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Part 5: Dental Team In Indonesia

In November 2012, with the blessings of His Eminence Archbishop Stylianos and His Eminence Metropolitan Konstantinos of Singapore, eight men from the Greek Orthodox Christian Society travelled to Medan, Indonesia, at the request of Fr Chrysostomos Manalu, an Orthodox priest of Indonesian background. This is the fifth of a series of articles outlining aspects of this missionary visit.

Two of us made up the dental contingent of the trip to Indonesia in late November 2012. During our nine day sojourn, we spent our time treating patients by primarily extracting diseased teeth. Instruments were donated by us and subsequently left behind for future visiting dental teams.

We initially worked at the newly opened “Theotokos Medical and Dental Clinic”, which had been built by donations from St Catherine’s Orthodox Church, Mascot, in Sydney – a feat of the most generous proportions when one glimpses the size of the facilities!

The only dental chair was just being installed as we arrived. Due to a shortage of materials and equipment, we busied ourselves with extracting teeth from young and old. We only had rudimentary “sterilising” facilities, but miraculously we did not require anything more complex than what we had brought with us. The dental team also worked high up in remote villages such as Los Reyes, where makeshift dental chairs were fashioned from church pews and tables.

Further to this, we visited primary schools such as, “St Sophia College”, where a classroom was converted to a basic clinic with apparently horrified students viewing from the windows. Needless to say, specialised coaxing techniques with the help of Father Chrysostomos and Presbytera Elisabeth proved invaluable in treating many children there.

The local dental assistants were always patient and a joy to be with. They were good-humoured and laughed at our poor attempts at speaking “Bahasa”(the formal language of Indonesia). The people that we treated all seemed to have a quiet manner in coping with what life had given them (in stark contrast to many in Sydney), which taught us a great deal about how we also could approach life’s challenges.

In Los Reyes the locals (and also the pupils of St Sophia College) sang us a song of gratitude as we left, which was very moving and heartfelt.

All in all, the two dentists extracted around 80-90 teeth without complications. In most places, there was no power, so we had to work with torches strapped to our head and others held by our assisting staff. The conditions were very hot and humid and perspiration poured off us continuously.

The whole experience for both of us was most rewarding on many levels, from providing dental treatment to sharing life experiences with the local folk. We hope that, in our small way, we have contributed to their overall health and well-being.


Source: June-July 2014 Lychnos Edition