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Little Champions

Lessons in courage from the children of Nebaj, Guatemala.

Happy children sitting at desks.
Little ones having fun while waiting in line.

In a world that's constantly buzzing with activity, it's easy to get caught up in our routines and daily struggles. But sometimes, life presents us with opportunities that hold the power to touch hearts, change lives, and create unforgettable memories.

Kids making heart symbols with their hands

In the heart of the Mayan Highlands of Guatemala lies a small town with a spirit that's larger than life—Nebaj. This charming community, nestled amidst picturesque landscapes, is home to some of the bravest little kids I've had the privilege to meet! As a result of this giving mission, I ended up receiving profound lessons in courage from the children who call this place home.

Courage in the Face of Adversity Arriving in Nebaj, I was struck by the resilience of the children who greeted us with wide smiles, giggles, and the occasional English "Hello!". These children, many of whom face economic challenges and limited access to clean water, adequate nutrition, & healthcare, exhibited a remarkable courage in the face of adversity.

Smiles That Defy Circumstances As we set up our makeshift dental clinics in local schools and community centers, it was clear some of the little ones were scared of getting dental treatment. The strange feeling of getting numb and having a tooth extracted can be hard for anyone, but even the youngest patients wiped their tears, asked for us to find out where their pain was coming from, allowed us to give them anesthesia, and braved treatment like true champions!

Empowerment Through Knowledge Our mission extended beyond dental treatments—it was about empowerment through education. As we conducted workshops on oral hygiene, nutrition, and overall wellness, the children absorbed the information with eagerness. Their enthusiasm to embrace healthy habits was inspiring.

Bridging Cultures, Sharing Courage Language barriers dissolved as we connected with the children through shared experiences, with the help of their teachers - translating Spanish to the local language of Ixil. The moments of laughter, the warmth of their hugs, and the gratitude in their eyes transcended words. In those interactions, I learned that courage is universal— a thread that connects us all.

A Lasting Impact Over 1,000 children received access to care and we completed 911 extractions. It was an amazing team effort! As I reflect on the meaning of this experience, I am reminded that courage is a gift that we can share and cultivate within ourselves, and each other. We can replace the seeds of fear by sowing seeds of hope and compassion in the things we say and do each and every day.

Dentist putting on mask while sitting
Getting ready for clinic!

Each procedure we completed was a chance to alleviate pain and pave the way for healthier futures. But it wasn't just about the treatments; it was about the connections we forged. Our mission was to empower the community to positively guide the health and well-being of their children.

We were embraced by community leaders and were invited to partake in a traditional Mayan Cleansing Ceremony - wishing us well and guiding us in offering energy back to the earth. It was a beautiful experience that I'll always remember.

A few moments from the July 2023 trip with Kids International Dental Services:


I wasn't sure if I had the strength to keep up with the demands of this service experience - and by my own will - I probably didn't! But the courage and kindness of these little champions helped me overcome my own fears. Dental treatment can be scary in a comfortable reclining chair... but imagine lining up at your school to lie down on your own desk! These kids were incredibly brave and it was a blessing to be trusted with their care.

May their example inspire us all to embrace life's challenges with courage!


Dr. Adéọlá


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