Alexander Saber graduated as a Periodontist from Saint Joseph University-Beirut, Lebanon. He is an activist in the Oral Hygiene awareness field.
Here’s what Alex had to say:
Since my early days in the dental world, volunteering and promoting oral health has been second nature, hence the chance to work with Dental Mavericks is a perfect opportunity for me, enabling me to accomplish my passion.
As the new Field Coordinator in Beirut, I look forward to continue the great work already established and help grow Dental Mavericks in Lebanon. Furthermore, I am eager to implement the goals of Dental Mavericks by promoting oral health, implementing new outreach programs, treating patients and relieving their pain, especially through the difficult situation of the country.
I hope to use my expertise in both the dental and humanitarian fields to be able to contribute as much as possible to the work of Dental Mavericks and the necessities of the community!
My reflections after 2 years with Dental Mavericks
by Marta Żęcin
It’s been a little bit over 2 years since I joined Dental Mavericks in Lebanon and the time has come to say goodbye. I remember my first days in Qob Elias in Bekaa Valley after I arrived for what was supposed to be a 3 month contract. Even if I’ve been there before as a volunteer dentist everything seemed new and unfamiliar. Two years later Lebanon feels like my second home. A place where I met some of my best friends and so many other kind and generous people who made me feel like I belong to this place.
Lebanon, as beautiful as it is, has been going through one of its most difficult times in history and running Dental Mavericks projects under these circumstances was a big challenge. In October 2019, when the Lebanese revolution started I had to move to Beirut and put all volunteer trips on hold. Shortly after, the Covid-19 pandemic started and once again we couldn’t run our project activities for a few months. When the rest of the world was slowly getting used to the “new reality” the Beirut Blast happened on the 4th of August 2020.
There are no words to describe this tragedy and the heart-breaking images and stories that emerged in the following days. After the explosion we reached out to people who suffered from trauma to their mouth and that was the start of our most successful and sustained project “Beirut Emergency Clinic”. It gave me an opportunity to work with a fantastic local team who understood our values. Reading patients testimonials who not only received a high quality treatment but also praised the dentists for their empathy and kindness was the highlight of this collaboration for me.
Working with Dental Mavericks gave me a unique opportunity to get experience in the humanitarian field and live my dream of moving to Lebanon. It was not an easy two years, but despite all the difficulties, perhaps the most satisfying and joyful time in my adult life. I would like to thank everyone I have met on this journey and who made this experience so special.
Hello again, I hope that you are well. Wow, what a life changing few weeks I’ve just had. I’m referring to Hull City getting back into the premier league. Well done lads. I missed the Wembley game but I must say that it was worth it.
What Was So Important To Miss The Play Off Final At Wembley
I was in Morocco again with Dental Mavericks. This was my 9th trip out there to get kids out of daily dental pain. They are all special trips as they are all rewarding but this one was a bit different, somehow a bit special. It was really moving and emotional.
Back To Asni
We went back to Asni for the 3rd time to work with Eve Branson Foundation up in the Atlas Mountains. We have built a great relationship with the foundation and the “Teeth For Life Programme” is kicking in with tooth brushing clubs.
We are making small strides in reducing tooth decay but it is still bad.
We want to improve the situation and work with local professionals.
We will get there and we are making some progress. That’s the key, making progress and not giving up. Failure is only final when you stop trying. Small improvements lead to great things in the long run.
Something New And Exciting Team Talk
We did a brand new project straight after Asni by the coast in Essaouira. This was brought about by the King’s advisor. We arrived at a school there to a very nice reception and welcome. So, we rested up and started early next morning at 7am.
We didn’t leave until 8-10pm after working flat out with just a short break for a flying lunch. We saw hundreds of children and took a lot of teeth out. I was blown away and inspired by a couple of deaf girls. They were so switched on and matter of fact.
We didn’t speak a common language but we understood each other. That’s the same for all the children. It’s humanity. It’s amazing
Inspirational Thank You Dinner
We were treated to a thank you dinner. The energy was amazing and everybody realised that we can work together to improve the health of the kids. The Director/ Head Master of the school said how the children’s faces had changed.
