The European Dental Students' Association runs two dental volunteer work projects The Amchi Programme in India and the Pamoja Programme in Tanzania.
The Amchi are Buddhist nuns who provide healthcare in the Ladakh region of Northern India. The Amchi Programme started in 2012 and is a 5-year collaboration between Wisdomtooth (http://www.wisdomtooth.org), The University of Manipal (http://www.manipal.edu) and the European Dental Students Association (http://www.edsaweb.org) with the support of ADEE.
The Amchi Programme is a dental volunteer project that takes place in Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir, India. Ladakh, situated in the Himalayas, is the biggest district in India, as well as one of the most sparsely populated regions in the world. There are only four dentists and the majority of the population (200,000 people) live in villages. Due to the mountainous terrain, extreme weather and high altitude the majority of the population of the region cannot access dental care for much of the year. Traditional Tibetan medicine is an important aspect of the medical system in Ladakh and many people rely on the local Amchis who are Buddhist nuns and traditional doctors to provide the health care.
The goals of the project are:
1. To train the Amchis in basic dental care.
Amchis are Buddhist nuns who are the local healthcare providers in the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir, Northern India. The aim of our project is to teach them about oral health so they can in turn educate the Ladakhi community. We also train the Amchis in line with the World Health Organisation’s Atraumatic Restorative Technique and empower them to help their fellows. With this goal in mind we aim to make a self-sustainable improvement in the health of the local population in Ladakh.
2. To educate the local population about oral health.
During the outreach we aim to provide oral health education to as many people as possible. In 2013 the project screened all the school children in the areas where we had camps, providing them with oral hygiene education and toothbrushes. In addition we provided 1,500 people at our dental outreach camps with oral hygiene education. This summer we aim to reach and educate more people.
August 2013 marked the start of the Amchi Smiles project, which is based upon the WHO’s Fit For School Initiative. This is a hand washing and tooth brushing initiative that takes place in school. It has been shown to reduce tooth decay by 40% and communicable disease by 50%. We started this initiative in a small school last year and this year we will expand this into two other schools.
3. To deliver direct care, which will reduce as the project progresses.
During our outreach missions we aim to provide dental and medical treatment for those in need of care. At these camps we provide patients with oral hygiene education and different treatments including:
Dental restorative treatment - fillings and fissure sealants
Oral surgery - dental extractions
General medical treatment
Our outreach teams are made up of a multinational group of qualified dentists and dental students. In summer 2012 a team of 44 dentists and dental students travelled to Ladakh successfully teaching the Amchi and treating over 1,200 inhabitants for medical and dental conditions.
In summer 2013 a team of 38 dentists and dental students returned to Ladakh. Over 1,500 people were given oral health education and were provided with dental and/or medical treatment when needed.
This summer the a new team of 30 dentists and dental students from will be outreaching in Ladakh from 31 July until 11 August to fulfil the goals of the programme.
Our ultimate goal is to allow for sustainable dental care in the region, by the people and for the people.
Each year we aim to raise 20,000 euros to allow for the smooth running of the project. If we exceed our fundraising target, the money raised will be invested in the future Amchi outreach projects.
The money raised will go towards:
Materials for the outreach including: oral hygiene brochures, dental instruments, filling materials, toothbrushes, toothpaste and medical equipment.Transport of the volunteers to remote villages in the Himalayas to set up dental/medical camps
Accommodation for the volunteers during outreach
The Pamoja Programme
EDSA’s new volunteer work programme is called “Pamoja”. The word Pamoja means “together” in Swahili. The project is a collaboration with the Tanzanian Dental Students’ Association (TDSA) and Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences (MUHAS).
The Pamoja mission statement is “Together maintaining a quality smile”. Pamoja is a student-led project, whereby dental students are working together to fulfil a common goal; to further improve the provision of oral healthcare in Tanzania.
The volunteer project will be located specifically in Dar es Salaam and Morogoro in Tanzania. Currently the dentist to population ratio in Tanzania is about 1:120,000 people compared to a ratio of 1:7,500, recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) in developing countries. With the aforementioned ratio in mind, it became clear that EDSA, TDSA and MUHAS could work together to make a significant impact on the provision of oral health care in Tanzania.
The aims of the project are to:
Educate school children in Dar es Salaam and Morogoro about oral health
Reinforce the WHO’s Fit for School initiative set up by a Finnish dental team in Morogoro schools
Provide the children with a supply of toothbrushes and toothpaste
Screen the children for oral diseases and provide treatment if required
The oral hygiene component of the project will include comprehensive oral health education of the school pupils provided by the dental volunteers. The team will also provide each pupil with a supply of toothbrushes and toothpaste.
The Pamoja volunteer work team have visited Tanzania twice over the past year to conduct various feasibility studies. The project details have been finalised and the project will take place over 3 weeks starting in August 2015. The project details are as follows:
The outreach team will be led by experienced dentists and comprise of multiple dental students from Europe and Tanzania. Depending upon the needs and particular circumstances of the local communities, the teams will provide multiple levels of care.
Our primary mission is to educate children about the importance of oral health. The project will focus on education and prevention but will also involve the provision of direct care.
The outreach in August 2015 will start at a school in Dar es Salaam with oral screening and education. . Children requiring treatment will be referred to MUHAS School of Dentistry for treatment The team will then relocate to Morogoro and set up a prevention programme in two primary schools over five days.
The team’s main aims are to educate, screen and treat approximately 1000 children and also reinforce the WHO’s Fit for Schools initiative which a team Finnish dentists started in Morogoro. This model is currently being used successfully as part of the Amchi Smiles Programme in Ladakh, India.
We anticipate that the project will continue to take place annually during the summer and EDSA is thoroughly looking forward to working with the TDSA and MUHAS on such a worthy cause.
* Please note that King's College London are acting as a conduit and all funds raised will go directly to EDSA Volunteer Work Projects
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