I have recently volunteered as a dental nurse in El Jadia in Morocco. This was my first volunteering trip abroad, least to say I was very nervous about what I would experience, but also excited for the adventure. It took a while for it to sink in that not everyone gets treatment the way we do in the UK (we are privileged!) and there were people out there who didn’t even own tooth brushes or tooth paste, so they didn’t even get a fighting chance to prevent infection and severe decay of the teeth.
We spent time in a clinic in El Jadia (a port on the Atlantic coast of Morocco) which had been funded through various charities. The rest of our week consisted of going to schools and setting up out reach clinics in the class rooms. We came only to see the children and it was heart-breaking when we had to turn a few adults away, due to not having the time to see them. We worked long days and the work was very challenging, but rewarding.
In our week there we saw 2,000 children and each of them had one to one tooth brushing instruction and a tooth brush and tooth paste were given. We carried out over 400 extractions only managing to do a few fillings and only at the clinic which had a proper equipped surgery. It was hard doing treatment when knowing that in the UK we could have done more to restore their smile but you didn’t have the time or equipment over there.
We worked with numerous Moroccan dentists, nurses and translators that had all given their time and skills for free to help us in our mission. I was in a fantastic team of 10 which made the whole experience more enjoyable, especially when the days were filled with fright and cries, it was nice to have such a close team to share laughter with at the end of a long session.
I really enjoyed my time working in Morocco. The feeling of knowing you have made a difference to so many children and all the smiles, cuddles and kisses you got after they had their treatment, even though for them the dentist was a traumatic experience. The feeling was breath taking.
The whole experience was fantastic as well as eye opening, I feel the experience has improved my skills as a dental nurse, as I have had to work in a chaotic environment and improvise when you don’t always have the correct equipment to hand, and also having to learn their language to communicate. I also feel more confident when reassuring and comforting children, more than what I would do here in the UK as our children are so good and happy to come to the dentist. The children in Morocco were terrified of the dentist and treatment but were sograteful we were there to help them when there was such a desperate need.