Dentist Peter Cha and his wife, dental hygienist Sandy, recently provided dental care to people in need during a four-day trip to Haiti. The couple treated 94 people, and Peter Cha said a “good half of them had never seen a dentist before.”
The Chas traveled this month to the developing nation with several other people as part of a Hood College alternative spring break trip. The college’s overall goal during this month’s trip was to help the 80,000 residents of the Borgne area by providing dental care and early childhood education, as well as working to secure space for a library.
The trip — Hood’s second to Borgne in the past two years — included five students, two faculty members, a student translator and the Chas. The Chas were invited because Peter Cha is a Hood graduate who could provide dental aid.
Peter and Sandy Cha live in Frederick and work together at Smile Center. They have been married for 26 years and are no strangers to mission trips. Last year, on a church mission trip to Russia, they couple helped teach people English from the Bible.
But they had never provided dental services while on a trip before.
“I thought, ‘I should do what I’m trained to do. This is definitely going to provide a service,’” said Peter Cha, 55. “Some of them, we gave oral hygiene instructions to for probably the first time. We gave them a toothbrush, so hopefully they’ll be able to manage their teeth a little better.”
In Haiti, the Chas set up shop in a one-chair dental clinic at a hospital. The clinic was founded in September, and a hospital resident has been working there since January. The Chas were able to use their experience to see many patients, as well as give instruction and guidance to the resident.
Sandy Cha said the resident performs only extractions. The Chas were able to provide a wider range of dental care — such as surgical teeth removal, routine cleaning and some restorative care.
Many of the patients Peter Cha saw had serious dental problems — people in the area don’t work to prevent tooth decay, he said.
Peter Cha performed extractions and fillings. Sandy Cha assisted him and treated patients for gum disease.
As word spread that dental services were available, more people stopped by for checkups and cleanings. Many of those patients waited about eight hours while people with dental emergencies were seen ahead of them.
“Gosh, we are so blessed here in this country,” Sandy Cha said. “There’s so much need there of just the simple things. And people just wait hours and hours to walk to the hospital, and once they get there they wait for their turn without complaining. They’re just so humble and appreciative.”
The Chas provided more than 40 hours of treatment from March 11 through March 14, and they plan to return again next year.
“Our skills are God’s given gifts to us,” Sandy Cha said. “We were able to make a difference with those skills.”
Kate Conway-Turner, Hood’s provost and vice president of academic affairs, asked Peter Cha to come to Haiti after Hood’s alumni network mentioned he had a good reputation for helping others.
Conway-Turner commended the Chas for their good will.
“I was just truly amazed at their work and their dedication,” she said.