“We’d known for a long time that we didn’t want to dive straight into our careers as soon as our exams were finished. We were far more interested in completing a clinical internship combining work with a holiday, developing our existing skills and helping people at the same time. We started planning our trip while we were still busy with our state examination. After careful consideration, we decided on the “Dentists for Africa” organisation in Kenya. The organisation sent us a whole host of helpful guidelines as well as the contact information for the Kenyan dentist working there, Sister Fabian.
When the time came, we set off for Frankfurt with what felt like a tonne of luggage in tow. Every gram of our 4x 23 kg suitcases and 2x 12 kg hand luggage was put to good use, most of it for donated materials. We would have liked to have taken all the donations with us, but unfortunately the airline wouldn’t allow us to take any more free luggage. The donations we were forced to leave behind will be shipped to Kenya along with additional materials and equipment by Dentists for Africa.
Departing from Frankfurt, we flew to Amsterdam and then on to Nairobi before heading to Kisumu, where we were collected from the airport by Sister Lawrencia and Vincent the driver. After a long car ride, we finally reached our destination of Kisii and the Christamarianne Mission Hospital. The neighbouring guest house was to be home for us and two doctors for the next two weeks.
Sister Lawrencia was our point of contact, and we knew we could count on her at any time. She organises the central materials bank for Dentists for Africa in Kenya and is also responsible for the digitalisation of the medical files of patients with HIV. Thanks to the guidelines we had received, we were already aware of the high prevalence of HIV in the area and were equipped with double-glove systems, protective visors and face masks. The hospital also maintains a store of HIV post-exposure prophylaxis for emergencies.
Our workdays started at 9 a.m., we ate lunch around 1 p.m. and the dental clinic closed at 4 p.m. The treatment was performed in two rooms each equipped with a dentist’s chair and good instruments. With the help of Davine, a trainee dental surgery assistant, Sister Fabian, Jeal and Tony, two dental health workers on a practical placement, Sharon and Dickson, two dental technicians, and the medical technician, Felix, we were well equipped to deal with all sorts of treatments.
In addition, there was a small dental laboratory for the production of dentures. The most commonly required procedures were extractions and fillings. We were also able to perform tooth cleaning with an ultrasonic scaler and root canal treatments with an x-ray machine; however, the power cuts made treatment more difficult now and again.
Dentists of Africa also frequently makes visits to schools, and we were fortunate enough to be allowed to join them on one trip. We spoke to around 300 pupils at Nyaura Primary School about the importance of dental health and gave them a check-up. Where necessary, we also treated some of them subsequently in the clinic. Generally, we discovered that most children had at most 1-2 teeth requiring treatment – we’d expected much worse! Many children told us that they didn’t have a toothbrush and so Sister Fabian scheduled a follow-up visit to bring the children toothbrushes and toothpaste. The experience was truly one of a kind and the joy and gratitude of the children extremely touching.
All in all, the patients and routine were quite different from those we’re accustomed to in Germany. It makes little sense to make appointments at specific times and so they only specify a date. However, the patients are all very patient and do not expect to be seen immediately. We noticed time and time again that hardly any Kenyans knew you should brush your teeth for three minutes at least twice a day.
We also had the opportunity to visit another dental clinic in Asumbi, which is home to the mother house of the Franciscan nuns. We spent a whole day there primarily treating girls from the nearby high school.
At another mobile deployment at the hospital in Marani, the patients sat on plastic chairs in a tent and had their teeth extracted one after another. They were mainly adults who couldn’t afford treatment or live too far from the closest dental clinic.
In addition, we had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Schinkel, the founder of Dentists for Africa. He was there among other reasons for a weekend seminar focusing on optimising the situation in the area and better aligning the organisation’s objectives with the reality. This gave us some insights into the students’ experiences, wishes and difficulties.
In our free time, we explored the hospital compound with all its animals and vegetable patches. We visited the patient kitchen and bakery, where we found out lots about the preparation of Kenyan specialities. When Sister Lawrencia offered to organise a trip to the Kakamega rainforest, we also jumped at the chance. The rainforest and the Rondo Retreat Center are really worth a visit! The site itself is idyllically located right in the heart of the rainforest and is a perfect place to recharge your batteries.
On our 9-day safari, we visited the Masai Mara National Reserve, Lake Naivasha National Park, Amboseli National Park and Tsvao West National Park. Our journey finished up on the beach in Mombasa.
We had a truly unforgettable time in Kenya. The Kenyans are very open people and always treated us kindly. In particular, the sisters accepted us with open arms and took especially good care of us. The trip was very rewarding from both a personal and a professional perspective.
In total, of the 82 companies we contacted, 24 offered us a donation. We would like to take this opportunity to thank all our sponsors for their generous support, which has made not only us but also the people in Kenya very happy (in alphabetical order):
3M Deutschland GmbH, Bausch GmbH, Busch & Co. GmbH, Clinic & Job Dress GmbH, Colente Group, Dentsply Detrey GmbH, Anton Gerl GmbH, Golf Toys GmbH, E. Hahnenkratt GmbH, Kulzer GmbH, Horico Dental Hopf, Ringlab & Co. GmbH, Hu-Friedy Mfg. Co., Ivoclar Vivadent GmbH, Karl Hammacher GmbH, Komet Dental/Gebr. Brasseler GmbH & Co. KG, Kuraray Europe GmbH, M+W Dental GmbH, MaiMed GmbH, MPS Dental GmbH, Nordiska GmbH & Co.KG, Polydentia SA, Romesco Handelsges.m.b.H, VOCO GmbH.”