In July of this year, we organized a five-day free dental clinic in Cebu, Philippines. This was a first for us, but members of the Cebu Missionary Foundation, an Australia-based Christian organization that had previously been involved in similar missions, explained in detail what to expect.
The first obstacle was funding. As the organizers, it was our responsibility to see to it that all the equipment, medicine, and other materials were in place. A friend and her husband offered to sponsor the entire mission. In addition to the basics, they offered to send helpers, food and drink every day for the whole team, gift bags for the children who would be treated (toothbrushes, toothpaste, pens, and towels), and a professionally painted banner to advertise the project.
Two Danish dentists, Jens and Camilla, and a dental student, Lotte, also from Denmark, volunteered their services. The next morning we took Jens and Camilla to a dental supply shop to stock up, and when we presented our work to the owner, she got so excited that she gave us loads of the needed medicines for free. The final bill came to only a fraction of what we had expected.
Three of the five days we conducted the free clinic in places where the Cebu Missionary Foundation has ongoing community projects—two slum areas and the women's prison.
On Monday, the makeshift clinic was set up in the playground of an elementary school in a poor section of town. Each young patient sat on a normal chair, while one helper stood behind and steadied the child's head. Another helper translated. These poor children had never been taught the importance of dental hygiene, so most of their mouths were full of rotten teeth. Children who were in pain were whisked to the front of the line. That day we treated 66 patients.
On Tuesday and Thursday, the clinic was set up at the Lapu-Lapu District Hospital, where Marjorie is the resident dentist. One day we treated almost 150 patients, mostly poor children. On Wednesday, the clinic moved to the squatter area next to the city dump.
On Friday, it was held in the women's ward of the local prison, where we treated about 40 women, or one third of the inmates.Each day members of our Family International community assisted the dentists, served as translators, entertained the waiting children with puppet and clown shows, encouraged the children afterwards, and did whatever else needed to be done.
The project was a big success, and we were able to treat nearly 400 patients. The dentists did a fantastic job! They were also very thankful to be part of a work that is genuinely doing something to help others. Our sponsors said afterwards that what they gave had been returned many times over in terms of satisfaction and fulfillment, and they are already talking about doing other projects with us.
Originally Published in 2002.