Dental Team Returns from Second Haiti Trip
St. Joseph Parish in Lincoln Sponsors Mission for Sister Parish
By S.L. Hansen
LINCOLN (SNR) - In their first return to Haiti since a devastating earthquake
rocked the island nation’s capital city Jan. 12, Faith In Action Team (FIAT) of
St. Joseph Parish in Lincoln sent a team of six dentists and four dental
assistants to serve impoverished Haitians during a March mission trip.
Led by FIAT co-founder Don Killeen and his son, Dr. Martin Killeen, D.D.S, the
team saw the first hints of the effects of the earthquake as they came in for a
landing at the Port au Prince airport.
“It looked like a cracked egg,” recalled Dr. Killeen.
From the main airport, the group had to travel by taxi a short distance to a
smaller airport, where small Cessna aircraft had been hired to fly them to
Kobonal Mission, the “sister parish” of St. Joseph Church in Lincoln.
As they exited the airport, they were shocked by the chaos of hundreds of
people, clamoring to carry their bags in exchange for a tip… or perhaps to steal
clothing and supplies. It was a sure sign of Haiti’s desperation.
“You just had to circle the wagons and make sure you didn’t lose any luggage,”
Dr. Killeen said.
Fortunately, the missionaries were able to stay together and keep hold of all
their bags – which were no ordinary luggage. The duffels were packed with
disposable gloves, antibiotics and painkillers.
These items had actually been sent to Haiti last September, along with three
donated dental chairs and other dental supplies, in a shipping container paid
for by banker Tom Johnson of Brainerd, Minn.
However, the day after the earthquake, Father Glenn Meaux, S.O.L.T., founder and
pastor of the mission, telephoned Lincoln to ask if the shipped antibiotics,
pain medications and disposable gloves could be donated to emergency medical
Dr. Killeen was happy to help in the midst of a crisis. He and the rest of the
team arranged to bring replacement items with them.
“I was worried the day before we went down because I heard they were
confiscating relief supplies at the airport,” Dr. Killeen said, “but we didn’t
have any trouble.”
Upon arriving at the mission, the team realized they had their work cut out for
them. Even though Kobonal Mission is situated in a remote area among “the
poorest of the poor,” where there are no paved roads, no running water, and no
electricity but the small solar cells Father Meaux had installed, the population
has swelled from some 30,000 to as many as 40,000 people.
“We looked over the gate, and there were people as far as the eye could see… A
few thousand waiting to get into the mission and get some food,” Dr. Killeen
The next six days were long hours of emergency dental care. With two more
dentists on hand this time, the team was able to see nearly double the amount of
patients – around 700 individuals, compared to the 400 or so who were helped
There is so much poverty and so little access to regular dental care – even
toothbrushes and toothpaste are rare commodities – once again, the dentists and
dental assistants faced a shocking number of serious dental problems.
“We found life-threatening conditions,” Dr. Killeen said.
He recalled one boy in particular, about the age of 9, who had two cavities that
had become so out of control, the infected teeth were draining out the side of
“Had those gone on, had the infection spread, it could have killed him,” Dr.
Killeen stressed. “We got those teeth taken out, and we got him antibiotics.”
Unfortunately, this wasn’t the only child the team saw who had that level of
dangerous infection. The team worked sun up to sun down, seeing as many patients
as they could.
“There’s so much need, you could have a whole dental team working year-round
extracting the infected teeth,” said Dr. Killeen.
When Saturday morning arrived and they were all ready for a planned half-day
break, around 120 people showed up at the mission gate, having walked six or
seven miles for the chance to see a dentist. The team opened the clinic to help
The trip wasn’t all work, however. Packed among the disposable gloves and
medications were 14 new, deflated soccer balls for the Kobonal schoolchildren.
The balls were donated by the kids of St. Joseph Elementary School in Lincoln,
who had heard that their Haitian counterparts had been trying to play soccer
with a wad of old socks knotted together.
After the balls were re-inflated, the dentists and dental assistants enjoyed a
15-minute impromptu soccer game with the Kobonal students.
“The kids just loved them,” Dr. Killeen reported.
The group also spent time teaching kids how to care for their own teeth, using
the free toothbrushes and toothpaste that had been donated.
“We went out to the countryside on the morning of the last day and saw this kid
brushing his teeth with his brand-new pink toothbrush, six miles away [from the
mission],” Dr. Killeen said. “That’s the kind of thing that makes you feel
Now that they’ve had a few weeks to rest and recover from their strenuous trip,
Dr. Killeen is thinking about the next mission trip.
“We are planning one again for next spring, Lord willing,” he said. “I think the
next thing would be to bring down some medical doctors to educate the local
midwives, as well as increase the number of dental patients that can be seen.”