They could now concentrate on studying as they were out of pain. You look at the world and all the rubbish that goes on and here we were round a table with people of different language and culture looking at ways to work together.
So proud to be part of the group. I was across the table Richard Howarth (fellow trustee) and we looked at each other and welled up. These were fantastic people and I’m looking forward to the future being able to look after the kids better and getting locals involved to sustain an on-going project.
Bitter Sweet To Finish
My son, Edward has been accepted to train as a Dental Therapist at Liverpool University. Edward has been working at my place as a dental nurse for a couple of years. It’s a competitive field and I’m proud of him. He’ll be missed around the place. I said it was emotional!
Diary of a Maverick Jules Richardson. Jules won the competition at the Mavericks’ Ball in 2013 to be sponsored by Adventure Bug.
It all began in February this year when, after a difficult day at work, I saw an advert in the Dentistry magazine for Dental Nurses to win a chance to join a dental charity on a mission to Morocco.
“What a fantastic opportunity!” I thought, and entered my story, never in a million years thinking that mine would be chosen, and that I´d get that opportunity, one that would change my outlook on life forever! Here is my story….
My journey started on a flight to Amsterdam in the early hours of Sunday morning. There are no direct flights to Tangiers, that was my first discovery, so as well as going on a charity mission, to a foreign country, with people I’d never met before, I also had the daunting task of getting there alone!
My connecting flight to Tangier was on time, and was ready to board more or less as soon as I´d landed, so off to Morocco I went……
I met all the fellow Dental Mavericks at the Hotel in Tangier and immediately felt relaxed with them. We were all there for the same reason, to relieve as many children of dental pain as we could.
We would be carrying out 2 projects this year. The first 2 days would be in a village called El Jebha, where the Mavericks have visited for the last 3 years.
The 2nd project, also 2 days, would be completely new to the Mavericks, in a village called Merchekala in the Rif Mountains. Both projects were very different in many ways, but the aim to be achieved was the same.
After a 3 hour bus ride we finally arrived in El Jebah … What a beautiful village! We donned our “uniform” …. a tee shirt with the charity name and our name in Arabic on the front, and on the reverse was our name in English. As we walked up to the clinic, children read our tee shirts and shouted out our names, it felt like such a welcome!
I was amazed how everyone just mucked in with setting up the clinics. I was down to work with Richard Howarth, one of the trustees of the charity, on triage. The children were brought to the clinic in classes and as the children all arrived, suddenly it dawned on me that we were there, in the middle of it!
What also hit me was the amount of work that would need to be carried out to make the children pain free. A huge task in a country where there is usually just 1 dentist to 500,000 people.
We were working in an isolated fishing village with no dentists, a high sugar diet, no toothbrushes or fluoride toothpaste so it isn’t hard to imagine the levels of decay that we saw, but the dental neglect still shocked me. Many of the children we saw were living day to day with abscesses and pain, and there was nothing that they could do about it.
The interpreters wrote the children’s name on a card, and that was it! No medical history, no age, no consent, just a name, then they were examined. It took me back to the days of the old community school inspections! A bit of a conveyor belt … a quick look in their mouth, determine whether they were having toothache, and from which tooth, then write down the treatment needed. The level of decay was worse than I expected. Working in Community I was used to seeing neglected mouths, but these were different. The level of decay in permanent teeth was much higher.
The children were then sent to wait outside one of the 3 treatment rooms we had, the 3rd being the largest with 4 chairs in. When we ran out of waiting space, Richard and I went through to join the others and start treatment.
The first girl we saw, Romina, had a massive abscess on her lower molar. She sat on the chair, and pointed to the tooth. We numbed her up, and I comforted her by holding her hand, which she gripped tightly! Unfortunately the tooth was so badly decayed that it crumbled, leaving the roots still in the gum. It was only at this point that the little girl began to get upset. She was trying to talk to us, but we couldn’t understand what she was saying.
The interpreters were running from room to room trying to explain things to the children and I managed to get one to come through and help us. The little girl explained that she only wanted the one tooth from which she was having toothache taken out, and became upset because she thought we had already taken it, and were taking another. Once it was explained to her that it was the same tooth that had broken, she was fine. Poor thing. She must have thought we were going to take them all out! When we finally got the tooth out, she gave me a hug! She was so appreciative to be out of pain.
