Claire Uttley – South Africa

The dental charity in the UK and overseas

It all started back in early 2018 with the vision that I wanted to provide dental work abroad.

After researching  and meeting the charity Dentaid at one of the dentistry shows, I decided I wanted to participate in the South Africa trip to Melkhoutfontein.  This was the first time that this particular trip had been planned and it was hosted by Dentaid’s charity partner Dreamcatcher, which runs a number of projects to engage the local community, preserve traditions and protect ecology. 
After attending an orientation day and months of planning and fundraising I was finally in South Africa and ready to get going with a great team. 

The local community itself is built between two waste grounds which have now been transformed by Dreamcatcher.  I had the luxury of staying with hosts Lorraine and Karel who could not have been anymore welcoming if they tried! The homestay was comfortable and spotless with a good hearty breakfast and lunch being provided throughout the stay. Most importantly a welcoming smile and hugs were always available on return from the clinic each day – Nothing was ever too much trouble! 

 A portable chair and lots of equipment had been brought and generously donated for the trip. Throughout our stay in Melkhoutfontein we held clinics for children and adults of all ages and provided basic treatment ranging from ART conservation to oral hygiene instruction and extractions to alleviate pain and infection. 

We also had the opportunity to provide oral health educational sessions to a local school community of over 800 children – this proved very rewarding with plenty of hugs all round!!

Many of the patients we treated during our time in Melkhoutfontein came from a poor background.  But they were happy and smiling, despite their grossly decayed teeth from a readily available high sugar diet. Over the road from the clinic was a local sweet shop! 

We provided education and fluoride varnish for every single child seen. No child was turned away and measures were put in place to ensure follow up care for any child or patient who needed it.  The children were very receptive and welcoming and enjoyed the The Tooth Fairy Challenge of ensuring every single child has access to a toothbrush and paste.  

On day 8 we had the opportunity to be part of a community project where houses are painted with murals. This was great fun to be a part of. At the end of the trip we had the chance to visit the Ostrich Kingdom at Oudtshoorn,  Congo wildlife conservation for a cheetah encounter, as well as a half day safari – an incredible experience.
As my time in Melhoutfontein and South Africa drew to a close, it gave me chance to reflect  and realise what a privileged experience this was. I had the chance to make some amazing memories and make some great friendships along the way. I had the opportunity to work with so many inspirational people and I got to hear and see so many fantastic stories. I don’t think anything can prepare you for the experience and the amazing memories you make along the way.  I am immensely proud to have been apart of this experience.