Pepsi: Out of the Blue.
Except in Comitancillo, Guatemala, Pepsi is not out of the blue. In fact, it might as well be the blue. In Comitancillo, kids survive on Pepsi and the nutrients it provides.
“It’s ridiculous how cheap it is and that’s all these kids drink because they may not get a lot of sustenance that day,” said Dr. Nekky Jamal, dentist at Wayside Dental Care in Lloydminster. They’re getting sugar from pop and unfortunately, it’s rotting their teeth.”
Jamal and Wayside colleagues Dacre Hamilton and Erik Johnson went to Comitancillo for nine days at the end of March. It was Jamal’s fifth trip to South or Central America in five years since graduating from school. He has plans for a sixth trip, but hopes it looks a bit different from the first five.
“I’ve started this initiative called “Quench” and I’m going to work with (the Change for Children Association) from Edmonton and we’re going to start drilling water wells and we’re going to hopefully provide water to villages in Central America that don’t have access to clean water.”
In Canada, dentists sometimes have a reputation for being late for appointments, and for nine days, the growing patient line gave Jamal a good reason to be late. In total, Jamal, Hamilton and Johnson treated over 500 patients. They performed hundreds of extractions and inserted hundreds of fillings.
Jamal says it’s common for children in Comitancillo to walk around with black teeth. They don’t have, nor can they afford, toothbrushes. Fortunately, dentist appointments always end with a gift bag of dental goods.
“Everyone left with a toothbrush and we tried to teach everyone in the community about the importance of brushing their teeth and the importance of diet, especially sugars,” said Jamal.
The 31-year-old says each trip has been an eye-opening experience. He’s amazed at how residents treat him, given the conditions they live in and the ones he’s coming from.
“I felt really guilty about the reaction they gave us,” he said. “They were beyond appreciative and they were blessing us and it just didn’t feel right. We just do what we do every day, I don’t feel like I’m doing anything special by going down there and doing dental work, it’s the same stuff I do here. They were very appreciative, they made us food when I know food is hard to come by.”
Jamal returned from Guatemala about two weeks ago and he already has a potential logo for quench designed. He says he’s looking to get the project off the ground as soon as possible.
“I am so motivated right now. Of course, I’m a dentist, I don’t know how to drill water wells. But I’m going to work with people that know how to, I’m going to develop the contacts, I’m going to get it done. Whether that means me doing as much as I can or I get a team of people to help me out, I’m going to make this happen.”
For Jamal, it’s better late than never.