2017

Palestine – December 2017

Day 1 – Jenin

 

Day 1 palestine 2017

 

“The first ever dental aid mission to come to Jenin. Led and co-ordinated by seasoned dental aid deliverers Asid Khan and Imran Gill.The above paragraph defines two clear points, both which gave me minor anxiety. We are the first team (Pressure much?), and with seasoned clinicians (Going to get schooled).

These were the thoughts that briefly entered my mind as we meandered over some breathtaking views of the Sahl Arraba Valley. Soon displaced by the early morning excitement and buzz from Team DAN 2017. A good mix of people but great to see so many young dentists.

We entered a single surgery clinic which had kindly been provided for us with the help of the PCRF in the heart of the hustle and bustle of this city.

A waiting room full of children with their parents waiting to be seen. We were joined by a wondeful local Dentist Maryam and a very helpful dental assistant volunteer who also doubled up as translators for us. The brief was clear and off we set.

The decay rate was clearly high so the OHI was important to give on the day as well as the fluoride application

We began to get a feel of the clinic and then everything began to fall into place. The main objective was to screen the children on day 1 and apply fluoride and OHi in order to plan treatment for the next 3 days clinics. However as we were ahead of schedule we decided to begin some treatments. Fissure Sealants, Fillings and extractions. Some of the children were excellent, and a big sigh of relief to know a GA referral pathway was present for the most anxious. It was busy and the whole team including the admin team did a wonderful job. Handing out toys and seeing the smiles made a huge difference. To finish knowing we had worked hard and the challenge we had set ourselves for the week created a buzz. The blessing was having helpful people such as Maryam and the social workers so all teams could communicate effectively.
Good Job team, high fives and smiles all around.

Time to reflect as a breathtaking sunset falls at the hill tops on the journey home. I mentioned at the start 2 clear points which made me nervous. The unknown can do that to you. Today I realised that the experience was what was required and rather seeing experience as a threat. Experience became my mentors, which also helped me conquer my fear of the unknown of going into a city to provide treatment for the first time which was also the case for Maryam.

On reflection the skills we have can make such a huge difference. A small help can go a long way. Today I hope we were the start of a new chapter for that difference, and long may it continue.

To anyone who may read this who like myself has put off aid missions for reasons I mentioned above. I hope one day you can overcome those barriers. It is certainly is inspiring stuff and these people really do need you.”

Hassaan Nasir Team Palestina 2017

Day 2 – Salfeet

“Having been following Dental Aid Network on Facebook for a while, I would always enviously look at the pictures of DAN’s missions, particularly the trip to Palestine. This year I was fortunate enough to join the team!

I was asked to lead the team in a town called Salfeet. Dr Jaber kindly allowed us to use his surgery for the week in order to treat the underprivileged children in the area. We have been inundated with high treatment need patients. Lack of dental education is clearly an issue which we addressed early on in the week with an interactive oral hygiene and health talk with the kids by Dr Mustafa Makda (uk) and Dr Majd (Palestine).

The following days have been crammed with treatment consisting mainly of extractions, and also fillings. What is always striking is the sheer strength and bravery of such young children. They were a pleasure to treat, and also have a bit of a laugh and joke with in between treatments. My team also managed to successfully treat some difficult special need patients who had been refused treatment elsewhere, so well done to Dr Mustafa Makda and Dr Jamil Jeeva!

We look forward to continuing the rest of the week, and leaving some healthy, happy smiles behind!”

Dr Saira Akhtar Gill, Team Palestina 2017.

Day 3 – Nablus old city

“Today I worked in nablus, a city that has remains dating back more than 5000 years. Even the clinic we worked in was historic and absolutely beautiful. We saw 21 cases today. Some really difficult as they had never seen the dentist before and so extremely anxious. My highlight of the day was simply making a nervous little girl laugh at my terrible arabic. I kept referring to her as a boy! She let us complete all the planned treatment and she left smiling. Hands full with toys donated from the UK.

Reflecting on my trip so far, my most rewarding experience was actually just simply giving ohi/tbi to parents. We talked about basic things such as snacking and it felt promising that they interacted and genuinely wanted to learn. I pray they benefited somehow.

When I booked this trip, I had absolutely no idea what to expect or who else would be joining me. I needn’t have worried as I feel like i’ve made friends for life. The bonds you make on this mission is like no other. You’re all there for the same reason and you just jump into everything like a family.

