“Do all the good you can with all the means you can,” wrote 18th century Christian pastor John Wesley. Two Australian dentists, Dr Raymond Khong and Dr Malcolm Campbell, are taking Wesley’s words to heart as they use their expertise in developing countries to make a real difference to local communities, writes Julie Houghton.
“It is so easy to prevent dental problems, and while I am passionate about restoring teeth and fixing things, the ability to educate people to prevent problems is a real passion of mine.”
~Dr Raymond Khong
Melbourne dentist Dr Raymond Khong has a passion for helping the people of Cambodia and Peru with his dental expertise. His most recent excursions have been to the remote village of Pampachiri, a small town in the mountains nearly four hours by bus on a rough gravel road from Andahuaylas, which is a 90-minute flight from Peru’s capital Lima,
Known locally as ‘The Singing Dentist’, he is also an opera singer who made the decision to follow dentistry, while continuing to sing professionally when time permits.
In 2010 he was invited to join a volunteer dental team to go to Mongolia, but had to decline as he was committed to an opera tour. But the passion to help those less fortunate was ignited, and later that year, when he was asked to go to Pampachiri in Peru, he jumped at the chance. The reason for choosing this particular remote village came from a cleaner in a colleague’s Sydney dental clinic who grew up there and said how wonderful it would be if there were dental services in her home village.
Raymond’s dental clinics are funded by himself and his volunteers, with some recent help from the Rotary Club of Manningham to provide three dental chairs and compressors, allowing the team to do a full range of dental treatment and prevention, rather than just extractions.
“It is so easy to prevent dental problems, and while I am passionate about restoring teeth and fixing things, the ability to educate people to prevent problems is a real passion of mine,” he tells Warcry.
Apart from the difficulty of getting to Pampachiri, Raymond’s team also faces language problems—as few people speak English—and some political resistance from local authorities. The people speak a mix of the ancient Inca tongue of Quechua and Spanish, so Raymond took private Spanish tuition so that he could be understood.
General and dental hygiene are problems in this village, and sadly, while Raymond has noted that general hygiene has improved over the years he has been doing pro bono work there, dental health still has a long way to go, due to poor diet and lack of dental hygiene.
With the provision of the new equipment which they took in 2015, Raymond feels they are making a start on the approach he feels dental teams must take—acute work (emergency work which deals with immediate problems), restorative work (fix problems so teeth can be retained) and preventative work (teaching locals how to clean their teeth and eat properly). While Raymond describes this approach as a “slow burn”, he says it is definitely achievable.
Raymond’s singing also helps his pro bono work, as he has donated more than $60,000 in performance fees and CD sales to charity.
Raised a Catholic, Raymond feels an obligation to follow a good moral compass and extend compassion to people in need in developing countries.
“I feel I have been fortunate in my success and should give back,” he sums up succinctly.
Visit www.brightsmiles.com.au for more information about the work of Dr Raymond Khong.
“The only thing I can do in response to God’s love and grace is to get on with the work of his kingdom and extend to others his love wherever I can.”
~Dr Malcolm Campbell
Brisbane-based dentist Dr Malcolm Campbell is co-director of the Timor Children’s Foundation and since 2013 has been making regular visits to East Timor to conduct dental clinics in a country where there are only about 10 dentists for 1.25 million people—contrasted to Australia where the rate is one dentist per 1,000 people.
A trip to the Foundation’s orphanage inspired Malcolm to take dental care to children in need. Since that first visit, Malcolm and his team, which includes dentists, an oral surgeon and an oral health therapist, have expanded the program to treat children at a nearby primary school and the remote community of Lospalos, seven hours drive from East Timor’s capital, Dili.
On their recent June trip to Lospalos, Malcolm’s team carried out a staggering amount of work in just two days.
“We did 98 routine extractions, 12 surgical operations, including impacted wisdom teeth removal, 10 fillings and other miscellaneous work, that amounted to about $30,000 of work.”
In just 10 days at the Marcelo 2 school in Dili, the dental team completed 230 extractions, 20 operations and more than 30 fillings, as well as providing hygiene therapy.
Malcolm is pleased that they have started a prevention program to improve future dental health.
“We were able to start school-wide oral health education classes, where 25 classes were shown how to brush their teeth,” he says.
“Good and bad diet habits were discussed and they were even taught a song in the local language Tetun about tooth brushing.”
Dental education is vital in a country that Malcolm says is being flooded with cheap, high-sugar junk food, which is increasing the decay rate at Marcelo 2 School to 5.2 decayed, filled or removed teeth per each 12-year-old, when the World Health Organisation recommends a score of less than 3.
Since Malcolm’s team started treating children at the orphanage, he has noticed a huge improvement in their dental health.
The program is totally funded through donations and fundraising activities, including more than $200,000 donated by Groodles Australia.
So what drives Malcolm to leave the comfort of his Brisbane practice to donate his team and skill to the East Timorese people?
“For me personally the trips are about just one thing—grace. My life has been blessed by God’s grace. The only thing I can do in response to God’s love and grace is to get on with the work of his Kingdom and extend to others his love wherever I can. I love watching God’s grace in action,” he enthuses.
The world is certainly a better place when it has people like Raymond Khong and Malcolm Campbell doing all the good they can with the skills God has given them.
Visit www.timorchildren.com for more information about the work of Dr Malcolm Campbell.