When he returned to Honduras this fall, one year later, he met the 16-month-old baby whose life he helped to save while helping a dental and medical volunteer trip.
“There is no doubt that that child would have died had we not been there,” Babineau said.
Earlier this year, St. Ignatius resident Louise Lamontagne raised money to fund her annual trip to Honduras to provide dental care to communities without access to healthcare.
Lamontagne, a part-time dental hygienist is a full-time artist. She sold raffle tickets for her sweeping landscape paintings and was rewarded with one heck of a payoff. Lamontagne was able to fully fund four volunteers to accompany the brigade down to Central America.
“I have to commend the community,” Lamontagne said. “Without the community we could not have done it.”
She funded her husband Tom Babineau, fellow dental hygienist Sharon Toussaint, LuAnn Jensen and Ashleigh Van Fossen. Velma Furhman of Paradise Dental Tech in Missoula helped by donating around $2,500 worth of equipment for the team to take with them to Honduras.
The group returned home at the beginning of November and opened up about the true condition of the country and region they served during their volunteer trip. Van Fossen said it was shocking to witness first-hand the poverty most Hondurans live in.
“Camping is glamorous in comparison,” she said.
In Central America, you don’t see hungry people but many Hondurans were in dire need of healthcare, Babineau said. The poverty you see is from a lack of services, he said.
The need is so great that people would walk miles to be the first in line, sometimes lining up at 3 a.m. so as not to be turned away.
The facility where the dental clinic is put up three times a year used to be an orphanage that has been taken by a nun who feeds the brigades of doctors, dentists and healthcare professionals. The area didn’t have electricity until four years ago, and even with it Lamontagne said the electricity would go out at least once a day.
An older gentlman came into the clinic with an infected tooth. Jensen, who was busy anesthetizing patients, said the man was obviously in an extreme amount of pain. After he was numbed a tear fell down his cheek.
“You could just see the relief on his face,” Jensen said.
The organization Cape CARES is based out of Massachusetts and most of its volunteers come from the East Coast. Toussaint said their small group of Montanans is making an impact on the other volunteers as well as their patients bringing a unique calm, can-do attitude.
“This Montana group has made a fingerprint down there,” Babineau agreed.
Van Fossen said when she returned stateside she had an unsettled feeling that she couldn’t shake.
“I couldn’t live with the standard routine anymore,” she said.
Van Fossen has begun applying for dental hygiene schools.
Lamontagne said the work done on the trips usually has a profound effect on the volunteers and the group came to a consensus it’s a personal and humbling experience.
Lamontagne and Babineau are already organizing for next fall’s trip and are hoping to have a two-week, two-team operation.
She is planning an online art sale and a raffle to garner more support for the Montana dental team.
They hope to raise around $15,000 to fund a second team, so Lamontagne said they might have to be a bit more creative next year.