It’s now been 7 days into our trip and I can’t believe it’s close to ending. If I could, I would happily stay another week. We’ve met some incredibly brave, genuine sincere people. People struggling in life for many reasons and yet showing dignity that we could never achieve. It’s really hit home how incredibly blessed we are back home.

Dentistry at home can be rewarding but oftentimes can be stressful too. When you come on a trip like this, you fall in love with dentistry oncemore and thank God that he has enabled you to help even if it’s in a very small way. You genuinely get more out of it than any of your patients. You wake up excited and you end your day wondering how you can do more tomorrow.

I’m sad to say tomorrow is our last working day. But I know I’m going home a different person. I definitely want to be part of the DAN family and I hope I can continue to help out in future.

So, if you are thinking of going on a DANs mission. I say to you, stop thinking. Just do it. But be prepared. It may just change your life.”

Mustafa Makda. Team palestina 2017

 

Day 4 – Qalqilia clinic

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“I was fortunate enough to be on the Dental Aid Network’s Palestine mission this year and it has been above and beyond what I had hoped for. Today I was based in Qalqilia, one of the neighbouring regions in West Bank, with Dr Taiyyub and Dr Fahim where we had the pleasure of treating some of the bravest and happiest children.

Having had some delicious fresh za’atar bread with hummus and Arabic coffee for breakfast, we arrived to a busy waiting room. Our day comprised of fissure sealants, hall crowns, fillings and extractions but the main objective was to give these patients OHI and dietary advice. Lack of dental education and the resulting neglect was evident as all the children had high caries rate with some needing multiple extractions. Most of our patients did not own a toothbrush or hadn’t brushed in a month but with the help of kind donations from the UK, we were able to send every child away with a toothbrush and toothpaste along with some toys.

Earlier in the week we met with the mayor of Nablus and local social workers, introducing them to the successful Childsmile programme model in Scotland. Our aim was to make the local schools introduce oral hygiene and regular tooth brushing to children and to train the social workers already working in the area to provide support and dental education to the families. This is with the hope that we can make an impact far greater than any one aid mission could ever hope to achieve.

This was also the first time that I visited Jerusalem. A blessed city that is important to Muslims, Christians and Jews alike and it has a vast history dating back to the Romans. We were lucky to be introduced to an absolute inspirational woman who has fought for the rights of vulnerable people her whole life and she gave us a detailed tour of Al-Aqsa mosque and the old city. We were very fortunate as she introduced us to the local families living there and we saw first-hand the incredible struggles and obstacles they experience daily. It was heart-breaking to see the hospitality and open heartedness of the locals despite living in incredibly difficult and poor living conditions which made me appreciate the blessings we have back home. We had entire families living in a room smaller than my bathroom, yet they would host us with humbling generosity.

As the trip comes to an end I will be flying back home but a part of me feels guilty knowing that the children here currently have no real hope of fulfilling their dreams, getting the same education and healthcare as I have had. I question how real the impact of my time here was considering the sheer scale of poverty around us. It hits home how privileged my entire life has been and I realise I want to be part of a future that is different. Maybe my impact wasn’t enough but perhaps, we all together can make it count, even if it is one small step at a time.”

Umer Hameed, Team Palestina 2017

Day 5

 

 

Palestine 3 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“The time I have spent here has been truly eye opening for a number of points.

From our viewpoint in the West it is very easy to become desensitised to what happens elsewhere. Indeed we may even throw a few pounds into a charity bucket and think that we are doing our part and give ourselves a pat on the back. However, seeing first hand whole families living in a single room truly strikes home how fortunate we really are.

We have seen patients who are: deaf/mute, suffering from Down syndrome, from orphanages, suffering from learning disabilities. Treating such patients not only highlights the difficulties some people face but allows us to show gratitude for all we have.

We are lucky to have in place a system in the UK where those who are in need are still able to access dental care, to seek treatment to alleviate pain and be able to eat in comfort. However, many here are not in that fortunate position and a simple filling may amount to a quarter of a families monthly income. As such, seeking treatment for a number of fillings is out of the question for many people.

What we have aimed to achieve here in: Nablus, Qalqilya, Jenin and Salfit is not just to treat the symptoms but to provide preventive care and instruction so that such problems don’t arise in the first place. ”

Quasim Munir, Team Palestina 2017.

After trip reflection
It has been a few days since the team of dental volunteers from Dental Aid Network (DAN) have returned from Palestine. I had every intention of sharing something about the trip, but whenever I have found time to sit down and reflect on the experience, I have struggled to find the words to encapsulate the feelings and emotions that are circling within me.

