By day I am an IT professional, so joining a dental mission is outside my comfort zone. However, all of the dentists and returning volunteers are great teachers so we quickly got up to speed. During the trip I got the job of keeping the dentists busy with patients. Though the job was challenging, it was one of the best jobs as I got to interact with the children. Each time I would interrupt a class to call more children for treatment I was greeted by large smiles, hugs and the occasional tear. I also got the glorious job of being "the model" for the oral hygiene demonstrations as our real dental models got held up in customs. Though embarrassing, is was great to see the children’s bright faces soak up the information we imparted to them.
This was my second trip with Global Kindness Foundation to Iraq and it was one of the most fulfilling experiences in my life. Travelling across the globe with a group of people for several weeks and leaving behind my wife and kids presented with many challenges and opportunities. Our typical day started bright and early and upon arriving at the school work started right away. Cleaning up our equipment from the dust that settled overnight, setting up the rooms and equipment, and having our morning huddle. Everyone on the trip soon found their roll and after a few days we were operating efficiently while having a great time. It was amazing to see how we managed to setup and run a modern dental practice that provides comprehensive treatment in conditions where electricity, light and clean water were rare commodities. The energy that was in the air provided from the new volunteers and the seasoned veterans was contagious and fostered an environment of teamwork and learning. The children that entered from their classrooms were greeted with enthusiastic volunteers who sat them down and put them at ease by playing games with them on an iPad. Thereafter they were seen for treatment, most were in need of basic care such as cleanings and preventative sealants, while others required comprehensive care on most of their teeth. A group of 3-4 volunteers per dentist worked like clockwork to assist in treatment, translate what was happening to the patient, cleaning and setting up for the next patient. After treatment was completed the children were looked after by volunteers who would cuddle with them, play games with them and help them return back to class. After returning from the trip, many of us caught ourselves daydreaming of the trip and reminiscing about the great times we had.
“Life is an amazing gift, and it offers us the privilege, opportunity and responsibility to give
something back by becoming more and opportunities only knock once. As I was informed about the Dental Camp in Matemwe, Zanzibar there was definitely no thinking twice but accepting the invite as I’ve always dreamt of wanting to go on various camps and offer my services to the people in need.
The first day at camp initially was overwhelming as we did not know what to expect. Excitement as to finally getting to do something I’ve always wanted to, a little anxious as I am not from a dental background, would I be useful and manage to grasp the various dental terminologies and equipments at sight?! – As there were plenty of tools!
After a few hours, I got the hang of most things and bless the dentists - they never got tired of answering our never-ending questions and at the end of it, I felt a lot confident in managing the work! I had never expected it to be so hands-on as I was under the assumption we'd work behind the scenes but this was definitely a great learning curve and it proved that we all have the ability to deliver when there is a task at hand.
The pivotal part of the camp were the kids we had to treat; interacting with them, getting them to smile for a picture and helping them get through with the procedure by endless singing and reassurance that it’s all going to be OK at the end. It was touching to witness how they remembered me by name the next day! I was walking on the beach one evening and saw a few girls playing on the sand and suddenly I hear someone shout out my name! Surprised, I walked up to them to see a lovely girl standing there smiling and realized I was there assisting her procedure, that’s when it hit me that surely we've made a difference!
The beauty of each day commenced by recital of a Dua by Dr Kamaal followed by a short debrief of the previous day. After which the ‘Dawa session’ ensued which meant getting the energy booster (imported chocolates) from Fatim Bai’s treasure box.
You learn everything you can, any time you can, from anyone you can as there will come a time when you will be grateful you did what you did when you did – I believe this camp provides the opportunity to find deeper powers and skills within ourselves especially in challenging situations.
I've definitely grown and learnt a great deal of dental knowledge from both the dentists (Dr Dhirani and Dr Kamaal) - as I closely worked hand in hand with them. My gratitude goes out to the organizers of this camp and our trainers – Fatim Bai and Nasifa Bai, without whom this camp would not have been successful and we would not have learnt! To the dentists; for their patience and teaching us every step of the way and to my colleagues for the support and fun-laughing times!”