“Love only grows by sharing. You can only have more for yourself by giving it away to others.” ― Brian Tracy
The longstanding tradition of community service and philanthropy exemplified by previous generations in his family motivated Dr. Arash to continue his heritage helping better the lives of others through the practice of medicine within the field of dental surgery.
This was submitted by Dr. Sherwin Matian DDS, Cosmetic and Restorative Dentist currently practicing in Los Angeles. Dr. Matian graduated from the prestigious NYU Dental program and also completed additional schooling in a AEGD program in University of Pittsburgh.
Several years ago, while traveling to Guatemala on a surgical volunteer mission sponsored by Faith in Practice, Dr. Arash and I crossed paths with a group of young Guatemalan children that changed our lives forever. My Name is Dr. Sherwin Matian and this is my story:
“I used to work with Dr. Arash in his dental office as his associate where he hired me to take care of his patients and keep his office open as he was constantly traveling to various places on volunteer missions. After we became good friends, he asked me to travel with him to Guatemala to help out with a dental mission and promised me that “it would change my life!” I was under the impression that when he volunteered for something like this they would pay for his airplane and food and hotel and all associated costs and was surprised when I found out that I had to pay for my entire trip and airfare not mentioning the loss of income for each day that I would have to miss work. I was hesitant at first but trusted him and also wanted to impress him a bit as he was not only my boss but also someone I looked up to! We bought our tickets and off to Guatemala we went. We arrived to Guatemala City and took a two hour bus ride to Antigua where we met up with others in his faith based organization called Faith in Practice. I had done some research on the group and was impressed by their accomplishments but I was shocked to realize how dedicated and humble these people really were and what sacrifices they had all made to make this organization a reality.
It was a Saturday night and we had all arrived to the city of Antigua, Guatemala where we would spend our last evening before heading out to a remote village to provide medical/dental services to the indigenous population. It had already been a long day and the two of us (Dr. Arash and I) were sitting in the main square as the sun began to set enjoying a glass of wine and preparing ourselves for the grueling 12 hour days facing us ahead. We were sitting in a patio area in front of a group of young indigenous girls who were desperately approaching tourist after tourist trying to sell them something, anything so that they could earn some money to bring back to their families in order to put food on the table. Having volunteered in various parts of Guatemala, Dr. Arash was explaining to me that these children could not afford to live in Antigua (a tourist town) and would travel several hours each way from the pueblo of Panahachel lugging as many decorative hand sown scarves or other sellable items as they could. They must have been carrying at least half their body weight in things to sell and strapped them to their foreheads or backs to carry them around. I believe that we made eye contact with a group of them and they didn’t hesitate to approach us in excitement and anticipation of making a sale.
Dr. Arash takes pride in his ability to speak multiple languages coupled with a degree in Anthropology from UCLA allowing him to communicate and understand patients from various ethnicities and cultures.
Dr. Arash immediately engaged with them asking them what they had to offer and began to speak to them in Spanish and making them laugh. He was taking pictures of them and showing them what they looked like on his phone and they could not get enough! They were all smiling and laughing except one who not only would not say a word but also would not smile no matter what he tried! Her friends explained that the year prior she had fallen and broken her front teeth and out of embarrassment she would not talk or smile to anyone. She was no more than 10 years old at the time. Now I want you to understand that this is a Saturday night and we are in a foreign country, barely speak the language and are exhausted from our flight, bus ride and repetitive team meetings preparing for the week ahead. This did not seem to even remotely faze Dr. Arash as he almost spontaneously offered to help the young girl. “We have to do something Sherwin and we have to do it now,” he said. Now any average person would give them some money and support them indirectly by purchasing some items. Dr. Arash instead challenged the group of girls and stated that if they found a dental office, any dental office nearby he would pay for the girl’s dental work! The girls were shocked!
I remember it like it was yesterday! This group of girls celebrated like they had ALL won the lottery and instantly rearranged their priorities and decided that helping their friend was even more important than selling items to tourists. They teamed up and left their bags with one person and scattered in teams of two in various directions sprinting to every dental office they thought they could locate. We were not sure what to make of the whole thing but after about 30 minutes they returned disappointed explaining that all the offices were closed now about 8pm on a Saturday night! One group came back and they said they found a dentist who lived upstairs her dental office and that she may be able to help! They grabbed Dr. Arash and I by the hand and we all ran in excitement finally arriving to a closed dental office in a small side street near the square. The girls banged at the door until the lady Doctor finally arrived at the door.