The first part of our journey was spent in the city of Jerusalem – a place that is dear to all three of the Abrahamic faiths. It was heartening to learn of the great respect each of the religions had historically held for each other, demonstrated so beautifully by the wonderful co-operation between the Palestinian Christians and Muslims with regard to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This Church is the location where Christians believe Jesus PBUH was crucified, and is therefore the most revered site on earth to them. Due to the esteem the different faiths have for one another, the honour of the daily opening of the Church has been bestowed on a Muslim family – a tradition that still exists to this day.

Al-Aqsa mosque holds a special place in the hearts of all Muslims. There is unrivalled beauty in its simplicity, and the tranquility and spirituality one feels whilst worshipping there leaves a profound impression on the soul.

We had the pleasure of meeting amazing Palestinian aid workers , one in particular stood out. Her dedication to helping and aiding those in dire need in the Jerusalem via the charitable foundation she and her husband have set up is inspiring to behold.

The results of the decades-long conflict are not limited to physical measures like poverty, poor housing, illiteracy, and the daily 2-hour wait at check-points for schoolchildren. The toll these awful acts are having on the emotional and social well-being of the people is immense. The stresses are leading to breakdown in familial relationships, and these are tearing at the fabric of their society.

We can help by visiting the region to provide support, and showing them that we care.

Our dental mission was organised by the amazing team at DAN, and principally managed by Asid and Mohammad. The Palestine Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF) co-ordinated the clinics on ground through Hana Abdeen and her local team members – Aya, Sawsan, Mona, Mohammad and Fida.

They arranged clinics for us in 4 towns in the West Bank; Nablus, Salfit, Qalqiliya and Jenin. They made provision for children from poor and disadvantaged backgrounds to attend the clinics, and our patients also included kids who were living in orphanages, and who had learning difficulties.

We can not adequately thank the local Palestinian dentists who opened their hearts to the project and allowed us to use their clinics, staff and materials, as well as the local dentists who assisted us with translation, logistsics and helped us treat the children. Our warmest thanks to:

Dr Jaber and Dr Majd in Salfeet
Dr Hossam and Dr Nour in Qalqiliya
Mr Ayman and Dr Maryam in Nablus; and
Dr Jalal, Dr Bashar and Dr Maryam in Jenin.

In conjunction with the team of 13 dentists from the UK – and they are all so dear to us that we must mention them – Mohammad, Umer, Shakil, Saira, Quasim, Mustafa, Jamil, Imran, Hassaan, Fahim, Alina and Asid – we managed to examine 344 children and provide treatment to 295. This included more than 450 fillings and 340 extractions, but a large part of treatment focused on prevention of dental disease. This included talks on oral hygiene and diet advice to groups of children and their parents, as well as sealants and application of fluoride.

DAN also arranged to meet the Mayor of Nablus and we presented the idea of starting an initiative across the municipality of giving focused dental advice to expectant and new mothers, in the hope that we can reduce dental problems at the start of a child’s life. He was extremely receptive to the idea so watch this space 

It has been a wonderful trip with so many memories shared with some of the loveliest people one could meet. May God bless all those involved including those supporting the project in various ways from afar, and open our hearts and minds in every way.

I wish to end with a few teachings from my beautiful religion of Islam:

“Religion begins where love of others starts.”
– Shaykh Timothy Winter (Abdul-Hakim Murad)

“Bring a thousand bags of gold coins to God; and he will only tell you: Bring your heart if you come to us.”
– Mevlana Rumi

“Be kind, for whenever kindness becomes part of something, it beautifies it. Whenever it is taken from something, it leaves it tarnished.”
– Prophet Muhammad PBUH”

Taiyub Raja, Team Palestina 2017.Close

Kashmir – October 2017

Dental Aid Network planned their third trip to Kashmir in October 2017. The team consisted of Dr Khurrum Shafiq, Dr Abdulwahab Aslam-Pervez, Dr Imran Shafiq, Dr Amer Mobarik, from Glasgow and Dr Zohaib Khan and myself (Imran Asghar) from Greater Manchester.

Many months were spent planning and organising. We assumed, as it was our third trip, that it would be somewhat easier, however this was our most difficult yet successful and rewarding trip.

