I was recommended to detail about the work that was done during the dental camps I visited last month. I figured that by sharing, I can perhaps shed some light on a part of India that few people are aware of.
My mother, Dr Pratibha Athavale, has been conducting dental camps as a freelancer for seventeen years. This means there is no government, religious or politically driven body behind this. She ties up with different socio-voluntary organisations whose the only objective is “seva” or service. And that too in the part of the country mostly neglected. The states she has visited are mostly the seven sisters in the North-East India, home to hundreds of tribes and thousands of dialects, which are often limited since there is NO script.
Some of the tribes are relatively developed and have access (albeit broken) to power, network, education etc. On the other hand, some are still clad in loincloths and lead primitive lifestyles. The sanitation checks start from making them aware of the importance of washing their hands and mouths let alone brushing their teeth. This has led to her working with and for all sorts of people – and the takeaway is the same. We may be distinct in terms of culture and traditions but our core values are the same.
This year the camp was in Manipur covering three tribal villages and the camps were for three days in each. A little less than 1000 patients were treated in total – the treatments including scalings and extractions. Medication was provided and clinical advise was also given on a case by case basis. Needless to say, this was completely free of cost! It was amazing to see my mom in such a different light. She was super-woman! At 64, she was on her feet from 7 to 7 with cups of tea and light snacks as sustenance. She needed no fuel – she was operating on pure will and determination.
How does a dental camp work given the complexity of equipments? Well, over the years based on her experiences, Mom has put together a portable clinic complete with a dental chair, compressor, sterilizer and the other fancy stuff. A doctor by profession, she channeled her untapped engineering mind into assembling this.
A great team based in the different states ensures operational stability in the camps. These people have given up their families, their jobs and dedicated their lives completely for the upliftment of these tribes. While the impact at the ground level happens in oral health, another subtle yet powerful turn takes place in the minds of the people. There is a human connect happening with these tribes that has never happened before or has always been at a very base level. This medium starts a dialogue which can further progress into a potential road to bring them into mainstream society!
I was lucky to be a part of this movement for sometime and tried to make a small difference. After a long time, I came back with a sense of community! It’s a good feeling alright.
￼Do let me know if you have more questions or wish to support the different initiatives taking place for the North-East states.