Be the reason someone smiles today. Compliment a stranger, hug a loved one or commit to doing at least one random act of kindness each day. As we gear up for the season of giving, remember that sometimes it takes only one act of kindness to change another person’s life. With this in mind, here’s a feel-good story, just in time for the festive season, which involves a lot of smiling … literally.
Tanzania is home to 52 million people and among them, astonishingly, only 250 dentists. Residents of the country’s many rural communities are therefore forced to walk painstakingly long distances over difficult terrain to obtain any form of dental aid. And even then, the standards of hygiene at many of these practices remain alarmingly underdeveloped.
When German dentist Prof Dr Martin Jörgens stayed at &Beyond Klein’s Camp back in 2010, he opted to visit the nearby Ololosokwan community with his ranger Seleu. Wanting to learn more about how our social development partner, Africa Foundation, works with the community to provide healthcare, Dr Jörgens met personally with the doctors at the Ololosokwan Clinic (a ten-room medical facility built by Africa Foundation). Their interaction had such an unexpectedly profound effect on Dr Jörgens, that he went on to found Daktari for Maasai (Doctors for Maasai), a mobile dental clinic for the Maasai people.
Seven years later, Dr Jörgens and his incredible team of dental/medical professionals continue to work closely with &Beyond and Africa Foundation, returning to Tanzania multiple times a year to provide regular and much-needed dental work for the local Maasai people.
On one of their most recent dental missions this past October, Daktari for Maasai organised a two‑week mobile clinic at &Beyond Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, as well as the Mayoka Clinic just outside &Beyond Lake Manyara Tree Lodge and the Ololosokwan Clinic just outside of &Beyond Klein’s Camp.
During this one visit alone, the highly qualified Daktari for Maasai team of eight (which included two dentists, two oral surgeons, one traumatology surgeon/general practitioner, one dermatosurgeon/reconstructive surgeon and two assistants) tended to an impressive 900 patients. They performed hundreds of dental and oral surgeries, one post-burn reconstructive surgery and no less than 508 tooth extractions, and also treated back, knee and joint pain, tumours, coughs, bronchitis, abdominal pain and eye inflammation.
Daktari for Maasai also worked in collaboration with UNESCO and Samsung to provide permanent telemedicine and specialist dental services to the Ololosokwan community. Two large containers were donated, which now form part of the Ololosokwan Clinic; this is another great example of different organisations working together for the greater good of humanity.
Daktari for Maasai have completed thousands of hours of consultations, with treatments ranging from 30 minutes to more than six hours. They treat up to 40 patients a day and have successfully treated more than 5 000 patients in seven years.
Just one of the Daktari’s highly satisfied patients is the ever-smiling Vitalis Massay, Assistant Lodge Manager at &Beyond Lake Manyara Tree Lodge. Vitalis’ two-hour treatment back in 2012 not only transformed his smile and physical demeanour, but, having met Vitalis prior to his dental procedure, one could immediately sense his renewed self-confidence and sense of pride following the treatment. He confessed, “I feel a lot more confident and happy, and I smile a lot more.” And with a twinkle in his eye, he joked, “I’m a lot more attractive to women now too.”
These passionate dentists are giving many people a boost of confidence and a reason to smile.