By Dr Daan Eksteen
Our destination was the Vuwani landing strip near the Thsitereke village in the Vhembe district of Limpopo. Our mission was to facilitate and to be actively involved in the Donald Frazer Hospital Dental Campaign, to impart knowledge regarding oral hygiene and to impact at least 100 children from the local village.
I invited Amorie Booysen to accompany me on this flight organized by Flying for life, a PBO arm of Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF). Amorie is an oral hygienist and has a passion for children. She runs a NPO organisation called Smile of Joy. Their target field is the HIV orphaned children at various orphanages in caring for their oral health.
I am a retired Dentist from Tukkies, (1975, if you really want to know.) I practised in Springs for 27 years in private practice and then spend the following 9 years in Kent in the United Kingdom. I returned to my beloved country, South Africa, in December 2013 with a passion for the underprivileged.
Having treated the charismatic founding member of MAF, Mr Stuart King, (92 years old and still active in boardrooms!) as a patient in Folkestone, Kent, I was privileged to be placed in contact with Mission Aviation Fellowship in South Africa. They in turn put Flying for Life in touch with me and I found them as well as the project manager, Thendo Dama, willing and able partners in this outreach.
At the Vuwani airstrip we were whisked away by taxi to the Hospital where we set up in the Presbyterian Church in the hospital grounds. The Sea King departed onwards to Thsikondeni airstrip with educational volunteers with a project of their own. We found some willing volunteers at hand and after some opening speeches as part of the campaign, we settled down to business. The following events formed part of our approach:
1. Welcoming and settling the 100 children.
2. The screening of two short motivational videos set at primary school level.
3. Presentation of lesson 1 and 2 by Amorie with flipcharts and a brushing demonstration.
4. The handing out of earbuds and dipping them in plaque disclosing solution. The kids then were encouraged to paint each other’s teeth.
5. Sponsored mirrors were then handed out to each child. Gasps of horror and laughter filled the hall as they proceeded to check their teeth.
6. Mass brushing session outside;
As each child filed out of the hall, he/she was handed a toothbrush, tube of toothpaste and a cup filled with water. Then the brushing started in earnest. There were peals of laughter, white foamed mouths, and bright smiling faces and vigorous actions of brushing as each child wanted to outdo the other. Amorie, myself and the volunteers helped the kids to use the correct brushing techniques.
2. All the girls received a lip ice.
3. A certificate was handed to each child.
4. A last video was screened called ‘The Tooth Defenders’
5. After the proceedings, we all retired outside for some photographs to commemorate the occasion.
6. The day ended with a visit to the hospital wards itself to hand out some samples.
My lasting memory was that of a small child who, wordlessly, grabbed me around the legs and held on for dear life! Well, this called for a group hug enthusiastically participated in by all!
After lunch we departed from Tshitereke village by 4x4 taxi and journeyed for 2 hours to the Thsikondeni airstrip in Makuya village where the Sea King was waiting. We lifted off from this dirt strip and winged our way back to Lanseria to land at 6pm.
Both Amorie and I felt that the sight of the 100 kids and their enthusiasm made all the sacrifices worthwhile.
1. Amorie Booysen from Smile of Joy and her educational material and time.
2. The sponsor of the mirrors, crayons and toothbrushes.
3. Sensodyne for the toothpaste
4. Oral B for the lip ice
5. Colour-in-pictures, stickers and support from SADA.
6. Colegate in direct support to the volunteers with and some toothpaste and brushes. T-shirts.
Although the infrastructure at the Dental Department at the hospital needs upgrading to meet the needs of the village, it was a day well spent in educating the kids in oral health and general dental awareness. The smiling faces made it all worthwhile.