Myself and Zohaib were planning to fly from Manchester and would meet the rest of the team in Pakistan. The flight had been in the air for approximately three hours when a medical emergency occurred. A passenger suffered a cardiac arrest and the pilot had to make an emergency landing in Greece. Above the sea he had to dispel most of the fuel before landing, as I believe landing with a tank full of fuel is dangerous. Seeing this was really a sight for sore eyes. Once the enormous Airbus A380 had landed, emergency crews came on board to take the patient away. The plane had to then undergo a security check and refuel. Finally, we were ready to take off and on the runway when suddenly the lights were switched back on and the roar of the engines faded away. To our shock, we were told there had been a second passenger who had suffered a cardiac arrest! This caused a huge delay for us, as we had missed our connection flight and arrived a day late.

Zohaib and I arrived at the hotel in Kashmir on 4.30am on Sunday 8th October whilst the rest of the team were sound asleep, exhausted. Fortunately, we had kept in touch with the rest of team and changed our concise plans accordingly over phone, so we all knew what the plan was for the upcoming day.

Sunday 8th October

The team finally met at breakfast at 8am and for some this was the first time we had met in person. The team was split into two. Four had planned to visit the Kashmir Orphans Relief Trust (KORT) to screen the children. We have been working with this orphanage for the past two years and were our main facilitators. Two dentists and helpers from KORT visited the dental wing of the local hospital which we have used previously. The hospital team cleaned all three surgeries, prepared our instruments and equipment including setting up the sharps boxes, local anaesthetic and restorative materials which we had bought from the UK. The team of four at KORT examined/screened all children new and old. We then listed the children who needed to attend the clinics for treatment in the coming days. Our main priority was pain but we did have many cases of hypoplastic anterior teeth, fractured upper incisors and periodontal issues which the children were concerned by. All were given oral hygiene, brushing and diet advice along with toothpastes. In addition, we applied topical fluoride varnish on all the children.

As this was our third year visiting the orphanage, we had individual record cards for all the children we had previously seen, so we could analyse what had been previously done and if any treatment had been left from the previous years.

It was pleasing to see the children that had been previously seen, required zero or minimal treatment as they had been following our dental advice. They were very keen to show us their teeth and how “white” they were. As the orphanage had taken many more children from our last visit, it was these children that we had identified as needing dental treatment. We were told these children had come from remote areas and villages affected by natural disasters. KORT had initially started just over ten years ago when the devastating earthquake hit Kashmir in 2005 resulting in hundreds of thousands losing their lives and resulting in an uncountable number of orphans.

Monday 9th October

After five hours of sleep, we travelled to a remote area of Kashmir called Bhimber, which was just over two hours away from the main area of Mirpur in which our hotel was situated. Here a UK citizen from London had donated his family’s land to build a small hospital for the community and help those much less fortunate. We visited this hospital in 2016 to assess if we could set up camp. We had a few meetings in the UK to plan this day.

A month prior to our arrival, banners and announcements were made to inform the local community and neighbouring villages of our arrival. We had no idea of how many patients would turn up. It was astonishing to see that women and children from as far as the Indian-Pakistan border, had been arriving by public transport and by foot!

We were told it was common for young mothers to die at child birth in this area due to the lack of medical facilities and professionals and if anyone had any medical or dental problems they would suffer in silence. The DAN team was the first dental camp of its kind in this area. As there was no formal dental set up, the only services we could offer were extractions, examinations and dental advice.

We spent just over an hour to set up our treatment rooms, delegate duties, arrange the waiting area, create a workflow and create a system to everyone would adhere. In addition, the trustees of the local hospital were there to give us a helping hand if needed.

We trained three of the hospital staff in giving tooth brushing and diet advice through the use of models and pictures and the patients started arriving. Every patient who arrived went through a detailed session on how to brush teeth/gums and learned how diet affects their dentition, which was then reinforced in the treatment rooms.

Unfortunately our portable autoclave stopped functioning early on in the day. This meant we could not sterilise the instruments once used, which made things a lot more difficult. Thankfully we had a large number of donated extraction forceps, luxators and elevators from dental colleagues.

Many of the patients who attended wanted to be given medicine to alleviate their dental problems and disease rather than having their offending tooth removed. A lot of time was spent with our rudimentary Urdu and with the help of the local pharmacist to help explain the dangers of taking antibiotics as we do in the UK. Furthermore, advice was given in regard to periodontal disease, orthodontic related issues, cleaning fixed and removable prostheses, effects of diabetes on dentition and smoking effects on the mouth including oral cancer advice.

