Hundreds benefit from volunteer Nicaragua trip

Sylvan Lake pharmacist Chantal Goyan is back in Sylvan Lake after spending an extremely busy and productive two weeks in Nicaragua.

Sylvan Lake pharmacist Chantal Goyan is back in Sylvan Lake after spending an extremely busy and productive two weeks in Nicaragua.

With a group of dentists and travellers with organizations Kindness in Action and Change for Children, Goyan helped put on a number of dental clinics, and, along with several members of her family, dedicated a school they helped fund.

She described the trip as an eye-opening experience, and is proud to have helped the many people who attended the clinics.

“We went to four different villages, and the dentists treated 320 patients, extracted 769 teeth, and did 72 fillings,” she said, adding that some people walked as far as 15 miles through the rainforest seeking dental treatment.

The clinics were held in the Bosawás Biosphere — a remote area of northern Nicaragua requiring hours of travel by truck and boat to reach.

“There’s no access, and in two of the villages we went to, there weren’t even stores. Even if we give them toothbrushes, they can’t buy toothpaste.

“If they want to go buy things, they have to ride in the boat for four hours.”

Goyan found herself in a variety of roles throughout the two-week trip. Her tasks included everything from directly assisting the dentists with their work, to dispensing pain medications.

One of the highlights, she said, was being able to visit a school in the village of Walakitang that she and her family helped fund. During the trip, they dedicated it to the memory of Goyan’s late mother and sister.

“The school just opened, and 180 kids from the region were able to attend school for the first time,” said Goyan. “Some of the kids travel as far as four to five hours just to get there.”

Goyan said high schools in the area are scarce, and that many children do not continue their education beyond Grade 6. Doing so is possible only by travelling more than nine hours by boat.

Despite being away for just two weeks, Goyan is still adjusting to life back in Canada, and appreciates having the luxuries that many take for granted.

“It’s a bit of a shock, because you go from having to shower with buckets and having no running water or electricity.

“My kids are never hungry and have access to medical and dental care by just phoning the clinic and going there. It’s just a bit of an adjustment.”

Goyan said the trip was a major learning experience, and hopes to go on another similar trip in the next two or three years.