Trish Yerges
The La Grande Observer

Imbler High School student and aspiring dental hygienist Hannah Kilpatrick took her senior project to the third world country of Guatemala, where she distributed 90 care packages filled with oral hygiene products to the village children of Xecaracoj.

Kilpatrick is the daughter of Eric and Teresa Kilpatrick of La Grande, and she traveled to Xecaracoj last July with her Guatemalan-born mother to visit her maternal grandparents and other relatives.

“My idea was to gather oral hygiene products and create little care packages for village children in Guatemala, who would not have access to those products on any given day,” Kilpatrick said. “I got the idea because I travel down there a lot, and I see the need for small things like that in the rural areas. My aunt Amy Carson is a dental hygienist, and she is my project mentor.”

Xecaracoj is an outlying village in southern Guatemala that meshes with the southwest region of the city of Quetzaltenango. Xecaracoj is located 7,600 feet above sea level and is flanked on three sides by volcanoes. Its subtropical highland climate produces wet and dry seasons but Kilpatrick said the nights are very cold due to the elevation. The people of Xecaracoj live a mostly agrarian lifestyle, but they are economically disadvantaged in many basic ways.

“The people in this village don’t have much federal help or advancements in technology, housing or medical and dental health care, so I chose that village,” she said. “My grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins all live there.”

When Kilpatrick arrived at Xecaracoj, she carried her duffle bag bearing dental gifts with her. The dental care packages included toothbrushes, toothpaste and floss, all donated by Dr. Brian Kruse of Cornerstone Dentistry LLC in Island City.

“I also printed out some Bible verses and put them in the packages with the products,” Kilpatrick said.

As part of her project, she gave a dental hygiene presentation to the village children and adults in
attendance at a Wednesday night church service.

“They had a general idea how to use the toothbrush and paste, but they didn’t know how to use the floss correctly or how to hold it in their hands, so I showed them how to do that,” the Imbler student said.

See complete story in Monday's Observer