The last patient of the day became a difficult extraction case. A young lady’s lower right second molar with slight cured roots became problematic in its removal. All six dentists had an attempt at removing these roots with no success. The main reason for this was that we only had a few instruments left, but they were not the ideal ones we needed. We required a small elevator or luxator but all of them had been used.  The anaesthetic started to wear off so made the decision to abandon the treatment and dispense painkillers with antibiotics to the patient. We explained to the patient the exact problem we encountered and that we had made arrangements on the following day for her to be seen by a private dentist and have the roots removed without the patient having to pay for treatment or travel.

Later that evening we were invited to KORT’s annual remembrance event. The children put on a spectacular event with poems, songs, articulate speeches in English and Urdu and saddening plays of how the catastrophic the earthquake in 2005 had affected them in losing their parents and loved ones. However, they also informed us of how the founder of this amazing charity/mission and the staff and this orphanage gave them light at the end of the tunnel and a brighter future. They now had a new home and family.

Tuesday 10th October

The whole morning was spent treating all the young boys from the orphanage that we had screened on Sunday.  We found that some treatment plans had to change, for example restorations to extractions if and when caries had reached the pulp. We had essential chair side help from the older children, who have been training with the DAN teams since 2015. This help involved suctioning, bringing the children in, calming very anxious children, mixing materials and giving post extraction instructions.

During the morning session, two colleagues visited Zobia school for special children. This was a small school which catered for children with special needs and disabilities. Our dentists were able to screen all the children with the help of the staff and note down those who needed treatment. The dentists were welcomed with flowers and cards from the children. The team also gave toothbrushes and pastes to all the children and carried out simple oral hygiene advice with the help of the staff and demonstration models.

After lunch, we visited and screened all the children at the AKAAB school for the blind which was based just outside the town of Mirpur. This educational facility was headed by a blind professor of English and comprised of children from the ages of six to twenty-two. Again, this establishment was mainly run on private donations from across Pakistan and the UK. We were given a tour of the whole facility from the deputy head teacher who himself was blind. He passionately showed us the well thought out and designed building specifically catered for blind children. We saw how the children learned braille and how to read it in Urdu and English. They had various classes from History, Music and Maths etc. It was astonishing to see how these children with their staff had achieved so much in academia but also entering sports, music and talent events throughout Pakistan and Kashmir!

The team paired up and visited each classroom as lessons were being conducted. With a simple head light, disposable mirror and probe and not forgetting our gloves we examined each child and noted those with dental disease. We listed each child with disease for treatment at the local hospital.

We were surprised to note that not as many from the hundred plus children needed treatment in contrast to what we had expected. We had assumed this cohort of children would have had the most dental disease but as we found out this was not the case. After the screening, we sat with the head of the institute who gave us his history and discussed his passion to build such a place which was the only one of its kind in the whole area. We were told that before a school like this most children who were born blind, had no future right from the very start, and at best some would be shoe cleaners or bread mixers and the rest would mostly be forced into begging on the streets unless they were born into a wealthy family. However due to this school, past children had gone onto become teachers, work in banking and finance and government jobs. The effect the staff and school had on these children was amazing and humbling to see.

We were then invited to take a tour of the local privately funded kidney dialysis centre, which was situated in the same hospital we were undertaking our dental work. The tour was given by a local private dentist who has aided our charity missions each year and has given us immense help and sacrificed a lot of his time. He had been involved with this dialysis centre for many years, raising awareness of the work that was being undertaken and how it was affecting so many lives. We had the chance to speak to patients who were undergoing treatment. Patients informed us that without such a service their lives would have ended many years ago. I spoke especially to one young man, who explained he was the only breadwinner for his family and without him, the family would and could be forced to beg on the streets.

This free service was segregated between Hepatitis positive and negative patients to prevent cross contamination. Again, we acknowledged that most of the funding was from private donations mainly from the UK with the government providing the only hospital itself. We spoke with the only specialist nephrologist in the entire city, a very valuable person indeed.

In the evening without any break we held a CPD event at the hotel. This was done with the help of our local dentist, the orphanage and friends of the charity who had helped us for the past two years. Lecture topics included oral cancer, hepatitis, orthodontics, trauma and introduction to the hall crown technique.

