WALLINGFORD (AP) _ Alan Schupack says it is guilt that is getting him to Central America.
The dentist, who has an office on North Main Street Extension, spent Friday afternoon packing up some of his equipment for a nine-day humanitarian mission to Comayagua, a city in the west-central part of Honduras.
Schupack and his son Eric, 23, are taking part for the first time in an annual trip that is organized by a group out of the University of Connecticut’s dental program in Farmington.
“I’m motivated by guilt. I’m Jewish,” Schupack said with a smile.
He said the group plans to provide free dental care for local residents out of a church on the outskirts of Comayagua. Procedures will range from filling cavities to pulling teeth to performing root canals.
Schupack said his electric drill, called a hand piece in dentistry, is the largest piece of equipment he is packing for the trip. He said each of his bags must weigh less than 50 pounds because of airline regulations. Schupack said he wanted to bring an autoclave for sterilizing equipment, but it exceeds the weight limit.
“We’ll be using bleach for sterilization,” he said.
In addition to dental equipment, he is packing gifts for his younger patients, including colorful sunglasses for the girls and rubber balls for the boys.
This year’s trip comprises 21 travelers, including other dentists, some of their children and 11 third-year UConn dental students, according to Randy Greenberg, a dentist with an office on South Turnpike Road. He has been practicing for about 30 years.
“I know the students, and on this trip they will get one-on-one instruction. They win. We all win,” he said.
Greenberg, who lives in Cheshire, said he has known Schupack for about 20 years. They both teach at UConn on a volunteer basis. This is Greenberg’s fourth trip with the UConn dental school. He previously has traveled to Belize three times, and this is the first time for the program to Honduras.
“We’re doing extractions with people sitting on plastic chairs with their heads tilted back against a brick wall,” Greenberg said of his experiences in Belize.
Schupack, 53, also a Cheshire resident, has been a dentist for 26 years and said he wants to be of service to others because he is grateful for the opportunities he has received throughout his life.
“I’m a very lucky person. I’ve stepped into some very lucky situations. I feel guilt over some of my good fortune. I don’t deserve to be this lucky,” said Schupack, referring to his career, his wife Cindy of 31 years, and his three children. “I love what I do.”
Greenberg volunteers his time and expertise for similar reasons.
“We take what we see in the United States for granted,” he said.
Schupack said he is nervous and excited about visiting Honduras, because he is not “a seasoned traveler,” having only ventured outside of the United States to Bermuda, the Grand Cayman Islands and Canada.
“I’m boring,” Schupack said. “I’m not a rough-it kind of guy. This is me getting out of my comfort zone.”
His main concern about the trip to Honduras is not being able to “fulfill his role as an educator” for the students there, he said.
“My biggest fear is that I’m proficient in rudimentary dentistry, so that I can help the students,” Schupack said. “I don’t want to be the weak link.”
Greenberg said he told his colleague “to just be himself.”
“He knows dentistry. He’s a great dentist. He just has a fear of the unknown,” Greenberg said.
Schupack said he is impressed by the dental students from UConn who are going to Honduras, because they are taking a week off from classes for the trip, and are responsible for paying for most of their expenses, including airfare, food and accommodations. Greenberg said the school is giving about $300 to each of the students on the trip.
Schupack said he is reluctant to label himself as a hero for volunteering for this trip. He said his religious faith has instilled in him the desire to give back to the community.
“You’re supposed to leave the world a better place,” Schupack said.
Greenberg said his two sons are joining him on this excursion to assist with treating patients and to learn about a new way of life.
“It’s so important. When my kids have gone, they come back different people. They see what absolute poverty is all about,” he said.