Our Work the World house is based in Pokhara city, so each year we try to set up the Dental Outreach Project in the Pokhara valley as this gives us the opportunity to provide free dental care in the communities in which we work. This year though we decided to also set up two projects outside of the valley in Nuwakot, just a couple of hours north of Kathmandu. We thought it would provide an interesting comparison and help us decide where we are most needed.
The first camp was set up in Bidhur, a charming hill top settlement that overlooks a beautiful river valley with ancient temples scattered around the main village square. The last dental camp was conducted over a year ago by the rotary club, so it was a good opportunity for us to follow up on the good work. The community screening and the treatments were carried out at the village school with the portable dental equipments brought in from Kathmandu. 'The Famous Farm' was our student dentists' home for 2 weeks - a restored Newari manor house, tastefully decorated with traditional Nepali furniture. The kitchen served wonderful local food and the cook also bent backwards to accommodate our student's request for some western food!
The results from the first camp were impressive - 1002 people were screened with 594 those referred for treatment. Often the challenge is to make them understand the importance of coming back for treatment, so we were pleased to see that 540 returned with their treatment tickets. The whole project was a great success, with each student screening an average of 10 Nepalis per day, and treating 5. Great opportunities for hands-on work under the supervision of a professional dentist.
The second camp was established in Jurethum, conveniently located about an hour away from Bidhur. It's a typical Nepalese village built around the trunk road which links Nuwakot and Kathmandu, situated about 35 km North West of the capital. For this reason, the village is also known to locals as '35 kilo'. The student dentists and staff were accommodated at a friendly, family run guesthouse called the Fall and Trout Village Fish Farm in Kakani. The temporary clinic was set up at a village school just 10 minutes drive and despite its proximity to Kathmandu, the elevation of 1,650m meant that the patients had little access to dental care unless they were willing to travel to the city.
As with the first, the figures from Jurethum were just as impressive. It was a slightly smaller group and visits were interrupted by heavy rains, but on average each student screened 7 people and treated 6 per day. As with Bidhur, the majority of referrals (the bulk of those screened needed treatment) returned for treatment.
The third and fourth camps were back in the Pokhara Valley, with the first set up in Dhampus. This one was possibly the most ambitious out of the four projects as reaching the project location involved a three to five hours trek (depending on individual fitness)! But with an enthusiastic group of student dentists, I can report that we were able to transport all the equipment and set up camp. Quite a challenging environment to work and something completely new for the students. The project is going on as I type and I'm getting daily progress reports of the busy clinic work. It seems patients often require several appointments as there are so many problems with their teeth.
Since Dhampus is a remote village, our student dentists and staff are accommodated in a fairly simple lodge with basic facilities. But what makes this lodge special is the landlady who runs the guesthouse - she's the head of the village's Mother Union and she's keen to make all our participants feel very much at home in the mountain. Sunil has reported that she has organised a performance for our students later this week!
The last dental outreach project is scheduled to start in just under 10 days. It's in a village called Bhaduare, another hilltop settlement inhabited by mixed Nepalese communities, otherwise known as Gurung, Dalit, Bishwo Karma and Brahmin people. There are no dental clinics near Bhadaure so our temporary clinic will be set up at the village hall. The accommodation will be at the Holiness Food and Guesthouse. It's a fairly simple lodge, similar to Dhampus as the village is situated in a remote location. The guesthouse is in the heart of the village and within walking distance to the community hall, where the temporary clinic will be set up.
Nepal is certainly not short of villages that can really benefit from our outreach projects and we'll update you on the progress of the last two projects as soon as we get the figures in. We will also keep you posted about our plans for next year... we have some exciting ideas and also some potential new locations, so watch this space!