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.
Each year a KIDS team travels to The Philippines to undertake a 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 past 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. Larger KIDS teams returned to the island in 2016 and 2017, enabling them to screen more than 2000 children and treat those in greatest need.
Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. With nearly two fifths of its economy dependent on agriculture, the country finds itself at the mercy of nature. And unfortunately, nature has not been kind to this country. A 7.0 earthquake in 2010 left nearly 1.5 million people homeless and more recent storms have wreaked havoc on a weak infrastructure. ~ Of all the children that KIDS treats in the world, the Haitian children arguably face the greatest challenges. Over the past several years we have treated children in both the capital city of Port au Prince and in the countryside. ~ Most of the children that we see have never seen a dentist before. On one of our trips we created a clinic in a schoolyard next to a river that overflowed with trash. In this city, Carrefour, very little if any, foreign aid, makes its way to the population. And the children that we treat are hungry and shoeless. So we do the best that we can to feed them and treat their dental needs. Some days we’ll see over 1600 children. ~ And, as we do in every country, our goal in Haiti is to take children out of pain and educate them about oral health. And along the way, if we can let them know that they are important human beings deserving of good health, then we will have accomplished what we set out to do.
South Africa is working today to address racial imbalances in housing, education and healthcare that stem from its apartheid years. In a sense it’s a young country, having been reborn after the political defeat of apartheid in 1994. ~ And because dental healthcare is not readily available to all its citizens, KIDS began visiting the country in 2017. In the township of Soweto KIDS works with local NGO’s (non governmental organizations) to bring dental care to the children. The children here are very excited about learning, realizing that, as Nelson Mandela put it “Education is the most powerful weapon that you can use to change the world.” ~ Here too, we treat the children’s acute dental needs, as well provide educational and preventative treatment. And we are thrilled that the school administrators have chosen to incorporate our oral hygiene program into their curriculum.