A DENTAL hygienist from Milton Keynes has been using her skills to improve oral health in poor and remote parts of Nepal.
Anne Martin Powders spent two weeks volunteering as part of a team with the international dental charity Dentaid. The team visited orphanages, projects for street children, schools and remote communities to provide pain relieving dental treatments and oral health education.
The volunteers also saw some of the devastation caused by the earthquake which hit the country in 2015. “Although there has been some redevelopment some rural families still live in temporary corrugated iron shelters which are draughty and basic,” said Anne.
In Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu, the team provided dental treatment and advice at a women’s co-operative group and an orphanage. “We worked outdoors treating many women and children with the most beautiful backdrop of the snowy Himalayan range inspiring us,” said Anne. “Our hearts went out to the children at the orphanage in the nearby foothills where we provided dental treatments, taught oral health and held a tooth brushing session with donated toothbrushes and paste from the UK. The children were warm and friendly and our opportunity to play with them and hand out small toys gave us all special memories.”
After a nine hour journey on one of the dangerous roads in the world the team reached Pokhara where they visited a project for street children who roam rubbish tips searching for food and frequently end up becoming dependent on drugs. The children are given a hot meal each day and the opportunity to live in the safe haven of an orphanage. “We set up a clinic and treated the children’s dental problems,” said Anne. “Despite their harsh living conditions we were surprised and happy to see that they had experienced less tooth decay, most likely as they are unable to afford sweets and sweet drinks.”
The team also visited rural Garambesi an area that was hit hard by the earthquake. “We walked to the village school and were greeted by the excited children thrusting handfuls of bright poinsettia flowers into our hands to welcome us,” said Anne. “The children were eager to learn about tooth brushing and the team established a school tooth brushing programme where the teachers would supervise daily brushing. These children had lots of tooth decay because they drink sweet fizzy drinks and tea.” The team also trekked up into the mountains to offer dental care to remote communities where access to dentistry is very limited.
Anne, who works at Broughton Dental Practice, Rapport Dentistry and Northlight Dental in Milton Keynes fundraised £2200 to pay for her trip and support Dentaid’s ongoing work in Nepal. She raised the money by organising a pub-quiz and auction. “I am very grateful to all the patients, friends and colleagues who supported me so generously,” she said. “Nepal is a very beautiful country with lovely people. To be a team member and to work in these projects was a truly humbling experience”
Dentaid was founded in 1996 and works to improve oral health around the world including in the UK. The charity runs volunteering trips across Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe and also works in the refugee camps in Greece. Dentaid restores donated dental equipment to send to dentists in the developing world and runs oral health education projects in the UK and overseas. To find out more visit www.dentaid.org