True North Trip

We recently returned from a unique and life-changing outreach trip to Haiti. We took a team of dental professionals to serve with a Mission of Hope Haiti medical team. Together they traveled by ship — on which they ate, slept, and recharged — as they served on Gonâve Island, a remote island located northwest of Port-au-Prince.

Richard Williams, Hope Smiles board member, shares the following thoughts and observations from the trip:

We had a terrific visit and continue to learn more about setting up our mobile dental clinic and engaging new young dentists in our joint efforts. It was great to spend time with the team from Sioux Falls. I was also really proud of the leadership and thoughtfulness that Don Taylor, Hope Smiles’ interim Executive Director, showed during the trip. His raw emotions and love for Haiti was visibly evident.


Living on and serving from the ship, named True North, was an incredible experience. The first day was a little awkward as we navigated the boat, got acclimated, and found our sea legs. The second day was awesome. The food was great. The water cool and inviting, and the morning sunrises and afternoon sunsets were beautiful as God used his pastels to welcome and end our days. Our photgrapher got some incredible shots and drone footage of the boat, that would make even NatGeo jealous!


Day 2: Strong, emotional start to the day with prayer and singing before the clinic began. Our dental discussion before seeing patients was also very moving as we discussed the patients we would see and that we are there to provide love and hope — it’s not about the teeth. We all worked hard down to our soaked underwear. We ran 6 chairs non-stop. One lady who had been in pain for more than 3 years had 13 rotten/broken teeth that Dr Barkley removed. There were many other difficult cases, but the teamwork and collaborative spirit between the docs was amazing. The entire team loved well.


Day 3: Over 100 people were lined up by 6:15 am. The dental clinic was busy in an orderly way. It’s amazing watching the 7 dentist collaborate, discuss patients, and move around seamlessly between the 6 chairs. We used the Nomad portable dental X-ray to diagnose a broken arm and X-ray a foot. Innovation is our specialty. ;)

Day 4: The local community came to the clinic for treatment. We prioritized pain and extractions and minimized time-consuming cleanings. All 6 chairs were filled non stop from 9 AM to 3 PM. We appeared to be more efficient, and the pace was steady but flowed well.


During the week I was able to experience how big God is. I experienced His love in many ways. The teamwork and generosity of Mission of Hope and Hope Smiles was impressive.

I observed the universe from the bow of the ship. I experienced the beauty of the coral and turquoise water. We started each day with beautiful sunrises and each evening with gorgeous sunsets. We finished Friday with a rainbow to remind us of God’s faithfulness and promises to us. We all had a great week.

With a full spirit,

Richard Williams
Hope Smiles Board Member

Gradi Ellis