Decorative Labels as Mouth Openers
We are welcomed by singing and dancing children. However, we know that the joyful spirit will fade once we confront the children with white coats and equipment. That’s why we have brought something to untie the knots in the children’s bellies: glittering labels, colorful balls and small pictures break the ice. There is laughing and playing and the dentist is granted access.
The aid project “Dentists for India” has been in existence since 1985. Today the association is named “German Dental Carehood International.” German dentists team up in this project to promote dental health and offer treatment to the needy. At present, the association looks after six permanent dental stations in south India, which are mostly affiliated with local hospitals. In addition there is a mobile dental surgery unit – a refurbished military vehicle of the Indian army.
Once a year I get an assignment from the children’s charity organization Kindernothilfe. I pack my bags to travel to the Indian subcontinent for many reasons: wanderlust, the joy of looking into the grateful eyes of children, the wish to offer my capabilities to those who desperately need them, interest in other cultures, exotic food, warm weather…
This time I also took thousands of nice and colorful stickers and toys by Schreiner Group with me. As it turned out these small giveaways were as important for our work as the dental instruments and materials we took with us. As all these things are really heavy to carry alone and since there is usually enough work to be shared, two students from Jena joined me: Tanita Raval and Ralf Willim.
We set up our “base camp” in the Dental Department of “Holdsworth Memorial Hospital” at Mysore. From there we drove every day to individual places far and near, to examine and, if possible, treat children. In searing heat, sometimes without electricity, face to face with stray dogs and permanently suppressing the yearning for Germany hygiene standards – you could rightfully speak of an adventure. Whenever the situation called for more complicated surgery we scheduled organized collective rides to the hospital. Project managers, social workers and nurses supported us in all our activities.
About the project
Indian children are quite disciplined and gave us clear views of beautiful white but sometimes also more or less rotten teeth. Whoever bravely shows his or her pearly whites to a completely alien, exotic-looking foreign dentist is immediately rewarded with a beautiful Schreiner sticker. As those who got it over with spread the word, the giveaways from Germany became “mouth openers” in the true sense of the word. All those who needed special courage could make their choice among the exciting donations from our cardboard box: balls, scratch-off pictures and table tennis rackets.
With this strategy we examined 1,000 children in six weeks, put in 250 fillings, pulled hundreds of teeth and removed tartar. On most days we worked six to eight hours, six days a week. But there was still time to play with the children.
Whenever this happened we had colorful flowers, stars and Christmas pictures on and sometimes softballs in our faces. It was a great joy for us to see how the children happily took their presents, enjoyed, shared and swapped them.
I would like to express my deepest gratitude to Schreiner Group, the Marketing Communications team and my mother-in-law Roswitha Przyrembel for the wonderful donations, support and organization. I would be very happy to continue our work together during my upcoming assignments.
Dr. Christoph Hoder-Przyrembel
This post is also available in: Englisch