This quarter, the Smiles for Everyone Thailand outpost received an invitation to provide dental treatment to those still affected by the devastating tsunami that struck 14 years ago in southern Thailand. Among the places they served was an orphanage housing about 150 children, with 80% of them being children from Myanmar and the Mogen people, a tribe living between Thailand and Myanmar. These children face a unique challenge as many are unregistered and lack citizenship in any country, leaving them with no access to dental care.
Dr. Wata, the lead dentist of the outpost, shared some concerning statistics. While typically 50% of children aged 5 to 10 years old have dental problems, in this community, a staggering 84% of children were dealing with dental issues. During this outreach, the team was able to treat 945 patients, and 29% of them needed teeth extractions, a much higher rate compared to the usual 10%. One child from Myanmar required 8 extractions, illustrating the severity of the dental problems in this community.
But the outreach didn’t stop there. The SFEF Thailand outpost extended their caring hands to Baan Nam Khem, also known as the Tsunami Village, in the Phang Nga Province of South Thailand. Here, 80% of the 945 people seeking treatment were Burmese and Rohingya, a marginalized and impoverished group with no treatment rights in Thailand. An additional 20% were local fishermen living on islands near Baan Nam Khem.
Despite having only 12 treatment beds and an overwhelming number of patients, the dental team and their volunteers were thrilled to serve this community. Among the patients were Rohingya children whose parents were imprisoned for attempting to enter Thailand illegally. These children, who live in constant fear due to their uncertain status in Thailand, were brought to the outreach event by government officials.
The volunteers discovered that the children could speak English, which provided a bridge for communication. They organized walks and took photos, bringing smiles to the faces of these children who had been living in worry and isolation. The volunteers also learned that these children may be sent to a third country, separated from their parents and siblings, without knowing when they would reunite. This heartbreaking reality highlighted the need for emotional support.
What makes the SFEF outreach project even more exceptional is how it has brought together various stakeholders, including the local community, government agencies, and corporate sponsors. They have joined forces to make a positive impact and bring smiles to the people of the Ban Nam Khem community.Dental Missions, Orphans, Thailand