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Published: October 26th 2006
Tuan having his flouride treatment
This trip saw all of the children who attend the Lifestart Foundation Free School visit the dentist for the very first time in their life.
I am sure that when they eagerly jumped onto the bus for the one-hour trip to the dentist in Danang City, they had absolutely no idea what was in store for them! Our children were given free dental treatment under a humanitarian program run by another aid organization called East Meets West. This wonderful organization was founded by Ly Ly Hayslip, a former Vietnamese refugee who now resides in America. I think it is quite special when aid groups are able to help each other. East Meets West (EMW) is a much larger organization than Lifestart Foundation and was only too happy to help our children. When I first approached EMW, the organization’s workers responded immediately, simply saying that if I could get the children to the clinic they would receive free treatment. In turn, Lifestart Foundation is also working in cooperation with smaller aid groups than itself to help other children and families who are in need.
Lifestart got the ok to bring 20 children to the dental clinic in Danang City for
How to take care of your teeth!
Dental nurse and kids explaining how to look after their teeth.
treatment. The Lifestart children and volunteers Marelyn, Peta, Robyn and myself headed off to a very memorable day, to say the least!!! It's bad enough taking one child to the dentist . . . taking 20 was very ambitious! And some would probably say outright stupidity . . . nevertheless, I do believe that it was an important beginning for the children and also an integral part of teaching the children how to look after themselves—a theme that continued throughout this trip.
A team of three dentists and support staff were waiting for us in Danang (drills at the ready...). The children were treated (a very poor choice of word) to a day of extractions, fillings, root canals and fluoride treatments. They watched videos on dental hygiene and had a nurse who spent a lot of time with them explaining why it was so important to look after their teeth. (Not exactly what any of us would call a fun day!)
Their poor little mouths were in a terrible state. The dental team worked tirelessly and patiently that day and also the next day, for those who were brave enough to front up on the subsequent day (our
Dung getting ready for an Xray
numbers were definitely down on the second day). The volunteers rotated between consoling the children, calming nerves, and running craft and art activities to keep their minds occupied so as not to worry about what was to come!
I hope to take 100 children in total to the dental clinic during the next 12 months and then rotate them all for 12 monthly checkups in the following years. All of the children are now stocked up with toothbrushes and toothpaste, and we will reinforce the importance of dental hygiene at the Lifestart Foundation Free School.
If you are a dentist or dental nurse looking for volunteer work, I would highly recommend you help out the team at EMW in Danang City. Please contact me for more information.
I am constantly asked by travelers what can they take over to Vietnam for Lifestart Foundation. As I think of things I will let you know. First on the list are toothpaste, floss, and tooth brushes.
Lots of Love from Karen. xxx
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