How humble something like that makes you feel. The rest of the patients were equally as cooperative, and equally as grateful. It´s amazing how you can manage to get by using thumbs up signs and high 5s! There was a lot of hugging going on around the rooms! It was after 6 by the time we finished and the team had managed to treat 61 children. Not bad going for 2 hours work!
As we walked back to the hotel, the children were out playing in the village square … football, an old bicycle, marbles and skipping ropes. Not an electronic game in sight! I actually felt quite pleased with myself, and was proud to be part of such an energetic and enthusiastic team. I felt that in those couple of hours we had truly made a massive difference to those children’s lives. I actually couldn’t wait to be back tomorrow!
We were up bright and early the following morning, and all were as eager as I was to get back to the clinic! Never have I known such enthusiasm. It was an amazing feeling!
We arrived back at the clinic and could start seeing the children straightaway. Some of the children must either have been resilient to pain or too scared to admit that they were in pain.
Totally shot teeth, down to gum level, but no pain? Unbelievable! But, as the child’s consent is the only consent we had, we couldn’t force them to have treatment.
All the children came on their own, the odd few speaking a little bit of French, but as their first language is Arabic, we muddled through with the few words we knew, and the help from the interpreters.
Fatima was, we guessed, about 6 years old. A little dot of a thing who came in pointing to her face. A massive swelling on the lower left. When she opened her mouth, every one of her teeth was carious, but she was only getting pain from the abscessed lower deciduous molar. It was oozing with infection.
She must have been in agony, but she was ever so good. She never even flinched when we numbed her up, but oh did she cry when we extracted the tooth. It was heartbreaking stuff. The infection was obviously so bad that we had no alternative but to get the tooth out. (It wasn’t like at home where we would have issued a prescription and got her back a week later.)
As soon as the tooth was out, she gave the biggest smile, and another hug. Inside I was cry-ing. This little girl was so relieved to be out of pain. She must have been living with daily pain for months!
And so the children came, and continued to arrive until the last child who had said that they had toothache had been treated. A total of 185 children relieved of toothache.
We went back to the hotel to collect our things and onto the long journey back to Chefchaouen. We arrived back in the evening. Everyone was shattered, both emotionally and physically and ready for a day of rest before we would leave for our 2nd project.
Today was a much needed rest day. A day to reflect on what had been, and to discuss what may lay ahead. Time to recharge the batteries.
We were taken on a guided tour through the village by one of the elders of the village, and it was interesting to see a little bit of the country that we were staying in, and hear a bit of the local history.
We set off bright and early for the journey further into the Rif Mountains. Today was Day 1 of our 2nd project. A completely new entity to every one of the Dental Mavericks. No-one knew what to expect as we set off to the village of Merchekala.
Although the journey was shorter than the one to El Jebah, it seemed a lot longer as the majority of the journey was off road! There were some hair-raising moments where we were perched precariously on the cliff’s edge. Seemingly donkeys and goats had the right of way on THIS path!
When we arrived at the Gite, we were made to feel like royalty! Fresh bread, with honey and the sweetest ever mint tea! (Obviously the reason we were here!)
We quickly set up the dental chairs, 3 in the store room, 2 outside on the courtyard and 2 in 2 of the bedrooms! How bizarre to be treating patients in the rooms we would be sleeping in later!
Very quickly word had got round that the dentists were in town! In no time at all there seemed to be hundreds of children, clambering over the gates, through the bushes, and getting in through anyway that they could!
It soon became apparent that the order we had experienced in El Jebah wasn’t going to be the same here. There was no shouting out of our names like before, perhaps because these children couldn’t read?
This village was far more run down than the other we had visited. Children with no shoes and children who were dirty. We were very much back to basics here. Two teenage boys took it upon themselves to “work the gates!” It was a case of one in, one out as this was the only way that any kind of order could be achieved!
The children in El Jebah knew what was involved when the Dental Mavericks were in town, after all, it was the 4th visit, but to these children, they had no idea what to expect. Excitement of the unknown soon passed when the first few children had been treated. Some of these children had never experienced going to the dentist, and at first it was a novelty. Every child who was seen got a toothbrush and toothpaste, regardless of whether they needed treatment or not. We think that word had got out that you got a gift, regardless of whether they had a tooth extracted or not.
