Just Do It! A Dentist in Tanzania

I’ve served on 13 Global Volunteer teams in 10 countries since 1997. I recommend if you’re considering joining a team….just do it. Global Volunteers will take it from there. Their country managers do an excellent job of setting up the food and housing, and consulting with the village leaders to find out what the needs are for that particular work site. I’ve always felt “needed” wherever I serve. Global Volunteers fits my needs because of the way they operate. There principles are, they only go where they are invited, and only do what the local people ask them to do. It is always with a team, the accommodations are comfortable for each project site, and the people are wonderful.

Once on site, a workshop, led by the country manager, is done to discover the unique characteristics of each team, and the unique skills of each team member to match the village needs. There always are options for work projects. In Pommern, where Global Volunteers has worked for over 20 years, and I have been 3 times, the team members have a choice of teaching English, doing light building and maintenance work, or working in health care.

Since there’s no dentist for over 20 miles from the village, I’ve been using my skills to set up a dental facility. Some patients I see have had toothaches for as long as 6 years, and they walk or bike over 4 hours to be seen. The dental facility is currently able to extract, clean, and teach preventive oral hygiene. I am returning two more times this year so that basic fillings can also be done. There are over 1,300 students in the primary and secondary schools who are being taught proper preventive oral hygiene. Each one is given a toothbrush and toothpaste. They’re also taught to use salt water once the toothpaste is gone. I’ll return in August with restorative materials and will be then be able to do basic fillings along with the oral surgery, oral hygiene, and preventive care. And, a very nice dentist in Iringa has agreed to do root canals and restorations so people don’t have to walk around with teeth missing.

According to the UN Human Development Index http://enwikipedia.org/Human_Development_Index, there are four worlds, and all of Africa is in the fourth world. So what a better place to began, where the greatest need is. Or one can begin in any one of the “Four worlds”. The key is, to begin. And that can be with any skills you have. My late wife Virginia and I took our two oldest grandchildren to Poland and Italy to teach English with Global Volunteers. With her passing away in February, I am carrying on the vision we both had and loved. In June, I am taking my third oldest grandson to Poland to teach English. When I return in August, a freshman dental student will be on the team. He’ll make a great assistant and experience life and living in the “fourth world.”

So the bottom line is, to name the three most important issues in the world. These can be either local or global. And use that as a starting point, and do something about it. This I know: Any skill a team member brings is always appreciated and used around the world. Volunteering with Global Volunteers is a wonderful experience one never forgets (and doesn’t stop doing!).

Lewis Pierce, happy Global Volunteer
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