In August 2001, 16-year old Nicholas Brody wanted to spend his summer vacation doing volunteer work of some sort. His parents, Joanne Liegner, M.D. and David Brody, D.M.D, reached out to the Salesian Sisters of Don Bosco, who ran the preschool Nick had attended. They offered to have Nick work at one of five orphanages in Tuxtla Gutierrez, Chiapas, Mexico that summer. He spent nine weeks teaching and organizing sports for the boys. Drs. Brody and Liegner joined Nick having offered to provide whatever medical and dental care they could. This was the start of The Chiapas Project.
Rather than helping in the capital city of Tuxtla, where clinics and hospitals exist, the Sisters sent the Brody/Liegners, with 13 year old Kimberly, to the tiny, indigenous village of Ocotepec, high in the Chiapan mountains. Only 50 miles from Tuxtla, the drive took over 5 hours. Drs. Brody and Liegner became the first trainer doctors to set foot in the valley inhabited by Zoque people who speak their dialect of Mayan. Having brought only four suitcases of medicines and extraction instruments, they set up shop in an abandoned school.
Six months later, after having displayed photos of Ocotepec in their practices, the Chiapas Project returned with a team of 20 volunteers. Since then groups of volunteers have made 20+ nonsectarian trips. The Project morphed several times. For a while we had dental and medical services and a huge pharmacy of drugs smuggled in. Eventually the lack of physician volunteers caused the Project to be limited to dental care, still mostly extractions. The group travels to even more remote communities each day and set up shop wherever there is a space. Lack of water and electricity in these villages limit us to extractions only.
For the past 8 years each group has included four Senior dental students from the University of Montreal. Not only have the students gained valuable experience, but the dentists have enjoyed the opportunity to mentor another generation of practitioners willing to give of themselves. See 2017 video made by Canadian dental student, Lysandre Marcotte, here.
Our Project wishes to thank the Association of Retiring Dentists for introducing us to Dr. Rob Maguire of Wolfesboro (NH),who has joined recent groups in Ocotepec, and other retired dentists who have donated instruments.
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