Wednesday 11th October

The whole morning involved screening children from the Kashmir Institute of Special Education (KISE) which educated children who were deaf and who could not speak. A few of the children who we had seen in the previous year remembered who we were and as soon as we arrived they gave us big smiles showing us their teeth and indicated brushing their teeth with their fingers. Again, we paired up and saw each child of the school and created a list of those we wanted to see at the dental clinic. We also took this opportunity to hand out tooth brushes, tooth pastes and toys to all the children. We also saw the amazing work the students and staff had been doing including the extracurricular activities the children had been involved with, especially with their art work.

The afternoon was spent treating all girls from the KORT orphanage with the help of the older children.

As we had finished on time for once, we took this opportunity to visit Dr. Tahir’s private dental clinic which was in walking distance from the hospital. It was pleasing to see a clinic where the team was caring, patient focused and how they took decontamination, single use policy and prevention of disease very seriously. The evening was spent at the KORT orphanage, handing out toys to the all the children which we had bought over from the UK. It was great to spend time with new and old faces but also to understand what these children had been through and what their lives could possibly be if it was not for this school and one person’s dream.

Thursday 12th October

This was a very busy day undertaking treatment on children who were blind, deaf and those who were wheelchair bound coupled with other disabilities. We had staff members from each school, assisting us in treating the children. All rooms including our stock room were used to carry out treatment. One colleague became a treatment coordinator and delegated treatments to each dentist which made the workflow easier. He also made sure our used instruments were being collected and sterilised and ready for use when needed. The day started at 8.30am and finished approximately 5.30pm with a short lunch break. Lunch was kindly delivered to us at the hospital to save time. The team was under pressure as these children could only come for treatment on this day, and there was no room for them to come back again for further treatment, so the aim was to get everyone disease free by the end of the day. We also took each treatment opportunity to reinforce tooth brushing advice coupled with diet advice.

Later that evening we were invited to a boating club and experienced high-speed boating on the famous Mangla dam. This was followed by tea and food with professionals from the community and the evening ended with our team individually going through personal feedback and thoughts of the mission; specifically, what improvements we could make for future trips and our own personal learning experiences from the trip. For some this was the first time they had ever done something like this and found it life changing.

Friday 13th October

The morning session was used to undertake treatment on all remaining older boys from the orphanage. We surprisingly successfully completed all treatment on all children we had seen from all four institutes. We noted that many of the had anterior incisors fractures through falls, running and cricket.

We gained a couple of hours to take stock of our remaining material and equipment. An inventory was made of all our stock and was stored in a secure location in Kashmir to be used for following aid trips.

I can truly say by the end of the week the whole team were extremely worn out and exhausted with no energy to pack our bags for the return trip!

We had successfully completed all our action plans and the trip was a huge improvement from the previous two years. Even though we were heavily delayed we managed to surpass what we had done in the past and the famous lines of Hannibal from the A team, “I love it when a plan comes together,” comes to mind.

We would like to thank all those involved from the UK to Kashmir especially to those who donated their time, money and efforts, namely Septodont for their safety plus syringes, KORT for always looking after us and making this possible each year, the children of KORT, local dentists and the people of Kashmir.

We hopefully plan to go again in November 2018.

Total number of patients assessed/examined          640

Total number of patients treated in the clinics         255

Total number of extractions                                      141

Total number of direct restorations                           60

Total number of scaling undertaken                          9

 

 

From Imran Asghar, GDP

Deeplish Dental Practice, Rochdale

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jordan – October 2017

Below is a reflection on this trip written by Hassan Ali

October 2017 saw the first group of volunteers go to Jordan as part of the Dental Aid Network.  Jordan is a small country in the middle east which is host to many historical sites including the dead sea, many roman ruins and the ancient city of Petra (where Indian Jones and the last cruisade was filmed). The popluation of Jordan is approximately 9.5 million which includes 3.5 million refugees from neighbouring countries which have suffered ongoing conflicts.

Partnering with PCRF (Palestinian Children’s Relief Fund) we had planned to explore and distribute much needed dental aid in Amman and Mafraq.  Being the first Dental Aid mission to this location, we were unaware of exactly how great the need would be and exactly the facilities we would have to help us provide such aid.

Myself and two of my colleagues left Glasgow and flew for a 5 day mission to Amman, Jordan. We were greeted by our driver, Adel who took us to our hotel in the early hours of Sunday morning.  Little time to get some rest we were all eager to get started and met with the rest of the volunteers and co-ordinators to plan the coming days at 9:30am.

