For the second year running, the Dental Wellness Trust has supported student-led organisation Global Brigades in its annual mission to Ghana.
The 10-day expedition aims to help improve the local community’s oral health by offering dental help, oral hygiene and education.
Among the participants were Shivana Anand and Kevin WanXin Luan, fourth-year dental students at King’s College London, and Dr Alon Livny, a senior dentist at the Hebrew University Hadassah School of Dental Medicine in Jerusalem.
Shivana Anand acted as dental coordinator for this year’s Global Brigades trip.
She said: 'I went in 2011 and it was while I was arranging that trip I first approached Linda Greenwall, founder of the Dental Wellness Trust. She was just starting up the Trust and decided to sponsor me with toothbrushes and make me the DWT Student Ambassador.'
A King’s College student committee made all the arrangements from London with in-country staff who work in Ghana on the Brigades all year round.
Shivana added: 'We have to get all of our medication and materials sponsored. That includes any instruments, PPE, charts, toothbrushes and toothpaste – everything you can think of. We had some amazing sponsors this year, such as the Dental Wellness Trust, Henry Schein and Dental Protection.”
An academic year project, the planning process starts in September and the trip takes place for 10 days in the following August.
The project is based in the Central region of Ghana, Cape Coast, which is about three hours’ drive outside of the capital, Accra. King’s College London have visited the communities of Ekumfi Narkwa and Ekumfi Ebuaka.
Kevin WanXin Luan was 2012’s King’s College participant and part of the organising committee, and he recalls his introduction to the community.
He said: 'On the first day we had an opening ceremony from the people in the village. Narkwa is by the coast of Ghana so the ceremony was by the beach. There were lots of villagers with their children dancing for hours, it was pretty amazing and definitely a memory I will always remember.'
The group of students had a translator team with them at all times from the moment they arrived, to help with the language barrier, and for the next four days it was clinical work. They set up their own clinic at the local school alongside the King’s College Medical Brigade and had four qualified dentists with them, one of whom was Dr Alon Livny.
He said: 'I’m involved in a number of community projects in Israel with dental students and the Dental Wellness Trust such as helping the elderly in residential homes. I’ve also done overseas projects, performing treatments for Ethiopian orphans.'
When the opportunity arose for Dr Livny to go on the Ghana mission, he readily accepted.
He added: 'I was one of the professional leads helping and instructing the students. It’s a wonderful project, not only for the community but also for the students themselves, to get this professional and personal experience. It’s very important for dentists of the future to get involved with projects like this and I think they enjoy it very much.'
The group was given several classrooms at the local school to allocate for their resources.
Kevin said: 'There were different classrooms dedicated for different areas needed for patient care – we had triage, compound, pharmacy and public health. At any particular time there were always four students at the public health room, educating locals about how to brush their teeth, take care of their children and to generally have good hygiene.'
De Livny recalled: 'The villagers’ oral health was quite poor. They have a lot of other problems as well, so their oral health was not a priority for them. But they were very thankful that we came to give them guidance and they really showed their respect and happiness.'
The makeshift compound included all of the donations received from various companies and any materials needed.
Kevin said: 'There was also a disinfection unit, with disinfectant, soap, scrubbers and sponges. We had a fully equipped pharmacy where the villagers would pick up the medication that the doctors prescribed.'
Students at the public health unit gave basic education to the villagers on topics such as malaria and tooth brushing.
He added: 'The Dental Wellness Trust provided lots of toothbrushes and we managed to give them all out, as well as teach the parents, the children and the elders how to brush their teeth properly.'
Shivana and Kevin wanted to take part in this mission because this was essentially their last summer holiday before they graduated that they could use to do something truly meaningful and memorable.
Kevin said: 'It was one of the things I’ve always wanted to do in my life. I really wanted to go to Africa and see first hand what it’s like and the experience went above and beyond my expectations.
'Looking back over this whole trip, this opportunity is something I would definitely recommend to those interested in really making a difference first hand. This was a life-changing experience for myself and I guarantee that if you were to ask anyone else on the Brigade, they would say the same.'
Shivana and Kevin are organising next year's trip to Ghana and invite all those interested to get in touch, whether you are a student or dental practitioner, with what is a unique way to spend your summer.
Dr Livny agreed with their sentiment.
'It was really very inspiring and not just because of helping the community. This trip was very important to me as an educator. From my experience, these students will now be better people, and better dentists.'
If you would like to volunteer or if you are a company wanting to demonstrate corporate responsibility by making a donation or gifts in kind, please visit www.dentalwellnesstrust.org or call 020 7267 7070 or email [email protected]