A dentist from Norfolk has taken part in an international mission in Lebanon where he and his team treated some 1,500 displaced refugees. Thanks to the generosity of people in East Anglia, he was also able to take with him a haul of gifts and supplies.
Gautam Sharma, who runs West Earlham Dental Practice, is a trustee of the Dental Mavericks Charity and formed part of an international contingent of 50 dentists, healthcare assistants, translators and cultural advisors who spent five days assisting Syrian families as part of a global mission delivering dental care to refugees.
Dr Sharma said: “This was my second trip to the region, so I had some idea of what to expect this time, but even so, I don’t think I was quite prepared for the relentless pace of the number of patients coming through to be seen.
“We started early each morning and finished late into the evening, every day treating close to 300 Syrian and Lebanese children.”
Dental hygiene is one of the many areas which is neglected among the displaced families in the communities visited by Dr Sharma and the charitable team.
“I was heartened to see that we were making less extractions than on our previous visit, but still the need is high, and we were welcomed with open arms and treated with huge gratitude by every single patient,” added Dr Sharma.
“The fact that we arrived with an additional amount of gifts and supplies – thanks to the people of Norfolk – was a huge bonus.
“I’m extremely grateful to my practice patients, and to others throughout the community, who went out of their way to leave a toy or an item of practical use, at our drop-off in the weeks before my trip and those who contributed to the just giving funding pages.”
Dr Sharma’s work in the displaced communities, and his commitment to the charity missions, has been noted by other organisations globally. He is currently being considered for a role on a project in South America.
“I’m enormously proud that my work and passion for helping is being acknowledged, but first and foremost, I’m a Norfolk dentist with a desire to ensure that the families living and working in my local community are receiving good dental care when they need it – and are educated in preventative toothcare,” he insisted.
“Every time I step off the plane, and return home to East Anglia, I’m reminded how fortunate we are to have access to healthcare and dental support the way we do in this country.”