Written by: Andrea Swenson, GDR Trip Leader and Board Member
A geographically diverse team of volunteers just spent ten days together in Nepal with Global Dental Relief (GDR) providing dental care to children who otherwise would most likely not receive it.
The team consisted of two dentists from Germany, one from Denmark, and two from the US, as well as two American hygienists, and a multinational team of general (non-dental) volunteers.
With dental mission trips offered in seven countries, GDR creates webs of friendships that crisscross all over the globe. The team works very hard to treat up to 100 kids a day in the clinic, followed by team dinners, which are filled with conversations about most-loved GDR clinic sites (too hard to pick a favorite) and musings about GDR trips to attend in the future.
A hygienist who is on her 4th GDR trip, said that she really appreciates and aligns with the model of care, especially the focus on oral hygiene education. A monk that she treated asked her why his gums were so inflamed and he listened intently when she told him how to prevent that from happening in the future. Her friend, who came along as a general volunteer, said she was so impressed with the gratitude from the patients, and their attentiveness during the oral hygiene lessons.
A dentist from Germany who is also doing his 4th trip to Nepal with GDR brought along his wife and daughter, as well as a friend from Germany who is also a dentist. He said that the reason he is on his 4th GDR trip is because “it’s a win-win situation; the kids are winning because they get the treatment they need, and he wins because gets to do work he loves while working with a nice team of fellow volunteers.”
A unique perk of working at the Kathmandu clinic is that we work at a very special school, Shree Mangal Dvip (SMD), a boarding school for Himalayan children. When we walk to the clinic each morning and enter the doors of this school we are met by sounds and sights that fill our hearts. Kids aged 5-18 running around with their arms around each other, huge smiles on their faces, giving all of us hugs as we make our way to the classroom that is our temporary dental clinic.
Furthermore, five of the older teenaged students worked in the clinic alongside us. They helped by checking in the children, doing Oral Hygiene lessons, sterilizing instruments, painting fluoride varnish on the patient’s teeth, translating, and assisting dentists and hygienists. They are overseen by Nehla, a SMD graduate herself, who is currently the school nurse. She organizes all of the schools that we see, manages our continuing Oral Health Education program, and our nutrition program, and is the go to person for anything else we need in the clinic. She is the glue to this operation! They are all a joy to work with and most volunteers comment that these students are what make our Kathmandu clinics so special.
And for our volunteers it always circles back to the kids, the reason we all do this work. All are amazed at how appreciative they are, and can’t believe how many of them must have been in such pain before coming to the clinic. One young boy that was seen by one of the dentists had an infected tooth extracted that the dentist guessed must have been causing pain for months.
It all adds up to a very productive teeth-filling and heart-filling experience.
Our Danish dentist was sitting on a bench at the end of the clinic one day and a group of young students came up to her and asked her how old she was. She said she was 49. “Ohhhh”, they replied, “but you still have so many teeth!” Such is the state of dental care in many parts of the world, and why it is so important that we continue to do this work.
To join a group of international volunteers on a dental mission trip, contact us today!