Dental team discovers willing volunteer in young Guyanese boy
By Senior Airman Kirsten Wicker, Joint Task Force New Horizons
/ Published August 25, 2009
DIAMOND, Guyana -- Timothy Eastman is 13 years old and already knows what he wants to be when he grows up.
"I want to be a dentist someday," Timothy said flashing his bright smile. "I want to go to the United States and learn."
He is a Guyanese boy from the town of Diamond and will start the eighth grade Aug. 31. He lives with his mom and a younger brother and sister.
For the past few weeks, Timothy has been assisting the U.S. Air Force dental teams that are providing free dental care to Guyanese people.
The road that led him to volunteer his summer started with his own dental visit.
According to Staff Sgt. Craig Tyszka, a biomedical equipment technician from the 71st Medical Group, Vance Air Force Base, Okla., Timothy's mother worked on the dental clinic's site as a guard with the Guyanese Defense Force. She brought Timothy in to get his teeth cleaned and he got to know some of the staff.
"He is a happy kid," said Sergeant Tyszka. "He really took an interest in our work here."
But it wasn't until after the second dental team arrived that Timothy really dove in as a resident volunteer when the team offered to let him help out.
"The dentists [and technicians] asked me if I wanted to help them and I said yes," said Timothy. "So I carry all the dirty equipment from the room on trays and take it to be cleaned in the cleaning lab."
Rummaging through a box of brightly colored and plastic-wrapped tooth brushes and little canisters of floss, Timothy is proud to serve.
"I also help hand out toothbrushes and dental floss," he said, picking up the box to show its contents.
Timothy's presence at the school is a welcome sight for many servicemembers here.
"Timothy has been such a big help running kits to the sterilization room and in the mornings after triage he hands out toothbrushes and floss to all the patients for us," said Lt. Col. (Dr.) Angela Montellano, team commander from the 75th Dental Squadron, Hill Air Force Base, Utah. "He'll also go get water bottles for the doctors and the technicians and write their initials on the cap so we don't get them mixed up."
Timothy's volunteer spirit has garnered small rewards in return.
"One day for lunch I gave him a meal ready to eat," Sergeant Tyszka said. "It's a simple thing for us, but he really enjoyed that."
While a MRE may seem like the initial reward for such good help, the long-term benefits may come in things greater than vacuum sealed crackers and self-heating bags.
"For us it's indispensible help. He wants to be a dentist and so it's unique because we're giving him an experience that will help him grow and I'm glad we can foster that mentality in him," said Colonel Montellano. "He also loves to wear the mask and the gloves and just be a part of what we are doing."
Timothy isn't the only one reaping the benefits. The dental staff said their young Guyanese helper's energy and big, bright smile is infectious.
"Timothy keeps our spirits up while we work from day to day," said Sergeant Tyszka. "We joke around with him and hang out on our breaks."
According to Timothy, his summers normally consist of playing with friends or sitting around the house, so the opportunity to help seemed to mean a lot to him.
"I cried a little when the second rotation left," he admits. "I miss them a lot."
Doctor Montellano agreed.
"He was very attached to the last rotation and rode a passenger van all by himself from his home to the school on their last day just to say good bye to them," she said.
Timothy will continue to provide volunteer help to the team until their last day, Aug. 27. That will be just in time for him to start a new school year, now with a new purpose.