PNG visit all smiles for Yamba dental volunteers
AFTER immigrating from South Africa eight years ago, Family Dental Yamba dentist Dr Annie Lippert thought she knew poverty, but a recent trip to Papua New Guinea to volunteer her dental services opened her eyes to the needs of the small island nation.
Travelling with her nurse Rebecca Lindsay, the pair volunteered in a non-profit Youth With a Mission medical ship offering dental treatment on the ship and within the remote villages of Western Papua New Guinea for three weeks.
Returning to Australia last week, Dr Annie said it was a rewarding experience to help improve the lives of the locals.
"We lived on the ship and most days we would see villagers that had been brought onto the ship with Zodiac boats," Dr Annie said.
"One day we went into a remote village and together we saw 38 patients and did 70 extractions under very primitive conditions. We had a fold-up chair, no external light and no suction. We would ourselves wade through thigh-deep soft mud with our equipment and materials to get back onto the boat in the afternoon.
"We would have loved to go to villages every day and help right there but we were needed on the boat as well as I was the only dentist. The need for dental help is massive and even though we would have loved to see more people, and however little our drop in the big ocean of need felt, it was still a drop the ocean needed."
Dr Annie and Bec were able to take 50kg of donations from their community in the Clarence Valley, and Dr Annie said to hand them out to patients after a procedure was very humbling.
"Sometimes we got to hand out some much needed thongs as the patient may come in with no shoes, other times they could leave with a family pack made up of soaps, a pen, notepad, some tooth brushes, wool and other nice things they may have never gotten," she said.
"Seeing the kids light up and stick stickers all over theirs and the adult's faces or trying to blow up a balloon was quite cute. Those were some special memories for us.
"Seeing the enjoyment and laughter we created amongst the local villagers as we slipped and fell in the mud wading to and from the zodiacs was pretty cool."