Volunteering in Cameroon, Nicaragua

Health Education Dean does dental mission trip


Photo provided to The Clarion

Madison College Dean Antonio Re spent three weeks volunteering at St. Elizabeth Hospital in Cameroon during the summer.

Robin Gee, Artistic Director

Questions about summer vacations are usually reserved for teachers asking their students, but sometimes teachers have a story to tell as well.

Two Madison College instructors spent some of their time this summer volunteering abroad. Dean Antonio Re spent three weeks in Cameroon, a West African country, on a dental mission trip. Re had been to Africa twice before on similar health-related trips, and once before to Cameroon.

Re worked at St. Elizabeth Hospital, a Catholic hospital run by Franciscan sisters in Shisong, a town in Western Cameroon. St. Elizabeth Hospital has a dental clinic among their facilities, which is where Re worked during his time there.

Cameroon is a third world country, with third world standards. The hospital itself had decent facilities, but the dental clinic was a bit out of date. The power in the dental clinic was not reliable, which made procedures tricky.

“We would be in the middle of a procedure, and then boom, you’re kind of stuck,” Re said. If you’re pulling a tooth it’s not a big deal. I brought a hat lamp so I was always ready, and if the lights went out I could still keep doing what I was doing. But if you’re drilling a tooth- you can’t drill a tooth without electricity.”

One of the biggest differences between dental care in America and in Cameroon is that in America, we focus on prevention, bi-yearly cleanings, braces, ect.

In Africa, people do not go to the dentist on a regular basis. There, people only go if there is a problem like a toothache or a painful growth, something that affected their day-to-day life. Most people there do not have insurance either, which means they are less likely to go to the doctor for minor problems.

While St. Elizabeth Hospital does cost money for procedures, they do not turn people away because they can’t afford to pay. They also have a cardiac center that does charity heart surgeries every November for whoever in the community needs them.

It has been seven years since Re has been in Cameroon last, and he noticed that it seemed more third world than it did last time. He plans to go back after trying to get needed equipment donated from benefactors in the states. While all of the staff are local to Shisong, there were a few other foreign volunteers there with Re.