A brief guide to mission trips and overall charitable volunteerism, from one who knows.
ANYONE WHOSE bucket list begins
“1. Make a difference” will be inspired by Colorado caregiver Dr. Hana Kim. “Being a dentist is a privilege, and that comes with social responsibility,” the 34-year-old says.
How does she give back? Let us count the ways: by going on mission trips, organizing free dental care for veterans (she’s an Army vet herself), singing with preschoolers about oral health and brightening patients’ visits to Smile Aurora Dental, her practice just east of Denver.
Want to do the same but unsure exactly where to begin? “Start in your office,” Dr. Kim counsels. Her key pointers:
If you’re out of your comfort zone, you’re doing something right. “The language barrier and less-than-ideal conditions are always a stumbling block on global missions, so it’s up to you to get creative. That’s the beauty of dental-outreach trips.”
When will you know you’re on the right track? Day two. “I know we’re making a significant community impact by the number of people who show up the following day. If more people come, we know that word is getting around.”
The need is always there. Every give-back effort reaffirms it. “On my most recent trip to Cambodia, we treated more than 100 patients, and by the second day we depleted our anesthetic-carpule stock and had to buy more from a local health facility.”
Not sure if you can commit the time? It’s not going to schedule itself. “Participating is a time commitment. I always plan my outreach events a year in advance. Make it a priority, and it won’t be difficult to make time for it.”
You’ll never be sorry you showed kindness. “I enjoy the first meeting with a patient. Often the patient is apprehensive and scared, and has a preconceived expectation of the dentist. Being able to gain trust and help guide them to dental wellness is very fulfilling.”