Oxyfresh distributor takes advantage of company offer to help the tsunami victims begin the long recovery process.
Hygienists are educated, motivated, experienced people who are not afraid to give more of themselves than they thought possible if it means making a difference in someone’s life. When disaster strikes, hygienists’ hearts often lead them to help.
Christine Mrozek, a hygienist in Anaheim Hills, Calif., was chosen to be on a humanitarian aid team that spent 10 days in tsunami-stricken Indonesia. Her heart led her to share support and compassion to a ravaged population half a world away.
Christine’s eight-year-old Oxyfresh business was the springboard that led her to Indonesia. “I was chosen and fully sponsored by Oxyfresh Worldwide to participate in an offer that was made to all distributors,” she said. “The president, Richard Brooke, offered to sponsor two people for 10 days in Indonesia for humanitarian assistance and support for the victims. To be considered, I submitted a letter about why I wanted to go and how I felt I could be of service.
“I wanted to go because I saw an opportunity of a lifetime,” Christine continued. “This was an opportunity to face uncertainty and challenge in a way unlike anything I could ever experience in my ‘safe world’ at home. This was an opportunity to step out and live in another life and world where I would be challenged personally, spiritually, and physically. I wanted to provide a presence of love. I wanted to represent a world of compassion for these people who may feel forgotten by others and perhaps insignificant in the world.”
Christine had the heart and motivation to go, but was unsure what her employer, Dr. Margareta Gavrila in Chino, Calif., would say. “As a full-time, salaried hygienist with a full schedule of patients, I felt an obligation to my employer. But she said that she could not see anyone else going but me, and she could never live with herself if she did not give me her blessing. I knew that was all I needed and I submitted my letter.”
Christine was one of three women chosen. Her traveling companions, fellow Oxyfresh distributors Roxie Lord of Salt Lake City, Utah, and Deepty Patel of Tampa, Fla., met in Los Angeles on January 18, 2005.
“We instantly bonded,” Christine said. “We shared the same purpose and desires and it was evident that we were placed together divinely and for reasons beyond our understanding.” The flight from LAX to Taipei to Jakarta and on to Medan took nearly 20 hours, but the real work was about to begin.
Even though they saw unimaginable destruction, they immediately got to work. They connected with established relief organizations, and assisted in refugee camps, assessing needs. Working 13-hour days in intense heat, they helped at six refugee camps in the hardest hit areas of Indonesia. They traveled over 1,500 miles from Jakarta through Sumatra to Medan and Banda Aceh, often with a full military escort for protection. Some of the camps they visited were so remote and dangerous that many support teams had never visited.
“We assembled, boxed, and loaded kitchen sets and personal hygiene bags,” Christine said. “We drove as a caravan, with full military escort, into Banda Aceh, one of the hardest hit areas. Unfortunately, Banda Aceh is also one of the most politically volatile areas of that region. Along the way, we unloaded at different camps, played and sang with the children, ate with the families, and became part of their lives for a few brief moments. We stayed in some of the humble homes of the small villages. The people were so gracious and open to us. They offered their homes and food, and were loving and generous. It
was very emotional to watch these people with barely enough food and necessities offer all they had to us. In the midst of this devastating destruction and horrific loss of lives, their immediate thoughts were to offer themselves and all they had to strangers. I was humbled and felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude, and I was truly honored to be in their presence. It was in those moments that I knew my life had changed because of them. I am so grateful.”
Even though this wasn’t a dental mission, I asked Christine about the dental health of the population. “There were obvious signs of dental neglect,” she said. “Unfortunately, dental care is extremely expensive and seen as a luxury to most people. Sadly, due to their conditions in the aftermath of the tsunami, it is seen as even less important.”
While traveling in Indonesia, the trio noticed more than half the children had no shoes. With the piles of debris and ground burning from the heat, they knew something had to be done. Pooling their resources, they coordinated a fundraiser that involved Oxyfresh customers and distributors providing shoes for the children.
“The children could not go back to school without uniforms and shoes, and we noticed few of them had decent shoes. We had a deadline with the fundraiser to assure the funds were wired and handled while we were there, in an attempt to ensure the money would be used how we wanted.”
The experience deeply touched all three women. Roxie Lord has spearheaded a foundation called “Friends Across the Sea” to assist the village Teupin Kepala. “This village was so kind to us,” she said. “They fed us the last of their food. The other charities pass Teupin Kepala because it is in the rebel district. They have no means of providing food for their people. Their needs include boats, fishing nets, wheelchairs, books, soccer balls, and volleyballs. My goal is to raise $10,000. I know I can’t stand by and do nothing. We can’t help everyone, but we can perhaps help one village with medical assistance, dental attention, and educational support.”
Christine said, “What I learned and what I can offer to others from my experience is that each and every one of us possesses the power of uniqueness and gifts that can be an extraordinary source of inspiration and compassion to others. When we hold ourselves and everyone around us in that light, we create a world and a life that is fulfilling and meaningful.”
Readers can e-mail Christine Mrozek at [email protected]. Roxie Lord’s foundation is Friends Across the Sea, 8469 Top of the World Drive, Salt Lake City, UT 84121.
Cathleen Terhune Alty, RDH, is a frequent contributor to RDH who is based in Clarkston, Mich.