Today was the big day we were all waiting for, after months of preparation: our first day of clinic!  We grabbed our medications, stethoscopes, tools for measuring vital signs, and boarded the bus with anticipation for the big day.  The site was nearly 12,000 feet above sea level, but we couldn’t have been more energized for this opportunity to help the local community.  Roles were divided into registration, history taking, vitals and triage, followed by care from dentists, nurses, pharmacists, and doctors alike.

The community was so welcoming when we arrived.  Children came to say hello, and their parents were just as eager.  Regardless of our Spanish-speaking ability (or Kichwa-speaking ability, for that matter) the smiles that were shared between us went beyond spoken language.  This was our unifying way of learning about one another.  Hard-working mothers, after years of working in the fields, presented for joint pains and back sores.  Children opened up to us about the stomach pains that they had been having for days.  An elderly man came in looking for a pair of dentures he had sought after for months.  And yet, as he approached us for the very first time, he provided a smile that spoke to us without the need for words.  All of these patients presented to us with the desire to get better, and the gratitude we shared for one another – whether it was them seeking care or us being able to provide it – made each encounter worthwhile.

As we collected our belongings and took down the clinic set-up, we said goodbye to the community and prepared ourselves for what experiences the next day had in store.