There is a huge need for dental care in refugee camps across Europe. Since last June Dentaid volunteers have worked in many refugee camps to provide emergency treatments, dental hygiene services and oral health education.
Dentaid currently has volunteering opportunities in Lesvos and Samos
In Lesvos we run a dental clinic in one of the kitchen areas of Moria Camp where there is electricity and water. We have Dentaid portable chairs, hand instruments, small portable hand drills and pressure cookers to sterilize equipment. The camp has a mixture of nationalities who live in different areas of Moria Camp. Children and vulnerable people stay in a separate area within the camp but can go to the clinic for dental treatment. We also visit community centres to screen refugees’ teeth and run oral health education programmes. Anyone needing treatment can be invited into the clinic in the camp. Volunteering trips to Lesvos have up to eight volunteers comprising dentists, dental nurses and a hygienist – please note we need at least 4 volunteers for the trip to go ahead.
In Samos Dentaid has a small clinic inside Samos Camp with lighting, electricity, water and a sterilizer. Our teams treat several patients a day in this clinic including women and children who are currently housed in hotels but visit the camp for dental treatment. Many patients require extractions or fillings. We also work with various other organizations on the island to provide oral health education outside of the camp. Dentaid is training other NGO’s to deliver toothbrushing and oral health programmes. Our Samos volunteering teams require 4 dental professionals.
The equipment is basic and conditions can be tough but you’ll be rewarded with a warm welcome and have the chance to provide pain relieving dental care for people who really need your help. Many of the refugees had first class dental treatment in their home countries.
Volunteers will triage, treat and provide aftercare for the refugees. Some patients will require extractions and some refugees have developed complex dental problems since leaving their homes.
Our volunteers also receive requests for scaling and polishing and restorative dental treatments. Some refugees visit the dental clinic ahead of their interviews with local immigration authorities.
You will also treat children and Dentaid will seek every opportunity to provide oral health promotion and toothbrushing programmes once the refugees’ immediate dental needs have been met.
Please don’t be surprised if some of your patients refuse treatment – we have found that refugees are keen to avoid having their teeth extracted if at all possible. Others will request temporary fillings and hope they will have more permanent work when they return home or find a permanent residence.
Our volunteers will need to be willing to work as part of a team and we ask people to be flexible and patient if itineraries change and there are times you are waiting for the the clinics to start.
Volunteers will need their passports to enter the camps, there are strict rules about photography and you will only be able to go to designated areas. Your team leader will ask you not to go off on your own.
PLEASE NOTE: Many of the refugee camps near Thessaloniki in northern Greece have now closed and the refugees have been rehoused. Many of the refugees had been living in tents for up to 2 years. Greek dentists are providing their dental care. This recent development means that Dentaid volunteers are not currently needed in Thessaloniki. Please consider either joining one of the trips to Lesvos or Samos or visit our volunteering page to learn more about Dentaid’s other overseas volunteering opportunities.
The refugees come from many countries including Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Algeria and Libya. They have arrived in the camps after fleeing war, persecution, poverty and violence. They are very grateful that British dental professionals are willing to give up their time and use their skills to help them.
Applications from volunteers who speak Farsi and Arabic are especially welcome although this is not essential.
Although life in the refugee camps is very hard, we have found them to be well organized and safe places to work. Many refugees are keen to translate and want to help the clinics run smoothly.
Volunteers of all different nationalities give their time and skills to help in this humanitarian crisis providing clothing, food, hot drinks, medical help and shelter for refugees but very few dentists have been to the camps.
Since last June, 135 Dentaid volunteers have provided dental care for more than 4,600 refugees during 35 trips to Greece.
Dentaid is constantly monitoring the situation in the camps. Currently people are staying between a year and 14 months while their cases are dealt with by the immigration authorities.