After lunch, the boys working the gates were given a Sunderland football shirt each, kindly donated by one of the Dental Mavericks, and their faces lit up! Something so simple had probably been the best gift they had ever received!
Mohammed came to see us with totally shot molars. I’m guessing he was about 13. He had been triaged to have 2 extracted today, then come back tomorrow for the other 2 extracting. He was so good, but obviously so scared of the unknown.
The language barrier is so difficult. Then there was Redoin. A young boy aged about 7 or 8. He’d obviously suffered some kind of trauma as his upper central had been knocked out, he had a stitch in his lip, which looked like it had been there for months, and his upper deciduous premolar was broken.
We numbed him up, and he grabbed my hand tightly. He didn’t let go all the time that we were treating him, and he stared at me the whole time too. I wonder what those eyes have seen in his short life. There were high fives going on around us, and lots of thumbs up coming from every dental chair!
The buzz of getting through the patients and seeing them smile afterwards when they knew they would no longer have to live with toothache was immense! It was a roller coaster of emotions with lots of highs and a few lows. The last patient was seen at 7pm. Time had gone so quick, and everyone worked so hard. Fluoride varnish was applied to as many children as possible, toothbrush demonstrations were being given, and those in pain were relieved of that pain.
The day had been a success, with over 200 children seen and treated.
My journey was so worthwhile. I felt honoured to be part of such a fantastic charity and such a worthwhile project. Yes there’s still a lot of work to be done, but Rome wasn’t built in a day as they say! If even one child’s life was improved then that’s a start.
We had no policies or procedures, nor was there a tick box in sight!! Everything really was back to basics. Sterilisation was cold sterilisation, but we managed. If we didn’t have the right equipment, we improvised.
I know that this will change me completely as a person. Too often we take things for granted. I will take a lot out of my week in Morocco, but most of all I felt valued. I felt that we did something worthwhile. I made new friends, who are good people, who give. I aspire to be like them. We gave something back to a society who have very little.
As I was leaving, Redoin, the little boy with the stitch, was waiting by the Land Rover, and he gave me the biggest smile ever. I knew he was no longer in pain. Goodbye children of El Jebah and Merchekala … I hope to see you all again next year!
The Mavericks are a team of special people, the likes of I’ve never met before. Each and everyone of them gave their time for free to try and spread the message of better oral health, and relieve as many children of pain. Why do they do it? They do it because they are human and because they know that every human being deserves the same rights as each other.
If you can get back to basics, get your hands dirty and make a difference then please try and get involved in a project like this. I can guarantee that amongst the madness, lack of order and frustration your heart will be opened, and you will have a beaming smile on your face at the end of the day when you know that because of your team, hundreds of children will no longer be in pain.
These are the people we should hold in highest regard. Many thanks to all the Dental Mavericks for their inspiration and help, but mainly for giving me the chance to help make a difference.
How often are we presented with an opportunity to do something different? Something that, whilst intriguing, sits outside of our normal comfort zone?
This was the situation I found myself in one morning last August upon reading an email inviting me to join a group of people to support their efforts in starting a brand new dental charity.
Their objective was to help provide dental care for the most needy around the world. I was also warned that, as a participant, I would be likely to experience some discomfort and even a little danger.
I deliberated, but this time I did take the opportunity. Perhaps I was subconsciously reminded of the title of this article.
The initial project focused on travelling to a remote fishing village called El Jebah, in the Rif mountains of Morocco to provide care for an ancient tribe, known as the ‘Berbers’.
A member of our group had recently visited the area. While he was there, he met a doctor who was solely responsible for the medical care of 50,000 people. However, due to the lack of funding, the Berber tribe were in desperate need of a dentist.
Our aim was to help a group of Berber school children with education, simple restorations and extractions where necessary.
There followed a frantic few weeks of scrounging for as many dental supplies to take with us as possible.
My journey began on the 24th of September travelling to Malaga, in Spain to be introduced to the rest of my party. Early the next morning we travelled by minibus from Southern Spain on the high speed ferry to Tangier, ‘The gateway to Morocco’.
