Senior helps at Haitian orphanage

Senior helps at Haitian orphanage

Senior Grace Kim plays with the Haitian children in the orphanage. Kim helped give dental and medical aid in Haiti over the summer.

Grace Kim, Online Chief

I will never forget the piercing screams of Phenol, fighting with everything he had, as my dad struggled to yank a rotting canine tooth out of his mouth.  Suddenly feeling queasy at all of the blood spurting onto my shirt and gloves, I turned away for a brief moment before coming right back to attention when my dad urgently asked for gauze.

I tore off a piece and pressed it to the poor child’s now empty gum, cooing “Bene, bene Phenol.”  We could only pull out four of the 12 teeth that he needed to get pulled, but we knew that even a small bit of work would make a huge difference in little Phenol’s life.

Taking a trip to Haiti to give dental and medical aid to orphaned children such as Phenol for four days might seem unusual, but it was something that I really wanted to do. I went with my father and other missionaries from Mission Ryan, an organization that built an orphanage for children who had been given up by parents who couldn’t afford to take care of them.  The organization was founded by my dad’s friend Dr. Julian Choe.

The orphanage provides schooling and sponsors for each child so that they will get adequate nutrition and clothing.  We departed on June 29 and came back on July 2.

The first day, we got to know and play with the children.  The orphanage was in good shape compared to other buildings, still standing strong even though it was on a tiny plot of land, no bigger than the size of a small suburban home.  A lot of buildings were dilapidated from the earthquake that struck Haiti last year.

The orphanage had a play set for the kids and, thank goodness, a working bathroom. There were two floors, and half of us slept on the upstairs porch while the others slept downstairs.  We did have plumbing, though there was no electricity, and we had to drink bottled water to avoid getting parasites.

There was a language barrier between the missionary group and the children who spoke French Creole, but that didn’t stop us from playing “London Bridge is Falling Down,” tag, and hide-and-go-seek.  Kids were practically begging for attention and piggy backs constantly, so there was always something fun to do to keep your mind off of the sweltering sun.  One day we drove the kids down to a beach as a treat before the hardest part of the trip happened: the dental work.  The medical checkups were easy and overall painless, and Dr. Choe distributed medicine for the kids.

The dental work was as hard as, well, pulling teeth.  The kids had never even heard of a dentist before, and my dad was quite terrifying with his dental mask and tools.  When he applied anesthesia to the kids who needed to have teeth pulled due to severe cavities, they went berserk.  It was understandable, because having your whole face go numb is scary, but it was unnerving for even the volunteers.  The blood and crying children and teeth on the floor was like a scene from a horror movie, but we all knew that this procedure would save the kids from lifelong pain whenever they ate.

Afterwards, we distributed fun tooth brushes to all of our patients and brushed their teeth with a special type of varnish that would reduce plaque and hopefully help prevent future cavities.

I definitely want to go back, as I made incredible bonds with the people that went on the mission, as well as each and every child in the orphanage.  They taught me so many things, from numbers and colors in Creole, to sharing and appreciating what you have.  An image that will forever stay in my heart is seeing little baby John Wesley offer the last of the Cheerios he was eating to us, the people who needed it the least.  Missionary or humanitarian work is a life-changing experience that I’d recommend anyone to try.

Grace Kim is the Online Chief for The Patriot and jcpatriot.com.