Reaching out around the globe

By Jill Kubatko

During a goodwill trip to South Africa, Susan Callaway, a dental hygienist at Delmarva Dental in Salisbury and resident of Seaford, learned what sharing and giving is all about. "These people live in little 12x12 shacks with at least 16 people living together, no running water. They live with the philosophy that "what's mine is yours," if I have food today I will share with you. They also sleep two to four to a bed," she explained. Callaway, 57, is not sure why she was invited to participate in the People to People Dental Hygiene Delegation's trip to South Africa, Oct. 20 - Nov. 1, to treat children with dental issues and learn more about dentistry in this country. "I am very active in our national organization, the American Dental Hygiene Association and I have also been president of the Delaware Dental Hygiene Association. The Delegation leader was a past president of ADHA and came to Delaware when I was awarded Dental Hygienist of the Year for Delaware in 2003, so I am not sure, but that may be why I was invited," added Callaway. Callaway funded the $10,000 trip, but her church, Blades United Methodist Church, donated $500 and fellow employees at Delmarva Dental Services donated $500. Her daughter, Garan Callaway, who is also a dental hygienist and graduated in May with a master's degree, went as her guest. Also on the trip were seven people from Virginia, seven from California, two each from Oregon, New Mexico, Connecticut and Pennsylvania, along with others. The group stayed at the Southern Sun in Johannesburg Oct. 20-23 and the Southern Sun in Cape Town Oct. 23-28, then at the Protea Hotel in Kruger National Park in Mpumalanga Oct. 28-31. The delegation took 10,000 toothbrushes, floss, toothpaste, disposable mouth mirrors, flashlights and educational supplies to the Mustadafin Foundation in Khayelitsha. They also screened and provided oral health care and education to more than 400 children and some adults. Mustadafin is an Arabic word, which means deprived, destitute and oppressed, said Callaway. The Mustadafin Foundation has a philosophy that if every man helps his neighbor then who would need help. The group attended several lectures and did the community health project and received 26 continuing education credits. "It is hard to get oral hygienists to go into public health, just like here because the pay is always so low. Many in the private sector offer the same services as we do; implants, perio-therapy and full-mouth reconstruction. They did not know about some new products such as fluoride varnish and embrace sealants," added Callaway. The delegation treated more than 400 children. A lot of children have nursing bottle caries. With 40% of the population jobless the only source of food is to breast feed until they are 3 or 4 years old.

"Many tourists bring candy to the children which also causes caries. Some tribes have their central and lateral teeth removed, as this is a cultural thing." They took wash cloths, socks, clothing, books and money to the Orlando Children's Home, where abandoned and orphaned children, age newborn to 21, are sent by the Children's Court. Callaway said the orphanage was impressively clean and the people that worked there were very organized. "One thing that was hard to get used to, was nothing is yours, it belonged to all. The clothes you are wearing today, someone else may wear tomorrow and the same with the toys or a bear you may sleep with. Everything is shared and belongs to all," she explained. Three of the children had HIV. They would like to be adopted, she said, and the process is not hard. Most boys do not get adopted as people think they will have aggression problems later. The delegation also took children's books to The Teddy Bear Clinic for abused children, a non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring abused children are protected and rehabilitated. "The clinic for abused children and terminally ill children was sad. Many have died from AIDS and many have AIDS. They have a room set up like a courtroom so the children can become familiar with the court system because many will have to go to court to testify about their abuse," Callaway said. The Wits Dental Clinic has a close relationship with the Clinic and provides them with dental services. The delegation also visited the Philani Child Health and Nutrition Project in Khayelitsha and gave toothbrushes and educational supplies to the organization. In April 2008, Philani opened the doors of its dental clinic, offering free oral health care, treatment and education to the children and mothers on Philani's programs. The project was initiated by Swedish dental professor Kerstin Lundgren and is supported and funded by Rotary Clubs in Sweden and Cape Town as well as Rotary International and the Foundation for Philani Oral Health in Sweden. Callaway was surprised at how mountainous and green South Africa was. She walked away from the experience feeling grateful for what she has and where she lives. "It really made you appreciate what we have, and realize how selfish we are. If we have two coats we should give one to someone who does not have one. I definitely brought back a better understanding of how people are so similar around the world! I think they really put into perspective what is really important, your family and your community. Yes if every man helped his neighbor who then would need help?"

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