At the start of the week, the Healthcare News team had a fantastic opportunity to talk to Dr Ansar Mahmood, who has been volunteering with Health Point Foundation. Ansar is one of our Master's students on the Restorative and Aesthetic dentistry course and also a dentist working full time in general practice.
Ansar has been travelling with Health Point Foundation, founded by Dr Hadia Aslam, to Syrian refugee camps in Greece to treat those who have not had access to emergency dental care, in some cases for over six months, since arriving at the camps.
Starting in May 2016 Ansar flew out to Greece as a general volunteer with some of his colleagues and is now the supplies manager for the charities’ base camp in Diavata and the outreach camps too.
We asked Ansar to choose a moment that stood out for him the most, a hard task indeed!
He described a time where a child approached his camp, knowing no English, with an oral abscess that he had had for months. The child in question was so young, at ten years old, could barely remember a time where he had not felt pain. The decayed tooth causing the abscess was removed.
But it seemed that the most memorable moment about this was when the boy came back, after a long time gap of moving clinics and camps, to find Ansar and the team and thank them for their help.
It truly proves that all the work that these amazing volunteers are doing does have such a huge impact in the whole camp's community.
There truly can never be enough volunteers as each day the numbers of refugees are growing.
"The team after a long outreach clinic session. From left to right: Dawn Parker (Ground Co-ordinator), Faizan Yousefzai (Ground Co-Ordinator and Arabic translator), Zohaib Khan (Dentist) and Ansar Mahmood (Dentist). "
Here is what Dr Mahmood has to say;
“It's an excellent opportunity to dedicate your time and skills towards this amazing selfless cause to help the Syrian refugees, who in some cases, have taken a life threatening journey to escape the war in their own country in the hope of securing a safer future for themselves and their families.
Health Point Foundation have set up an excellent system which helps and guides volunteers from start to end in a thorough, clear and coherent registration process, with simple but robust checks in place in order to ensure a safe experience for both volunteers and the refugees. Once on ground volunteers are welcomed and guided by one or more ground coordinators who will help organise the day to day running of the clinics and help minimise any problems.
The work itself is immensely rewarding and you see and only truly appreciate the huge need for dental care for these patients once you go out and see their circumstances first hand. The patients are all very grateful for the service we have provided them with, many have even told us that the camps have had doctors and medics present but there has been a lack of dental treatment available to them within the camps previously. With some refugees understandably not prioritising their dental problems due to more pressing issues with their current circumstances or others not knowing a dental service is even available, there is definitely a great need for this service for these patients.
More than just going out to help for me it's about an ongoing effort to promote humanitarian unity and showing our refugee friends a strong sense of support both directly on ground and indirectly too working with the Health Point Foundation as part of the administrative team here in the UK too. There's a real positive team spirit and everyone works together to ensure we deliver a great all round service for the refugees incorporating not only dental treatment but also education and prevention sessions to try and tackle the root cause of the problems that we’re seeing again and again. ”
"A typical outreach camp set up. Health Point Foundation work closely with many organisations including the British Red Cross, and often share spaces across many of the camps. There are usually two tables set up for the patients and all instruments are kept in the middle for easy access from both sides. A mobile drill unit is available if needed as seen on the left-hand side."
Currently, the mission is for the Dental-Point Project, lead by Dr Ola Hasan, to deliver a much-needed service to the refugee families. HPF has set up a dental unit and the first of its kind for the camps across Northern Greece to provide refugees access to dental emergency care.
The dental clinic is in the Diavata camp, located close to the city of Thessaloniki where close to 2000 refugees are based. This is the base camp, but due to the great need for urgent dental care in many camps, HPF regularly visits other military-run camps for outreach work and therefore request that all volunteers to be as adaptable, flexible and as mobile as possible for this to work successfully for the patients.
These camps include Nea Kavala, Oreokastro, Derveni, Sindos Karamanli, Giannitsa,Cherso Camp amongst others.
For the project to be successful and for it to be sustainable it needs a strong team of volunteers who are flexible and willing to do what it takes. Please do get in touch if you wish to be a part of the HPF team, or if you have any questions or queries, at firstname.lastname@example.org or if you would like to donate and help with stock and supplies then you can email at email@example.com.