Alex Serebnitski (centre) providing free dental services in Guatemala
By REBECA KUROPATWA

Shortly after finishing high school in 2002, Alex Serebnitski came to Winnipeg with his family with one goal in mind – becoming a dentist.
Serebnitski comes from a family much involved in dentistry. His grandfather worked as a dental technician; his father started as a dental technician and is now a denturist.

 

 

Growing up, Serebnitski was into art and design, but that changed when he began volunteering with Magen David Adom (MDA) on an ambulance when he was 16. “I started really enjoying health care and treating patients, and just being in that kind of environment,” said Serebnitski. “This got me thinking that maybe health care was something I wanted to pursue – medicine or paramedic.
“Then, I realized I really enjoy the work aspect, but I also enjoy that it’s exciting – not knowing what you’re going to expect. Then, there was one incident, one of my first incidents on an ambulance.
“We got a call that there was an event with multiple injuries in Jerusalem. It ended up being a terrorist attack. Life hasn’t been the same since. That’s where I really realized I wanted to go into health care and helping people. But, I also realized that doing something like ambulance work or medicine, having that much responsibility, kind of scared me.”


After much consideration, Serebnitski decided that becoming a dentist would give him a nice balance of everything – treating people in a medical profession, but typically not in a situation of life and death.
The other aspect his MDA ambulance volunteering helped Serebnitski realize was his passion for finding ways to change lives for the better, and go above and beyond what others may consider doing.
The experience forever changed the way Serebnitski looked at the world. “When I moved here, after volunteering on the ambulance, I approached the Jewish community to see what kind of volunteer opportunities there were. I started volunteering as a big brother with Jewish Child and Family Services (JCFS).”
Serebnitski also joined the Chai Folk Ensemble as a dancer, while attending school to become a dentist. To reduce the school debt he would acquire, Serebnitski applied for scholarships with the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba (JFM) and the JFM supported him in a big way.


All the while, Serebnitski knew that one day he would find a way to pay it forward for others in a similar situation. As soon as he finished school, through his friend from Chai, David Greaves (who, at that time was working for the JFM), Serebnitski started up a fund and designated that some of the money would go directly into the scholarship pool.
“Even though I graduated with debt ($150,000), I thought, ‘What’s the difference? I already had a lot of debt. If something happens, I want to at least say I’ve helped or left some sort of legacy,’” said Serebnitski.
But, he didn’t stop there. Serebnitski also started volunteering with the JFM on their scholarship selection committee.

Then, he was offered an opportunity to practice dentistry on a mission in Guatemala and Serebnitski jumped at the chance. “It’s one thing to go to work and help people, and get paid for it,” he said. “But it’s actually very interesting to do what you do for work and not get paid monetarily. The satisfaction you get for doing the work for someone, it’s very special. It’s a humbling experience. You realize how valuable your skills can be for someone who doesn’t have access to it. But, it’s also much more rewarding. I’m enjoying this and loving it, and I’m not even getting paid for it.”
Serebnitski is an avid soccer player and took a soccer ball along with him to Guatemala. “I thought, I’ll find some kids after clinic there, and I’ll play soccer with them.”
He did just that and once Serebnitski found some kids to play with, he realized that they didn’t have any soccer supplies, like, cleats, balls, uniforms, or even proper goal posts. So, Serebnitski decided to change that and asked his friends in Winnipeg for donations of used supplies.
“So, the next day, I got back into town and messaged some friends I play soccer with on Facebook, saying, ‘Hey. I’m taking some soccer supplies to Guatemala. If anyone wants to give me something, that would be amazing.’
“I didn’t realize that over the next few months, my basement would just be full of soccer stuff. That was the beginning of this little side project, that also became enjoyable to do.”

Over Serebnitski’s next five trips back to Guatemala, he helped put in proper goal posts and, with one of his dental clients from Winnipeg originally being from a neighbouring village, he also got proper uniforms.
Serebnitski also put on a soccer tournament during one of his visits, with the help of his girlfriend, Brittany Lasko, and they left some money for a local person who lives there to coach the team. “It was kind of nice to do something for the kids, but also for that person living in that village, giving him employment.
“It’s super important if you can help someone – whether with money, time, or both – it makes a big impact on people’s lives.”