Dr. Arash had visually looked at the girls tooth and we already knew that she needed a root canal and a post and at least a crown or some kind of build up to rebuild her broken teeth. We explained the situation to her and asked the dentist if she would accept payment and fix this young girl’s teeth. Unfortunately, these types of problems are common place in Guatemala and the dentist almost laughed us away explaining that it was Saturday night and she was in no mood to start working on such a lengthy procedure “even if we paid her $600!” By comparison, $600 would probably equal about $4,000 of value and that was probably more money than she would make in a couple of days! Little did this dentist know that Dr. Arash was not going to take NO for an answer! I don’t think there was anything she could have said that would have deterred him from changing this girl’s life! He asked if he could “RENT” her office and he would pay her in full and do all the work himself and that she didn’t have to do a thing! We both put our money together and came up with $600 in cash and gave it to her. She happily agreed and it was on!
For the next two hours Dr. Arash worked on this girl as I assisted him in completing a root canal, putting a post in her front tooth, building and reconstructing an entire new smile out of composite and bringing this girl back to life! Her friends grabbed his cell phone and paraded around the office in excitement taking pictures and videos and celebrating their great achievement as this young, sweet, silent girl laid their nervous yet with eyes gleaming with hope. The lady dentist periodically checked in with us to make sure everything was ok and almost changed her attitude 180 degrees out of embarrassment that she hadn’t been more willing to help out initially. Finally we were done and it was time for LETICIA “Leti” to see her new smile!
I swear to you that I will never forget the look in her eyes as he handed her a mirror to show her his work! She began to cry and hugged him uncontrollably and her friends gathered around us hugging both of us repeating “gracias!” “gracias!” “dios te vendiga!” “gracias!” She instantly began to speak again and acted as if nothing ever happened!
I am not ashamed to admit that we all were a bit emotional (I blame it on the one glass of wine hahaha) and felt a deep connection and sense of achievement that we had actually changed someone’s life and future! This was a measurable and immediate sense of goodness and a cause for celebration! Dr. Arash and the dentist communicated in Spanish and I later found out that he gave all of his information to her and explained that in the future if these girls have any issues with their teeth that he should be contacted and that he would pay her whatever the cost of the treatment would be from the United States and that she only need to contact him.
It was about 10 or 10:30 pm and we all walked back to the square with joy and utter exhaustion! Dr. Arash apparently was not done yet! He knew that the girls had not eaten all day and wanted to make sure he rewarded the other girls for their selflessness to their friend. They were willing to lose their earnings on a busy Saturday night with lots of opportunities to sell to tourists in order to help their friend. I think both Dr. Arash and I were taken back by this and we decided that we were going to have a PIZZA PARTY! We ordered several large boxes of pizza, drinks, fries and whatever else their hearts desired and laughed the next hour away. Dr. Arash and I knew that this may be the last time we would see these girls and so we purchased numerous items as gifts to give our friends and family back home. We hugged the girls and they hugged us back and repeatedly showed their appreciation by saying thank you and god bless you even after we were almost a block away! We went to sleep that night and I realized as I lay in my comfortable hotel room about to fall asleep that my life had already changed and we hadn’t even started the mission yet! I knew right then that Dr. Arash was something different and that I had just witnessed what he calls “Magic!”
Many years have passed since that night and it just so happens that Dr. Arash did in fact see those girls again. He had gone back to Guatemala on several occasions since then in search of those girls and not only did he find them but he “adopted” them and has become part of their family. His generous help extends beyond just financial support and includes buying them school supplies, clothes, shoes, medicine and more. He even taught them some phrases in English that they can use to sell more efficiently to tourists when they are in the square! That is Dr. Arash! He has been a mentor to these girls and to me as his “little brother.”
I recently found out that Dr. Arash’s mother and father traveled to Guatemala on a volunteer mission and met these girls who paraded them around and showed them around Antigua showing them great honor as part of their family. I wanted to share this story and asked Dr. Arash to allow me to post some of the pictures in order to inspire others to do something in their power to better someone else’s situation. I will never forget this experience and appreciate the opportunities God has given us and will make every effort to follow Dr. Arash’s example and make my own impact on the world.