The day started bright and early with a beautiful Bangladeshi Sunrise over the Syhlet skyline.
Breakfast prepared us for the long but serene journey through the beautiful villages of rural Syhlet, where we were welcomed by the community of Singerkach.
Looking up at the banner raised above the arches of the Health Centre we were filled with a sense of purpose for the day. Poorly timed blackouts had afforded us an extra hour to explore the surrounding rice paddies as the mobile generator made its way down town. This also allowed us time to test our abilities to fit 6 people into a single TukTuk, an experience that had eluded us till now! A handful of candid photographs later we were up and running unpacking our equipment ahead of the arriving patients from the local town.
One room had been allocated as the decontamination room. Tables with an array of forceps, luxators and elevators all arranged around the centre piece, the portable autoclave. The second and larger room fit with much needed ceiling fans and 4 patient beds would be our base for treatment and triaging of the patients. In traditional British fashion an orderly queue was formed leading down the corridor as the first school children and adult patients arrived in a manor of excitement mirrored by that of ourselves eager to try out our recently learnt Bangladeshi Bon mots.
Consultations began as patient poured in with plenty of local volunteers on hand to facilitate. A total of over 300 men, women and children were seen over the course of the day culminating in multiple painful teeth being removed and preventative information delivered.
We were lucky and are grateful to have been welcomed in such a warm manner.
Welcomed to Biswanath with a bouquet of flowers and a waiting room full of patients!
Eager to start we organised our supplies so we had an equipment / decontamination room and a room with 3 treatment beds.
For a more efficient day we established a triage system with our main Bangladeshi Boy (the only Bengali speaking team member) Rofu – who would triage patients and complete a treatment form for us to carry out.
With a super slick system in full swing the waiting room continued to fill. By the end of the day we had seen over 260 patients. All received obi/tbi and toothpaste/toothbrush.
Finally last tooth out, last decontamination cycle on and it was time for a cup of chai after a long but extremely successful day!
With many patient compliments – I’d like to think we’ll return one day!
Bhavi Cheema, Dentist, Manchester
Today Rofu returned to his hometown Jagannathpur after a long absence. Whilst it was a bumpy, treacherous journey, we arrived safely to another warm welcome of smiles.
Setting up dental camp on the veranda of a local centre was made easier by the kindness and assistance of the locals. Sheets were tactically placed to relinquish our patients from the gazes of fascinated onlookers.
Our work flow has now improved, with a streamline process ensuring all patients have a comfortable journey. Comfortable may not be the appropriate description for our backs, however, without reclining chairs, good posture is hard to maintain. Hence, a stretching session was led by Bhavik Shah to ensure sustainability of our volunteers.
Lunch was very much needed after a busy morning and we kept our energy flowing by chasing goats through the village. Another busy afternoon, and another cohort of happy patients.
With the team divided regarding the decision to stay in the village or brave the roads home, a warm shower and comfort won. But even the boring members⁸ of the team were overcome with joy when we passed a village playing cricket. Off the minibus and onto the pitch, our team of 6 scored a 6.
Today we continued our care in the same village which meant undertaking the same bumpy journey. However, our 6 man workforce soon became 7 as we met with a beautiful all be it hangry elephant en-route!!
We reached the village and were welcomed with smiles and endless cups of chai. Our day kicked off to a flying start with our efficient team work, managing to treat and help as many patients as possible. A lot of preventative advice given, fluoride varnish applied and treatments completed.
After a jam packed day we were invited back to one of the local villagers houses for a much welcomed dinner, although some found it a little bit too spicy to handle!
Another successful and fabulous day! So many thank-yous to our lovely volunteers and hosts.
Day 5 – Final Day
After the most rewarding four days greeting and treating over 1000 patients across three different villages, our fifth and final day in Syhlet began with a short journey through the town to the orphanages.
Tucked away into a quieter corner of Syhlet was the first of two centres, which had been founded with the purpose of housing and educating visually impaired children who had been orphaned at an early age. We were welcomed with open arms by the children, who confidently sang and played instruments for us whilst we admired their talents.
After some introductions in our newly learnt Bengali and a rendition of the Bangladeshi national anthem, we got to work with applying some fluoride varnish; and handing out new toothbrushes and toothpastes to each of the twelve children.
Our final trip to deliver dental care to the communities in Bangladesh saw us visit a second, bigger orphanage which housed hundreds of Syhleti orphans, who would otherwise be sleeping on the streets.
After a chaotic welcome from what felt like hundreds of excitable children, and several glove balloons later, we ended our visit with a cuddle from two abandoned newborn babies who had been left on the streets of Syhlet just days earlier.
Whilst we were visiting these two amazing orphanages, we were told that many of the orphaned children can only be fed there, and then must return to the streets to sleep. There are not enough beds and resources to fund the children and the orphanages rely solely on donations to fund the centres.
We would encourage anyone who wishes to make a difference, to look into donating to help fund these amazing places, as we have seen first hand just how special and important they are to the lives of the children that rely on them.
Finally, a visit to the famous Sylhet tea gardens and Hazrat Shahjalal Mazar Sharif before it was time to depart from one of the most densely populated countries in the world.