NIYATI GUPTA AND LAUREN GRIFFIN
Hey, this is Niyati and Lauren and we're dental students at the University of Newcastle - upon - Tyne in England. At the end of the fourth year of our course, the university offers us time off to experience dentistry in another part of the world. We are both good friends and when we were told about this, we decided that we'd like to go somewhere that neither of us had ever been to before. We are really excited about joining the project in Zambia, and having an experience that would not be possible as tourists. Whilst in Africa we hope to learn about and experience a whole new way of life, and in return contribute to better oral health through the 'Teethsavers' project.
I do not know what lies ahead but I do know that choosing to volunteer with Teethsavers will definitely change my outlook on life. By traveling to Chipata this summer I hope to gain insight into the lives and in turn the struggles of the people of Zambia. I and most probably the rest of us take for granted what we have, so in order to spread our benefits we need to acknowledge the problems out there and volunteer our time to help solve them.
Reena works in a Molecular Endocrinology lab at the Texas Tech University School of Medicine. She is currently applying to dental school.
CATHERINE BAILEY, BDS, Student Sheffield University, UK
Being Involved with Teethsavers - Experiences from the Field
As the sun is setting the schoolhouse near Chiapata comes into view. I am sitting on the back of a large truck laden high with the equipment and supplies remaining…not forgetting the 14 members of the Teethsavers team of operators and assistants. I am a fourth year dental student who decided to spend my elective period of study with Teethsavers and after the first trip I am so glad I have had the chance to experience the program, which has been set up by Dr. Jack Rudd to deliver dental care and education to the children in the surrounding area where there is a great need for care but no other available source.
We have been in 3 groups, each at a different village for four days to educate, screen and treat the children and educate the parents in oral health. The team I was working with screened and treated over 500 children and educated over 300 parents! The treatment given includes the filling of teeth delivered without anaesthetic (Atraumatic restorations) and the cleaning of hard debris (calculus) from the teeth which has caused the gums to become inflamed.
I was so impressed with the compassion and dedication of all of the members and how welcome they made me feel. We stayed in a classroom and cooked on a charcoal stove. The villagers welcomed us and were very interested in hearing about the oral health education being given. This was given to the children and if possible their parents in a very easy to understand and remember way: clean the six year molars by brushing eight times every day! The children wanted to be taught…many walking miles in the heat and waiting their turn patiently. On talking to a group of children I discovered that many feel shame about the state of their dentition and are aware and self conscious about bad breath!
It is clear the benefits already gained and to be gained in the future will be immense! Teethsavers is an organization that has and can help to improve the Zambian children's quality of life by improving their oral health.
KATHARINA KALLEN, Our month at Teethsavers:
We, two students from Cologne, Germany, spent the month of August, 2007, in Chipata, Zambia. We were extremely excited before our journey. There were so many things we had to think of and so many questions we could not answer. But once we arrived at Jack's school everything turned out just fine. He and Doreen welcomed us very warmly and helped us to team up right away.
Since the children in Zambia had summer vacations when we arrived at Teethsavers, we went to the South Luangwa National Park; the team had to organize some alternatives to reach out to the little patients.
By the time we came back to Jack's school we started working: At eight o'clock the equipment for the treatments got packed on a big truck, things like benches, chairs, small tables, instruments for medical treatment, cooking devices etc. Finally, the team, around twenty people, got on the truck and we went off to a village where the children were already waiting for us.
It was so impressive seeing all those children full of excitement. Some of them had never seen a white person before, so they screamed "usungu" (white stranger) all the time.
First the children got divided into groups. Then each group got a lesson in brushing teeth with their new toothbrushes and Teethsaver's staff taught them what the six-year molar is. After that each child got a screening whether treatment is necessary. Last but not least came the treatment. We usually both screened and conducted treatment.
During the semester the team went to a school close to Chipata on a Monday and stayed there for the week. They slept in the classroom. We did it once, it was a real adventure and a bit like camping.
All the team members got educated in Jack's school. At the moment Jack has no students. He moved with his team to Katete. Katete is situated at about a one-hour's drive from Chipata by taxi.
Here are some helpful hints if you consider joining Teethsavers as well.
- Flight: Take a flight to Lilongwe, Malawi and not to Lusaka, Zambia, as it is too far away. Think about the visa.
- Money: Just take dollars, mostly big banknotes then you get more money at the exchange office.
- Malaria: Think about taking some malaria prophylaxis.
- For camping: Bring a sleeping bag and a torch with you.
DEBBY BUCHANAN AND GARY T. FOSTER, DDS
Although we did quite some travelling on our own over the weekends we never felt in danger, very much to the contrary of what you might expect beforehand. I would go there again and I have plans for returning to Africa
Jinotga was a tremendous experience for Debby and I. We have traveled to several economically challenged countries, but none of them made us as grateful for being Americans as Nicaragua . Teethsavers is doing a great job saving molars with limited resources. The Teethsavers personal are doing Great work educating the
children dentally as well as saving teeth. We loved the response and cooperation of the children and their parents. We felt we helped the patients and wished we could have done more. The mission was very hospitable to us and our needs. A truly rewarding experience for us.