Passing through Customs in Tangier can be a long and drawn out procedure, involving ‘greasing’ several palms. It was also important that our dental supplies were not discovered as this would have created further delays and the risk of being ‘invited’ to remain in the custody of the officials! Fortunately, after an uneventful encounter we were allowed to continue on our journey.
In order not to cause offence, we were reminded about some of the customs of this deeply religious country. Firstly, the elderly do not take kindly to their photos being taken. Secondly, and much more 3 importantly, most Moroccan food is eaten by hand. Therefore, if invited to join someone for a meal, one should always eat with the right hand as the left is supposed to be used for the toilet! Our journey continued South East by minibus for about three hours through a vast, dry, rocky landscape.
However, there could not have been any greater contrast between this and our first night’s destination, ‘Chechaouen’.
Pronounced ‘Chef Chowan’, it is nicknamed the ‘Blue City of the Rif’, and it was easy to see why. It is built directly into the hills which nestle between two mountain peaks in the Rif, such that, as we approached, we were afforded a perfect view of the whole town. A truly stunning sight!
Chechaouen is a stunningly beautiful town with its blue painted walls and its quaint narrow cobbled streets.
The following day started slightly earlier than expected. We hadn’t been warned about the Muslim prayers which are broadcast by loudspeaker. The first one of the day starts at about 4.15am!
We set off on a six hour trek high into the Rif the following day ending with an overnight stop in the infamous trekkers stop off at the Albergue De Azaline. At 2000m above sea level, and in the heart of the illegal hash fields that form a major part of the export trade of Morocco, this ‘hotel’ offers no electricity, hole in the floor toilets, and bedding that probably carry bugs from a hundred different countries, but with a 5 star service!
It is owned by Abdul Carear. An amazingly happy and gracious man who was only too happy to provide for our every needs. Home-made bread, sweet mint tea and cheese on arrival followed by a candlelit dinner, a traditional Moroccan ‘Tagine‘ consisting of gristly meat and stewed vegetables.
That evening, as some of our party felt obliged, to join Abdul in a post dinner ‘kif pipe’, we were afforded an unforgettable view of the North African sky at night. With no ground lighting to dim the view, we stared up at a starry night the likes of which none of us had ever witnessed before.
After a less than restful night’s sleep, a cold shower with water fed directly from a mountain spring awoke us sharply in preparation for the next leg of our journey. With the aid of a donkey to carry our luggage that we affectionately nicknamed ‘Geraldine’, we trekked downhill for 7 hours through various Berber settlements.
Onwards through Rif Mountains we glimpsed monkeys and continued along a one-foot wide mountain path sometimes narrowing to only a few centimetres where it cascaded vertically hundreds of feet down to the village of Akchour.
The following day, another minibus journey led us higher up into the mountains passing through towns thriving on the hash trade, particularly Bab Beret, the ‘Dodge City’ of Morocco! Once we had crossed over the mountain peaks, we began descending along a narrow, winding mountainside road towards our final destination, El Jebah.
Such was the sheer beauty of the unspoilt landscape that some of us cycled the last 35km.
With its steep slopes, potholes, sharp turns and constant traffic, this was an exhausting, frightening but exhilarating finale to our expedition.
Such was the warmth and gratitude of the locals to our arrival that we were afforded accommodation in a hotel that had been newly refurbished in our honour. Redwan, the ex Mayor of El Jebah, personally escorted us around the premises and proudly displayed its many facilities, including a newly built communal shower, running water that was almost warm, and toilets that you could sit on! Although, the hole in the floor option did remain for those of us who wished to remain ‘native’. We gracefully declined.
The sense of pride, gratitude and sincerity in this man for our visit was truly overwhelming for us all.
The following morning, we were taken to a local primary school courtesy of the headmaster and met with a team of doctors, dentists and ambassadors from Morocco, Belgium and France.
Our treatment room, if you could call it that, was a small classroom with rows of chairs and desks upon which we laid out our supplies of instruments: mirrors, probes, needles, and forceps. No dental chairs, or overhead lights and no opportunity to hide these from full view of the children.
