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Volcano Challenge Dental/Eye Care Brigade
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Outside the comfort zone

It's where the magic happens. 

It is true what they say about stepping outside one's comfort zone. This IS where the magic happens! I see it in those opening themselves up to new ideas. I see it in communities taking on new projects. And I see it in the team of volunteers who travel with us to Nicaragua to participate in the Volcano Challenge Dental/Eye Care brigade.

With support garnered pre-trip departure for their quest to conquer three (or is it four?!) volcanoes in two days in support of funding a community water well as part of the Nicaragua Water Project, armed with camping supplies, significant water weight, too little sunscreen, and LOTS of heart, the team hits the trail.

It is not comfortable. 

It is not comfortable, but we collectively put our heads down and put one foot in front of the other. We breathe (heavily). We sweat (profusely). We repeat (because it's just a little farther, right?). And once in a while, we even remember to look up from the path. To appreciate where we have been and where we are going.

Our reward is hard-fought. It is seeming solitude in the land of lakes and volcanoes. It is a crater lake swim and the glow of not one, but two Volcano-top sunsets. Our trophies are blisters and bruises. And bragging rights. And pride. And satisfaction. We are indeed spent. A challenge it was! We are hot. We are sweaty. And sticky. And dirty. On the truck ride back, we sit too close for comfort. But are strangely comfortable with one another. We emerge as victors. Friends. Teammates.

The magic happens. 
United by our purpose -- as a team of dentists, optometrists, volunteers, and all-around mission-accomplishers -- we are ready to take on the next challenge! Next up, four dental and eye care clinic days in remote communities in the Chinandega region of northwest Nicaragua. 

Seeing the world 

just a little more clearly

We set up clinic space in health centre hallways, in classrooms, in a church, and in a lean-to shelter. Inside. Outside. We are flexible. And the patients are patient.

Through the provision of simple reading glasses, parents leave with the ability to read to their kids and to navigate surroundings that undoubtedly make more sense. Prescriptions for children and adults alike that can't be immediately filled through the donated prescription glasses we have amassed are sent to an optician for later distribution. Those whose vision is blurry are given answers, and cataract surgery referrals are coordinated. Sunglasses are provided to help reduce sun exposure to eyes severely damaged by harmful rays. 
The beaming faces of those walking away with new glasses, a new perspective, and new possibilities in turn light up our team. Young Maria is handed glasses with a prescription of -6.0 in one eye and -5.0 in the other—an unlikely combination to have on hand, but we do! She sees clearly for the very first time. With this, her teacher sees her potential to learn to read. Her parents see her future. And we all see the world just a little more clearly. 
The world is hers for the reading.

Everyone smiles

in the same language

By Clinic Day 4, we unload and unpack our equipment/supply bins with the ease of a finely tuned pit crew. We arrive to patients waiting in the shade of the few trees in the churchyard.

Ins
ide the church, patients, some visiting the dentist for the first time, are offered a hand up onto table tops. They bravely squeeze the hands of strangers they have only just met—strangers bearing smiles and offering comfort, relief of pain and treatment of infection.

And while translators are on hand to bridge the language barrier, the smiles, handshakes and hugs inside the four walls need no translation.  

At home, I've never had a dentist offer a hug after a difficult procedure, or a volunteer hold my hand during a filling. But I have also never had to wait in line outside a clinic to make sure I am treated. I have never had to wonder when my next opportunity might be. I have never had to face surrendering three day's wages for an extraction if I miss the opportunity in front of me.

The churchyard is quiet now. The final patient dismounts the table top (the last of over one hundred people treated tirelessly each day). She extends a hand to her dentist. No words are exchanged. But she smiles. He smiles back. Both speaking volumes. Loud and clear.  
Be the reason someone smiles today. 

The greatest joy

is seeing others experience it.

When Delania, member of the Pellizco Central Water Committee announces that the water well in her community, funded by the brigade team, represents the future for the community's children, she delights in the declaration. 

When young Juan entices brigade members onto the 'dance floor' (the freshly packed dirt surrounding the new water well) to celebrate together, he does so cheerfully and without reservation. 

When we collectively cut the ribbon to officially inaugurate the water well, it is our absolute pleasure! 

When brigade team members and community members alike drink in, with abandon, the refreshment of the cool, clean water flowing freely from the community water well located at the heart of the community at the service of the community, the world feels pretty small. 

As music plays and the pinata scatters treats, in this moment there are no worries. I see connections. I see kindness. I see celebration! I also see individuals empowered. I see a spirit of resilience. I see a committed community of people and a new beginning. It looks a lot like joy. 

It's not what you look at that matters. It's often what you see. 
Magicians we are not. There were no miracles. No astonishing tricks. No supernatural feats. And yet, it all felt pretty magical just the same. 

Travel with Purpose in 2018

Please stay tuned to this space for information regarding 2018 brigade travel as it becomes available. If you'd like to experience a little magic of your own, we hope you'll travel with us in 2018.

Be a seeker of everyday magic. 
Thank you for Your Support
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