Consistent with our long term work in other countries, we note that as we continue our dental presence with these children over time, the numbers of emergencies and extractions diminish as overall oral health improves, allowing us more time to provide preventive and restorative services. The KIDS professional team is an international group of individuals joining us from California, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Cambodia, Scandinavia, the Netherlands, Australia, Germany, Great Britain, and Japan.
Cambodia’s recent history has created a desperate need for dentistry and other medical care. The Cambodian genocide under the Khmer Rouge (1975-1979) left the country with few doctors and virtually no dentists. Two of KIDS’ founders began treating children with local help in 2006, but our official visits began in 2008 and now we visit for two weeks each February, splitting the time in half with a rest day at the midpoint. The team is based in Phnom Penh in a comfortable hotel for most of the project, but may travel to more rural villages by van with a couple of nights outside the city in each week. The weather is typically hot and somewhat humid. In a country of stark contrasts and visual beauty, the gentle nature of the Cambodians masks deep underlying poverty. In Cambodia 1 of every 14 individuals is an orphan, and many of the children we treat are orphans living on the streets, in dump sites, and in orphanages. In addition to slums, alleys and remote school rooms, we have treated children in Buddhist monasteries, with local monks helping. We see a great deal of malnutrition in our Cambodian project, and many children with HIV/AIDS. KIDS’ dental project in Cambodia treats 2500-3000 children each year.
In 2009 KIDS travelled to The Philippines to begin our third dental project. We currently serve one of the larger squatter areas located in the town of Taguig, which is part of Metro Manila, caring for children who live in makeshift houses in the poorest part of the city. During the past three years KIDS has treated children who live in the “Smokey Mountain”, the huge Payatas garbage dump. We also work with sexually abused children who are sheltered in two different orphanages. As with all KIDS dental projects, the poorest of the poor children are provided with quality pro-bono dental care. KIDS’ dental project in the Philippines treats 1000 children each year.
After two assessment trips in 2014 and 2015, a small, highly experienced KIDS team of dentists and non-dental helpers visited the island of Santo Antao. Working in the remote Ribera Grande province of the island, they worked tirelessly to meet the huge need found there. Despite a well-organised school system and good nutrition, the children of the region have only minimal access to dental care and so many treatment needs occur. During their five-day visit the KIDS 2016 team saw 1232 children, treated 532, extracted 1228 teeth and performed 60 restorations. A full team plans to return in 2017 to continue the good work!