In an adjacent classroom, small groups of children were assembled and given basic education on caring for their teeth and gums.
A quick show of hands revealed that less than a quarter of the children actually possessed their own toothbrush and, of these, very few actually used them. Not surprising then, that, together with their very sugary diet, they suffered from severe dental neglect.
Due to a limit of supplies and facilities, it was agreed that we would treat the most urgent cases. Our intention was to restore teeth wherever possible, but such was the degree of decay that almost all the children that we saw needed extractions.
We continued working for the rest of the day treating as many children as we possibly could. The vast majority of these had never seen a dentist before, and it was obvious that some of them would have been suffering from extreme toothache for months!
Imagine then, if you can, sitting in a classroom, watching as your friends are led, one by one, by strangers into another room. The initial excitement rapidly waning as you begin to realise that this is no ordinary day at school. And all the while, quietly waiting for your own turn.
I would like to emphasise that we exercised all possible avenues of minimising pain for these children, in exactly the same way that your own dentist does back here. However, having teeth out is a traumatic experience at the best of times. Additionally, these children did not have the luxury of a common language, a positive previous dental experience to draw comfort from, or a reassuring parent to hold their hands.
Nevertheless, they exhibited a sense of calmness beyond their years and allowed us to treat them with such bravery and stoicism as I have never witnessed before, and still find difficult to comprehend.
Perhaps it is the amount of poverty and suffering that most of them have to endure which has hardened them, or maybe it is due to the strictness of their upbringing. These children have next to nothing, but they are as warm and happy as any you would ever wish to meet and it was a great honour to be in their company.
By the day’s end, we had treated only about 50 children. Not many, considering the school numbers around 600 in total. However, as one of our party reminded us, for those 50 children, we did make a difference. Particular recognition for the success of this trip must be made to a great many people.
The Moroccan Team – an international group of ambassadors, doctors, dentists, pharmacists and students whose assistance and guidance was invaluable
Tony Gedge – an infectiously funny man, and a visionary without whom this trip would never have been conceived.
Cally Gedge – incredibly welcoming, gracious and very entertaining.
Domien Dom – our tour guide, interpreter, and ‘go-to man’. His industry, calmness and complete lack of fear made this trip so memorable. A man to raise your spirits!
Michael Day – great company and an excellent cyclist.
My three excellent dental colleagues:
Michael Oliver – a giant gentle Geordie who selflessly took the worst that Moroccan food poisoning could offer on our behalf, but still came out smiling. And a bloody good photographer whose photos I have borrowed for this article!
Chris Branfield – my room buddy to whom I owe a great debt of gratitude for his great company, his tolerance to snoring and other loud noises in the night!
Teresa Day – you saw the mountain and you conquered it. Living proof that we can all leap out of our comfort zones and still overcome.
To my new friends, I owe my heartfelt thanks for allowing me to join them and welcoming me so warmly.
Wednesday, October 9th, 2013
Dalmaira, or Maira for short, is 8 years old. And she’s in pain. From a horribly decayed lower first molar. She’s sitting in our chair in our ‘MASH’ tent in El Jebba on a very warm Tuesday morning. I say our chair because I’m working with Amy, a dental therapist, whom I first met and teamed with last year.
The tooth needs to come out. But did I mention that it’s horribly decayed?
Anyway, Amy and I have developed an almost instinctive working relationship. One where we don’t need to prep each other about what to do, or say. We use our very limited pigeon Arabic. Mix it with some French, Spanish, English and masses of body language, and we can communicate. So that ultimately, a language barrier isn’t a barrier.
We go through breathing techniques with every child we see. We try to make them laugh. And most of the time, we do.
Maira was brilliant. Not once did she flinch let alone get upset. But I couldn’t get her tooth out. It kept crumbling. Again and again. And I was struggling.
Despite Amy’s help, what remained of the tooth was becoming less and less visible. Access was becoming more difficult and even though it was loosening, it wasn’t coming out.
As our team were stopping for lunch, Maira was the only child still being treated. Richard Howarth, one of my dental muckers, came over to help. So did Chris Branfield. Another dentist friend who I met when I came out on my first Dental Maverick trip in 2010.
