Those of us who have worked as volunteer know that the giver gets more than person receiving help. The feeling of reward, the experience of new environment, the opportunity to fulfill doctor’s duty to the full, without reservations, are invaluable. I experienced it very recently when I traveled with my family to Israel during recent Spring break.
I’ve worked at the Trudi Birger Dental Clinic in Jerusalem for four days through a special program called Dental Volunteers for Israel (DVI). DVI provides free dental care and oral health education to thousands of needy children in Jerusalem every year.
Holocaust Survivor Trudi Birger suffered greatly as a child during the war; at that time she vowed to help prevent the suffering of other children if she should survive. As a successful microbiologist in Israel, she began to fulfill that vow to assist needy children. Trudi identified dental problems as a common cause of terrible suffering of impoverished children, and, in 1980, when the government cut dental care from public health programs, she found her cause. Trudi established Dental Volunteers for Israel that year and oversaw the organization for the remainder of her life. Dedicated volunteer dentists from around the world picked up where Trudi left off to ensure that DVI would continue to provide services to the most underprivileged children of Jerusalem.
This was my forth time volunteering at DVI in 14 years. The DVI clinic does not discriminate. I treated kids from orthodox Jewish families, Israeli Arabs, young soldiers and non-religious patients. For me it is a unique opportunity to give back in a small way to the people of Israel.
Spring break coincided with Purim, which turns Israel in nonstop Carnival. Add to it warm climate, delicious Mediterranean food and warm reception by Israeli friends and colleagues. The only unenviable experience was lack of sleep and mandatory use of dental amalgam as a restorative material.
Remember one of my patients – Mohammed ( in the photo below). He is Arab Israeli, yet works as a security guard for a large Jerusalem synagogue in an ultra-orthodox neighborhood. On Mohammed’s first visit to DVI clinic director diagnosed his mouth with rampant caries, that required many treatments. He had not been to a dentist in many years and had little understanding of oral hygiene.
DVI provides critical basic services to the poorer communities of Jerusalem. With a total population of a mere 800,000, Jerusalem has over 120,000 children living under the poverty line. I was surprised by level of dental decay. Lack of access to dental care directly affects academic success of low-income children and, thus, the cycle of poverty.
I’m a big supporter of DVI and will be happy to talk to any dentist who is interested in volunteering . Hope this message inspires you to give your time and skills to help people in need.
Have a great week,
Dr Alex Osinovsky DDS, D.I.C.O.I