I picked Sierra Leone as it is one of the poorest countries in the world and has, like many other African countries endured much pain and suffering. The last civil war left the country with 70% of the world's amputees as well as a devastated nation.
Peace has now been restored for the past 10 years but this country is in dire need for everything, from the very basics such as food and clean water to a Health Program, Hospitals, Burn Wards, Maternity Wards and Dental Wards... the child mortality in this country is immense.
The first week I arrived in Sierra Leone, I worked at the Connaught Hospital, a Hospital that is in dire need of funding. The patients themselves are the vectors as well as the victims.
During the first week as well as working flat out at the hospital I also conducted a radio interview with Dr Patric Don Davies, the only dentist in Freetown, to try to educate the people of Sierra Leone on the importance of good oral hygiene and the reason for tooth decay as well as the absolute need to avoid home remedies that kills so many people, simply because of a decaying tooth.
The reality is that necrosis - meaning the death of the whole jaw bone - occurs and a condition called Osteomyelitis often sets in. This, if not cured will kill; children and adults. Our emphasis on the radio programs was to absolutely avoid home remedies or traditional doctors. There have been cases of even educated people, teachers, being severely disfigured. These are lives that are lost or ruined forever...why? Because of tooth ache.
I and a team of 4 young adults from an organisation called Teethsavers were able to reach villages outside Freetown where we provided treatment in schools, we screened the pupils, and then extracted all teeth with hopeless prognosis as well as applied the ART technique to those teeth that still stood a chance of being saved.
We visited several schools, screened and treated all the pupils. Altogether the team treated over 1500 children and adults in 2 weeks.
We also visited the Craig Bellamy Foundation Academy, where we treated the children at the Academy as well as many children and� adult villagers in Tombo, where the academy is located. The academy is run by an exceptional guy called Tim Kellow, who looks after the children and these children are selected on the basis of their very unprivileged background. They have to work hard in the classrooms and they gain their skills and confidence through football which they play several times a day. Football plays a huge role in the minds of the people of West Africa, they love this sport. This academy creates young educated footballers that can go on and win scholarship. These scholarships allows them to further their education abroad, but the main focus is that they then return to SL and bring their expertise back to the country to better the future of their nation.
The following day, we travelled to Makeni where we spent time treating children in two different centres, one in Magburaka and one in Makeni itself.
These children benefit from a charitable mission called Street Child. Yes, these are street children, they come to the centre at day time and go back to the streets at night. They are orphans and victims of the civil war. The aim of this charity is to try and re-home them as much as possible with relatives, friends or just other families that can support an extra mouth to feed.
The next step was Bo, a town about 3.5 hours from Freetown. We took over part of the hospital wing and treated about 200 patients, mainly people from the town. The wards were heartbreaking.
We spent two days there. On our return to Freetown we saw one more school of about 300 children and every night when I would go back to the Hotel where I stayed in Freetown, I would find a queue of staff pleading to be treated. These people have never seen a dentist, do not have money to pay for any treatment and are in severe pain. My hotel room had by then become a improvised dental surgery.
So, to conclude, I want to thank you so much for your support, without your help this mission would have been half a mission. You are raising money to pay for life saving operations.
Lives haven't just been changed but we have also been able to give out 2000 toothbrushes, about 3000 painkillers, over 700 antibiotics and were able to financially support three parents to take their children to have their operation at the Connaught and be fed until the child is recovered and fit to go home.
Remember this: In union there is strength... together we can make a change.
When I first arrived in Sierra Leone, I had a meeting with all of the Teethsavers. They were all immunized against Hepatitis B and Cholera; the Cholera vaccine was especially welcome as there was a devastating epidemic going on in Sierra Leone, exacerbated by the rainy season.
I then picked up the Teethsavers Agnes, Mo, Augusta and Desmond and we left for different places. We started with Bo where we went to a school/orphanage. Much preparation and effort had gone into picking that particular school and we ended up screening and treating a lot of children as well as treating the Canadian headmistress.
We stayed the night in Bo and left early for the small community of Kailahun where we treated the children and the adults. I got to know after that the following day they arrived by the thousands all asking for us, but unfortunately, we had already left for Freetown.
In Freetown, we headed to Waterloo to an orphanage called Christian Mission run by a lovely man called Alpha Bangura. We treated the children and the nearby schools that Alpha had organised to come and see us. For this task, we used the orphanage's facilities (basically an empty classroom).
We then went to the Craig Bellamy Foundation in Tombo and treated the children in the Academy as well as the community children and adults. All together between different schools, orphanages and communities we treated about 1300 children and adults and screened over 2500 children.
Every person seen was given Oral Hygiene Instructions, a Toothbrush and treatment if needed. Practically we covered SL from West to East doing as much as we could. Many painkillers and antibiotics were also dispensed.
The rest of my stay was spent between different radio interviews, and Desmond and myself went on the lunchtime local channel TV show, where we talked about Teethsavers and Smiling World. I also organized for a crew to come and film us at work in Tombo and the footage was shown during the show.
Again, another successful trip and a step forward in our journey. In the next few visits, I hope to bring with me some volunteers and share with them our mission.
In union there is strength. We will make a difference.