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Wilton dentist eager to return to Haiti to offer medical help: 'They just grab your heart' – The Wilton Bulletin

Dr. Beckie D’Andrea with some of the children she has worked with in Haiti.
D’Andrea has been offering free health clinics annually since 2015 but hasn’t been able to return since 2019. She hopes to soon get the confirmation from the nonprofit program coordinator that it is safe to return.
Dr. Beckie D’Andrea
WILTON — Beckie D’Andrea became a part of the Wilton community in August 2020 after purchasing Wilton Dental Associates and offering her expertise to a wide swath of Fairfield County.
While happy with her clientele and practice here, the Delaware native yearns for another opportunity to return to a community where she truly felt her calling made a stark difference in the lives of her patients — Haiti.
“It’s always been in my heart to help people elsewhere, and to be able to do that with dentistry, that is great,” she said. “It really stinks when you have pain and you can’t focus on things, or maybe on your job, and may be grumpy because you are in constant pain.”
She has partnered with Hearts and Hands for Haiti, a nonprofit organization based in Raleigh, N.C, that raises money and awareness to help orphaned children throughout the Caribbean country.
“My best friend lives in Raleigh and she had called me six or seven years ago. Her church had been going to Haiti for years,” D’Andrea said. “They fell in love with the country and they built a school and boys’ and girls’ homes.”
Members of the congregation started Hearts for Haiti, which manages boys’ and girls’ homes for children, including the Centre de Formation et Nutrition des Enfants (CFNE) in the northwestern province of Haiti, near the city of Gonaives.
In 2015, the nonprofit called D’Andrea and asked if she would volunteer her time and expertise to do dental work for some of the children and adults in Haiti.
D’Andrea said there was no hesitation in her decision to say yes. Since then, she has made the trip twice a year.
On her first trip she didn’t just offer cleanings to the children, but whoever could make the trek from surrounding communities. D’Andrea has treated “many adults” in Haiti during her clinics, but understands that even those who show up are overcoming uncertainty.
“In general, the Haitians are very, very fearful. They come very early in the morning, ask just for a cleaning, and when I take a look I say, ‘Oh no, this really has to hurt,’” D’Andrea said.
She has performed oral surgeries for some in Haiti, but said she is often faced with hesitation and people initially are just open to a cleaning and hygiene lesson.
The personal hygiene lessons are other aspects of her normal routine that she said take on a new meaning in Haiti. Understanding that access to quality dental products on a daily basis is different for the average Haitian versus an average resident in Fairfield County, she tries to leave them with as many donated supplies as possible.
“It’s really all about gaining their trust. The dental work there is few and far between, and those that do come may have to wait for several hours,” D’Andrea said. “They are used to a lot of people blowing in and blowing out of the country. Part of their apprehension is that people come try to help and then, yeah, that’s the end of it. Those aren’t the types of connections we look to make.”
While D’Andrea has made multiple trips to Haiti and the Dominican Republic to offer her services since 2015, she has not been able to return since 2019.
“First it was the pandemic,” she said. Now, the “political situation” has made it challenging for her and other volunteers to return. D’Andrea hopes to be able to return soon, but it will be at the discretion of the nonprofit director.
In the meantime, she’s trying to spread the word about the organization, which is always actively raising money.
She still keeps in touch with some of the people she has met there along the way and cherishes the experiences.
“The very first time I went to Haiti, I did an extraction on a very rotten tooth. The boy whose tooth it was, his parents were killed in an earthquake,” D’Andrea said. She noted that the young boy had made the acquaintance of a local cab driver who took him to different group homes where he could look for shelter and help. Finally, he arrived at CFNE. “He was just running around looking for somewhere to go.”
These kinds of stories, D’Andrea said, “just grab your heart” and never let go. “I am dying to go back.”
J.D. is a New York transplant, having been raised in Brooklyn and on Long Island. When he is not chasing down a lead, one may find J.D. listening to 70’s R&B, training in a boxing gym or cooking in his kitchen. Besides his affinity for local journalism, J.D. has also reported live from media row at a number of professional and collegiate sports events.

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