I had the honor to be able to experience the first dental mission with Project Turquoise with a group of incredible dentists from the Washington DC area.
According to the UN Refugee Agency, reports that an unprecedented 65 million people were uprooted from their homes by conflict and persecution by the end of 2016. What makes this particularly heartbreaking is the plight of the children, who make up half of the world’s refugees. Many of these children travel alone or are separated from their parents. The decay rate of these displaced children worldwide is a staggering 80% and many suffer from dental infections. Many have asked me, what kind of impact can you make as a dentist in such a short time on a mission. It is a valid question, but hopefully, after hearing more about what we are trying to do, you will see the impact we made and can make with future dental & medical missions. Our team developed a relationship with the University of Jordan Dental School, & this was one of the key parts of the success of our mission. We each worked with enthusiastic hard-working dental residents to accompany us in our clinical care and serve as translators. We visited two Syrian refugee camps- Zaatari & Azraq in Jordan. The days would start very early, and were emotionally draining, but we were always eager to get back the next day and do it all over again! Oral health education was in the heart of everything we did. Over 600 kids were given oral hygiene and preventative fluoride treatment. We treated over 154 patients across two clinics and donated over $20,000 worth of dental equipment and supplies.
An incredible connection happened with our Jordanian dentist interns, and some of the volunteers at the refugee camp.
They also felt inspired and wanted to drive change. What else better than to inspire & motivate people in a community that is distressed. It really showed us that inspiration can have a ripple effect, and just by us being there, we can start small movements in a community.
We exchanged ideas with our interns, laughed and cried with them & although they learned a lot from us, we also learned how to be flexible & improvise in difficult circumstances.
Our dental team had two major objectives: Delivering and teaching dental procedures, and second, empowering & lifting up our patients & volunteers.
We pushed back tears every day as many of the refugees had not seen a dentist since they came to the camp, and presented with a mouth full of decay. But they still managed to greet us with a small smile.
One of the experiences that stuck with me, was a shy 5-year-old girl.
She had a toothache and she would keep coming up to the front of the line with her hand covering her mouth, she would then occasionally smile at me & then run back to the end of the line placing her hand on top of her mouth again. We were able to finally get her in the chair by the end of the day! She had 2 infected molars & it just broke my heart because I could tell she was extremely uncomfortable & scared. I honestly didn’t think she would let me numb her to be able to treat her! But, after some convincing, she took a deep breath, tears running down her face, composed herself & said “do it” in Arabic to me. Her perseverance is hard to describe & I will never forget her piercing blue eyes staring right at me. After it was all done, she hugged me hard & at that moment, I realized how much she had taught me! To have such courage & hope! I was the privileged one to be able to help her! Our team all had similar experiences which really touched us to our core!
I want to end with this quote which really resonates with me.
“If you want to touch the past, touch a rock. If you want to touch the present, touch a flower. If you want to touch the future, touch a life.”
If you want to learn more about Project Turquoise, click here.