They both offered advice as to the best instruments to use, as well as the technique. But I wasn’t succeeding. Laura, a nurse had come to help as well by now. And with her and Amy’s help, I drilled the roots to separate them.
And Maira? Well, she was still perfectly ok. Despite the fact that she’d now been in the chair for about 45 minutes.
Eventually, both Richard and Chris suggested that I take a break. I refused. I was tired, but this had become a matter of pride. After another failed attempt, I took stock. I was acting selfishly. Letting my personal pride get in the way of Maira’s welfare. So I asked Chris to take over. He did without hesitation and, shortly after he’d managed to extract the tooth.
When Maira left our ‘MASH’ tent, she was met with a chorus of applause from the rest of our team. And she deserved it. I stayed behind. Feeling a mixture of shame and embarrassment. And as for having my photo taken with her, no chance! Anyway, I did. But only after others’ insistence.
And I wonder why I do this.
But, every year I see at least one child who manages to break through my testosterone impregnated guard. A child who demonstrates a strength of mind and composure that is so wildly unbecoming of their age that it fills me with awe.
Last year, it was Ayesha. This year, Maira. And even though my memory is failing, I’ll never forget them.
This was my third visit with the Dental Mavericks. The ‘WHAT’ we do and the ‘HOW’ we do it are self explanatory. But, if you were to ask any of us ‘WHY’ we do it, I suspect that you’d get several different answers:
‘Helping rid the children of dental pain’,
‘Leaving a worthwhile legacy’,
‘Doing good for others’.
These are just some examples and they’re all equally worthy. In fact, I often use them myself.
But, there is another ‘WHY’. One that I experienced in abundance this last week. And that is ‘Building Strong Relationships’. I consider many of our team to be firm friends. Even the newer Mavericks, as well as some of our Moroccan hosts. And that’s priceless.
According to recent research, having close friends you can count on has massive benefits for your physical and mental health. A strong social network can be critical to helping you through the stress of tough times.
I believe that. Last week proved it to me.
Later that day, I thanked Richard and Chris. Not just for helping me but for not pulling rank. I knew that they both wanted me to take a break. Let someone else try. But they weren’t insistent. Just supportive. And the reason for that is because we know each other well. We’ve become friends.
Michael Oliver of Oliver’s Dental, Sunderland Talks About His 2012 Trip With Dental Mavericks
Just imagine living with your family in an isolated fishing village with no dentists , a high sugar diet , no toothbrushes and no fluoride toothpaste. You don’t need to be a dentist to imagine the consequences, but the dental neglect shocks even the most experienced of this group of national dentists and their team.
Abscesses, pain and distress, parents of these children in Morocco are no different to any other around the world, they want help for their children.
Maybe a little pebble in a big pond but three years ago a group of dentists from around the UK came together to form the Dental Maverick charity to provide dental care in remote areas of the world.
Expanding significantly in 2012, the Mavericks numbered a team of 15, including 8 clinicians and their support staff of dental nurses and admin staff. Excited at the prospect of providing restorative fillings for the first time to complement the inevitable extraction work load the Mavericks met up in Southern Spain for the ferry journey to Morocco. Laden with a tremendous range of clinical equipment donated by incredible dental company generosity and public donation, dental care we take for granted headed for a North Africa desperate for the services of this western team.
Leaving behind a western lifestyle in Tarifa, Southern Spain, a forty-minute ferry journey took the team to a land that in places felt two hundred years behind us. The most richly scenic of countries, in the countryside the primitive Berber tribes folk of the Rif mountains can be seen tending their fields with animals, quite a culture shock for this iPad generation of dentists.
Bizarrely the team’s plans were severely hindered on arrival in Morocco as the border agents refused to sanction the entry of previously cleared dental equipment. With a full team of dentists finding their trip in jeopardy, three days of official negotiations spread across the country , finally saw the team reunited with their supplies. The relief was enormous as the team were well aware of the children in the village and their reliance on our annual visit.
