Almost every year, Dr. Merlino leads a mission trip to Honduras. Guanaja is a small island (10 x 3 miles) and has no full-time dentist. “We learned this when I joined my husband on a relief trip. The men of my church planned to rebuild houses on Guanaja after over 90% of them were destroyed in Hurricane Mitch. I tagged along with my dental equipment in hand. That was back in 1999 and I have since been taking dental students from Pitt and others to help serve the people there.”
Last year, Dr. Merlino and her daughter, Leia, spent a few days on the island of Guanaja, doing dentistry in the nice room built for her at the local medical clinic by the people there. The following week, Dr. Merlino mentored ten dental students from Pitt for a week in the mountains around Gracias, the poorest region of Honduras. The dental students were able to see many people, filling cavities and extracting countless teeth. Unfortunately, many extractions were done on children, taking out their hurting, in many cases, permanent teeth. They also showed a DVD on dental hygiene made by a high school Spanish class.
Over the years, Dr. Merlino has donated dental equipment which she leaves in storage there. Her hope is that other dentists would go to Guanaja and serve as well. She and the students usually work a few days in the small medical clinic in one town, Savannah Bight. Then they spend a few days traveling to the other towns, some of which do not have electricity, where they are only able to do extractions and cleanings. If they have electricity or a generator, then they are able to do both amalgam (silver) and composite (white) fillings.
“Of course, everywhere we go, we try to educate. The people on the island speak both Spanish and English, as they were once part of British Honduras (now Belize). Anyone is welcome to join me on these trips. We always need helpers, sometimes just to sit and talk with the people while they wait. We usually go for 10 days in April. Contact me if you are interested.”
Each time Dr. Merlino travels to Honduras, she visits with the child she sponsors through Compassion International. The family is very poor, her mother cleans the streets to support the family. They live in a mud home with dirt floors and they just got electricity a few years ago. If you are interested in sponsoring a child please visit Compassion.com.