In developed countries, basic aspects of life are often taken for granted.
Access to quality health care is just one of those aspects—specifically dental care—which is only a phone call away to book an appointment.
However, others across the globe, especially in Third World countries, don’t have that same quality of health care available to them.
With that in mind, a local dentist and his staff are partnering up with a non-profit group that provides dental and oral health services in areas where there is a need for it.
Dr. Dave Burwash and his staff at Baker Hill Dental are starting a fundraising drive to take a trip—destination undetermined as of press time—to spend roughly two weeks in an under-developed area of the world to provide dental care under the umbrella of Kindness in Action.
“Basically, the way it works is Kindness in Action is the charity we go through and what they do is they raise funds themselves for materials and equipment, but then they try to organize teams that want to go,” said Dr. Burwash.
“But the team that goes is responsible for paying their whole way. So basically we have to raise enough money for airfare, accommodations and food, for the time that we’re working there.”
Dr. Burwash has previously made trips to Bolivia and Peru with the organization, this time around it’s looking like it may be Guatemala or El Salvador.
“We’re going to go wherever the need is most,” Dr. Burwash said. “Because these things are logistically difficult to plan, they try to plan them well in advance, so right now, I know they need a group to go to Guatemala, but we have an unusually large contingent, so they’re trying to figure out if that’s going to work for them and we’ve just said, ‘We’re at your disposal.'”
The trip is planned for sometime in the early new year, and fundraising has already begun, which will include a garage sale behind the Baker Hill dental office on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The clinic also sells tooth-whitening kits, while other efforts include community barbecues, raffling off donations from other business, and support from patients.
“Basically we’re open to any and all suggestions to fundraising.”
Costs per staff member could range anywhere from $2,500 to $5,000.
Dr. Burwash also noted other members of the community are welcome to come along if they understand that it’s not a vacation.
“We’re generally working, you get up at 7 a.m. in the morning, you’re at the clinic by 8 a.m. in the morning and you’re usually working till sundown, so 7 p.m. at night. You go back, have something to eat and do it all over again,” Dr. Burwash said.
“So it’s tough, but if somebody in the community wanted to join us…they’re going to have to commit to the fact that they’re not going to have glamourous jobs. They’re going to be cleaning instruments, helping to triage patients, helping in the recovery room, basically a difficult working environment.
“But lots of crying, lots of hugs and lots of laughter.”
Dr. Burwash recalled a few memories that has remained with him during previous trips to Peru and Bolivia.
“The longest I had was a lady who brought her son to see us, and they walked five days to come and see us,” he said. “They heard that a dentist was coming and this poor kid had a couple of teeth that were really bothering him.”
Another woman who Dr. Burwash estimated was in her 70s, walked 12 hours to get to the clinic and waited all day to see someone. At the end of the day, she got up from her chair and was about to leave until someone brought her in and get the necessary work done.
Another patient had a cancerous tumour and the team was able to get photos to a dentist in Calgary, who was able to link up with a Peruvian specialist and get a treatment plan in place.
“It really makes you realize how good we have it when you get down to somewhere where these people are in agony and even if they had the money, there’s nobody to provide them with the services,” Dr. Burwash said.
Dr. Burwash’s group also went to a home run by the Mantay Project for young girls who had experienced trauma and provides them with medical care, schooling (academic and a trade) and provided with a job. Half of the income gets held in trust until they hit 18 years of age, where they must leave the facility but are provided a apartment.
“It was either that or they end up on the street begging,” he said.
While the office is fundraising to provide oral health services to those in need in faraway places, they also have a budget and money set aside for local patients who may have trouble accessing health services. That budget will not be used for the trip.
For any fundraising ideas or to support the Kindness in Action trip, call Baker Hill Dental at 426-5865.