After seeing the heart-wrenching conditions in the Moldovan orphanage for disabled men and boys yesterday, it was inspiring to be invited to a “move-on” house for six disabled women today. These women were previous residents of Hincesti orphanage and many would have lived there long before any reforms or improvement, spending weeks on end in one bleak room. Of the six women in Casa Ana, one is blind, one in a wheelchair, one has Downs Syndrome and the others have learning difficulties. They live with a carer in a purpose built, clean and bright house which includes a smallholding. The women learn to garden, sew, cook and keep house. Victoria proudly showed us how she had learned to write her name and another resident recited a poem she had learned. These are the lucky few and I can’t help thinking about the women they left behind.
Dental nurse Geeta demonstrated toothbrushing technique and the team gave each woman a chance to practice on our models. Dentist Isaac screened their teeth identifying one tooth that needed filling and a few retained roots. The women weren’t in immediate pain but they will need treatment soon, hopefully at a forthcoming free clinic in Chisinau being offered by a visiting American dentist. They had had very little dental treatment in their lives and no toothbrushing instruction – lots of back teeth were being missed with the toothbrush. But it could have been a lot worse.
At one point our impromptu clinic was interrupted by a flock of baby chicks who bustled into the room. They had escaped the garden and came to see what was going on.
In the afternoon the team visited The Centre for Curative Pedagogy Orpheus in the capital Chisinau. Here we met up with Stan, the chief dental officer in the poor region of Nisporeni and dentist Tanya who we will be working alongside for the rest of the trip. The school has 60 children, all with learning difficulties, but who live at home with their parents. Tanya delivered an oral health education speech and the team let all of the children practice on models and puppets. We also distributed toothpaste and brushes that had been donated by UK company Whitewash as part of their Brush for a Brush scheme. Never have you seen children so delighted by toothpaste – one girl came back for three tubes! The Dentaid stickers we brought were also a big hit. The school’s recorder group gave us a performance to thank us.
Today the team split in half to visit two schools. Both has their own dental office – a concept unheard of in the UK and there are few other similarities with British dental practices either. Located in the basement of the Gimnasyum Grigore Vieru Iurceni, the clinic has antiquated chairs, no working lights and broken equipment. Replacement equipment from Dentaid is due to arrive in the next few weeks. Undeterred, the team sets to work applying fluoride varnish to 80 children’s teeth and giving each one a talk on oral hygiene and toothbrushing. Again the stickers, Whitewash toothbrushes and paste are a big hit. Isaac screens every child before nurses Geeta and Jade apply the varnish and 44 of the 80 need treatment. Five are in pain now and one has severe toothache. Moldovan dentist Tanya will contact their parents asking them to bring their child in for treatment. She isn’t confident many will take up her offer. The average wage in the area is 100 Euros per month but many workers in Iurceni must get by on about 40 Euros – people have other priorities than taking their child to the dentist even though treatment for under 18s is free. Tanya gives the poorest families toothbrushes donated by Dentaid every three months.
The team work quickly seeing all 80 children in three hours. The other team had similar success at Zberoia Community School, with 137 children screened and 87 receiving fluoride varnish. Twenty per cent of these 7-14 year olds will need further dental care. In addition to assisting Stan, dental nurse Maria and assistant Dushy blew up Dentaid balloons for all the kids and there were smiles all round.