dr. King.
“I think we have to give back, if we can, and help those who need help, because we’re able to. It’s just an important part of my kids’ life. And if I can use my skills to help someone who wouldn’t normally have access to dental care, then why not.”
It’s not even just the dental care that is appreciated by younger and older citizens in Central and South America.
While in Peru, Dr. King recalls how one of the school teachers started crying when given a supply of class pencils, because they’d never had pencils before.
The King family will spend two weeks next month in Nicaragua after flying into the capital of Managua.
As part of a 30-member clinic brigade, they will conduct clinics in the regions of Leon and Chinandega in different villages, including Posoltega.
Posoltega was relocated after 6,000 residents died in a mudslide triggered by Hurricane Mitch in 1998.
It will also be very warm during the Nicaraguan clinics, with temperatures reaching into the mid-30s Celsius.
“Change for Children has been working with Kindness in Action for nearly 15 years, sending dental brigades to various regions of Nicaragua as well as to Peru and Uganda,” says Lorraine Swift, the Edmonton-based program manager for Change for Children’s international projects.
Change for Children has previously sent six dental brigades into the northern jungles of and several to Managua and Estelí, but this will be the first time in Chinandega and Leon.
This is also the same region where Change for Children operates an award-winning water well drilling project.
If all goes well, said Swift, the dental team will witness a water well being drilled in this drought-stricken, extremely poor region, where most people work on peanut and sugar cane plantations.
“Their biggest challenge is access to water and the fact that it is dwindling due to climate change,” said Swift.
Dental care is also a challenge, in that many poor Nicaraguans live in rural areas where dental care is basically considered a luxury.
The King contingent will take relatively few clothes with them, since they plan to use most of their permitted baggage for dental supplies.
Before their March 8 departure for Nicaragua, Dr. King and her contingent is welcoming local donations of school supplies and baseball (not softball) equipment.
Inquiries can be directed to Dr. King’s office at 432-4141.