There were 4 volunteers who were all interns (equivalent to Vocational Dental Practitioner in UK), who kindly took time off from work to help with the mission.

Left to right: Areen Afghani, Hassan Ali, Omar Iqbal, Louai Haddad, Arfan Ahmed, Ibrahim Khatib, Tala Ghishan

Left to right:
Areen Afghani, Hassan Ali, Omar Iqbal, Louai Haddad, Arfan Ahmed, Ibrahim Khatib, Tala Ghishan

We were in uncharted territory as there had never been a Dental mission in Jordan before and we were not sure what to expect when we attended the clinics. We had brought some basic supplies and oral health packs as well as some toys for the children.  There were 2 clinics, one in Amman and the other in Mafraq (a city around 45 mins from Amman and in the north of Jordan).  Together with the PCRF, team we agreed that it would be best to split up and each attend the clinics and refugee camps.  Therefore, a team, consisting of one DAN member and 1 or 2 local volunteers would attend the clinics and one team would go out to the refugee camps to provide basic oral health instruction and begin screening for the coming days in the clinics.

The clinics were run from 9.30am until 4.30pm and children were bussed in the morning from refugee camps to attend the clinic.  At the start of the day when all the children were sitting in the waiting room we had a prime opportunity to provide oral health instruction to everyone.  The help of our local interns was invaluable as they were fantastic in demonstrating how to brush and going over good oral health instruction with all the children.  In addition, we went over diet advice with the children but also with the teachers based in the camps so that this would equip them with the much needed knowledge to continue good oral health practice everyday.

Happy children

A job well done when all the kids are happy at the end of the day

The clinics were relatively well equipped providing the ability to perform basic procedures such as extractions and routine fillings.  While we did request further instruments and materials, due to time constraints we were unable to get all the things we would have liked.  However, the demand for treatment was incredibly high and as a consequence we were forced to prioritise those who were suffering in pain or had swelling to be treated first.  It was amazing to see how everyone in the clinic was working together.  The dental assistants  were volunteers themselves, some had never worked in a dental setting but were very quick to pick up exactly how we worked.  It truly was a team effort as we were expected to see around 30 children in each clinic a day.  We had a lot to fit in, group oral health instruction and treatments ranging from simple fillings to extractions throughout the day, quite often with no break.

 

After the clinics had finished the PCRF team would take us out for a meal and we would then return back to the hotel to get refreshed. We were over whelmed by the kindness of the PCRF volunteers as they came again to take us out and showed us around the beautiful city of Amman at night.  It was an amazing experience to soak up the atmosphere of a wonderful city made even better while creating friendships with our PCRF colleagues.

Good food

Enjoying a BBQ after a busy day in the clinics

Spending time at the refugee camps was a humbling experience for all of us, as seeing pictures on TV are never enough to prepare you when you see the conditions some of these people are having to live in.  Within each camp was a school and the teacher was our point of contact with whom we liaised with to co-ordinate the time at the camps. The children were gathered in the school and we would perform some simple exams to assess exactly what was needed, so that when they attended the clinic we were better prepared and more efficient with our treatments.  Again, group oral health instructions were provided to all the children and teacher so that this may be re-enforced in future classes.

We were then able to visit some of the tents and families speaking directly with them.  We were heartbroken by the stories of hardship and suffering they had faced, it was difficult at times not to shed a tear.  Despite this, the hospitality they showed was unbelievable.  The little they had they would offer to us as guests, giving boxes of fresh vegetables which had taken them several months of hard work to grow.  While we refused to take them, they would not take no for an answer and made us at least have some traditional Arabic tea freshly brewed before we could leave.  In the face of such difficulty these people have endured, their humbleness was a true lesson and eye opener for us all.

12

Despite everything the kids in the camps still had smiles on their face

 

On our final day, we had a great dinner with the PCRF team and the 5 days could not have gone past any quicker.  The main topic of conversation was the return of DAN to Jordan and what more we could do.  We could only scratch the surface to what is a very great need and certainly we are now more aware of what is needed.  We didn’t get much time to enjoy Amman but that was not the reason for our visit.  We learned a lot from this first mission which means the next mission will be better prepared and we hope can reach even further.

It goes without saying that this could not have happened without the hard work and warm hospitality shown by all the volunteers in Jordan and the entire PCRF team.  All our needs were taken care of and we were treated like family.  Thank you all so much!

A very big thank you too to all our donors, families and friends without whose support we would not have been able to achieve everything we have accomplished so far.