I’m sitting on the plane reflecting on what it has taken to get this far – the moment we head off to Uganda. For me as team leader, this trip began many months ago planning the itinerary, organising the clinics and making sure there’s some time for social events. For this team there’s been months of fundraising, collecting donations and preparations too.
This has made me think of all the people who have made this trip possible – our families, friends patients, employers, sales reps and businesses and the tireless efforts of the Dentaid staff – together we are making this happen.
After our first breakfast of goat stew, samosas and scrambled egg, we headed to Food Step orphanage to rearrange our supplies and treat the children.
It is always takes time unloading and organising our supplies but it saves so much time later on. The children were pleased to see us as usual. We arrived during the babies’ bathtime and there were lots of gorgeous little ones running around soaking wet and wanting to say hello.
A total of 95 children and staff were screened, treated and given fluoride treatments before we set off to Goretti’s on the shores of Lake Victoria. We were treated to show by Rwandan singers and dancers and the team were up, dancing and having great fun.
The next day we travelled to Kampiringisa to treat the children held at this rehabilitation centre which used to be called a prison. We were given a tour and I did see some positive changes since my first visit in 2015.
There are 280 children from four to 18 years old. Most were street kids picked up, transported and dumped there for no other reason than being forced to live on the streets.
Food Step and their social workers do a great job rehoming some of these children. It’s difficult to understand what a three or four year old could have done to deserve being in such a place. The team worked like a well-oiled machine and treated all the children.
In one of the dormitories where the older boys were watching TV, a child was lying on his back clutching the toothbrush we gave him. These kids have nothing. It was much improved but is still a grim place.
After clinic, we drove for an hour to the equator for photos and the next day we went on a game drive to spot giraffe – we saw eight including two babies.
We then held two clinics in Nyamahani seeing 85 patients the first day and many more on the second.
We travelled deep into the village of Kyaringabira to Kabingo primary school. There was a queue anxiously waiting for us to arrive at 8.30am. Classrooms were cleaned and arranged so we could start treating our patients.
We learned that one old lady had walked 6kms to our clinic in Ruhanga last year and was extremely grateful that this year we visited her village. There was lots of perio disease in this community mainly due to poor health education.
One of our mobilizers George was excellent at giving OHI talks to large groups of people, before treatment and in the post op area. Hopefully we will see some improvement if we return.
The next day we held a clinic at a location I hadn’t been to before – Nangara. The scenery was breathtaking. It was quiet due to the rains the night before and villagers were in their gardens making the most of the softer ground. Uganda has been experiencing a drought and people believe rain is a blessing from God.
We saw 33 patients and delivered OHI to 46 people. We gave out brushes and pastes to children who clearly had none that were donated by children in England. They were very shy of us to begin with. We were probably the first muzungus they had seen.
Over the next two days each half of the team went on gorilla treks. Everyone had a fabulous time watching the baby animals play and feed. We did a a clinic at a school in Kasindi, swam in Lake Victoria and took a boat trip past Punishment Island learning of its sinister past.
After Kampiringsa, Mbarara main prison was the place that everyone was most curious about. The prison is mixed category and its capacity is supposed to be 400. It currently holds 1809 men. 200 men sleep on the floor with no matresses in one room. They don’t have mosquito nets although the room is sprayed.
They eat the same food everyday – porridge made of ground corn, posho and beans. One prisoner told me “They can’t hurt your body but they can destoy your mind.” He ended up in tears.
The prisoners were all very polite and considerate towards us. We treated 124 men and gave OHI to 250 more. The women’s prison was next door but due to red tape we couldn’t treat them.
A drive deep into the villages brought us to Living Hope in Kyamukama, Lwengo. As we arrived we saw a crowd of people waiting for us, some had been there since 5am.
It was a mad, busy clinic and 203 patients of 300 were treated. The team did 160 extractions, 39 fillings, 56 fluoride applications and gave OHI to 300 people – not bad for a day’s work.
Our last clinic was at another prison in Lwabenge, north of Masaka. This was an open prison with only 50 prisoners. We treated them all and also the local community and senior school pupils.
It was an emotional and draining two weeks but no-one wanted to go home. I was lucky to have another fabulous team.
Gail Taylor – Uganda trip leader.