The trip started with a two-day trek around the Rif mountains as they rise from the city of Tetuan. The joy of the trek being the integration the team felt with the local people including an overnight stay in the home of a Moroccan family who kindly allowed 15 of us to sleep in their living room. Feeding us traditional Moroccan food cooked beautifully in a Tagine is a memory that will live long with those of us privileged enough to be there. Moroccans living a simple existence offering tremendous kindness to their Western visitors. I can’t imagine many families in Sunderland giving up their front rooms to 15 Moroccans knocking on their door !
The highlight of this trip like others before came as the team were welcome like long lost friends as we pulled up into the village. A remarkable show of affection for the dental team from some of the village seniors including ex mayor Reduan, the school headmaster Mustaffa and the owner of our base the three days we were in town.
I will let the photographs tell the story of the uplifting experience felt by the whole team as we set about helping nearly 200 children with their dental pain. Nothing I do in my career comes close to the emotion I feel being part of this UK team helping children in genuine distress who rely on us as a sole source of dental care.
Such lovely children, they lifted the whole team. The gratitude of the parents made it all worthwhile.
The whole school came out to say goodbye to the Mavericks’ team delighted to have overcome all the problems of the border and a team feeling justifiably proud of themselves. A job well done for another year.
After such an intense few days the team had earned themselves a couple of days of R and R as they travelled back through the Rif mountains with its stunning views to the beautiful city of Chefchaouen , the blue city in the mountains. A scary, and I mean scary, Land Rover journey up to 2500 m saw some of the team reunited with the legendary Abdul, host of the Hotel Azilane, a trekkers paradise in the high Rif.
Onwards with a trip back to the Moroccan border and that short ferry journey back to normality and a final night of celebration in Tarifa that will live long. It’s the nearest I will ever get to experiencing what it is like to be Doctor Who with a step back in time so engaging it leaves a mark on all of us fortunate enough to be part of Mavericks 2012.
Mali , Central Africa next year , maybe just maybe.
Watch this space but for now its back to being a dentist in Sunderland, offering emergency dentist services back home will never seem the same again.
Special thanks for making this trip such a huge success….
Chris Woolley of Henry Schein and his company itself who donated phenomenal amounts of equipment at no charge and helped us ship hundreds of pounds worth of supplies to Spain.
My business manager at Olivers Dental Studio , Joanne Barella, who gave up endless amounts of her time in fundraising and organisation – a special person indeed.
The four new Mavericks this year, Mike, Amy, Gillian and dentist David who were inspirational, caring and above all became great friends of the team. Top people.
Maverick Chris Branfield who pulled the clinical side together for us, a tremendous feat in our field clinic in Africa. Brilliant effort Chris , it all worked seamlessly.
Mohammed our mountain guide for taking us into parts of the world few would ever have the privilege of seeing.
Domien, a Belgian who seems to know everyone in Spain, Africa and most of Europe come to think of it. A brilliant organiser, guide, translator and bunny rabbit. A wonderful man.
Finally, thanks to Tony and Cally Gedge. They sowed the seed of the Mavericks, drove it on when many would have lost the energy and pulled the rest of us out of our little boxes of dental life. Amazing people , generous and kind, driving us to experiences in life we would never have seen. The Mavericks salute you.
The highlight so far was to work at the craft centre in Asni with the Eve Branson Foundation and to meet the young women and children from the local villages.
Our biggest pleasure is seeing the children who were so happy to see us!
The Eve Branson Foundation is working throughout the year to oversee the brushing and to keep the message of good oral hygiene strong.
Fluoride was a big resource for us too, we managed to treat 80% of the children in the village.
For the benefit of the kids we are holding our cap out to ask if anyone can help us with supplies of fluoride varnish. If you know of anyone, a supplier or contact please consider passing on our details.
On our last visit we left enough toothbrushes for the children of the village for a year and will be returning again next year to see further improvements.
A massive thank you to all the Mavericks team who came to Asni and for all the fundraising you have done to make the trip and future trips successful. You are all amazing.
Finally if you are interested in getting involved in our projects for 2016 drop me a line and we can chat over the phone, places are always filled quickly so don’t delay!
Dental Mavericks’ Trustee Richard Howarth Speaks Out About His Illness And Zest For Life At A Recent Fundraising Event
At the age of 13 I knew I wanted to be a dentist.
In 2001 I started to get numbness in my right hand and pain up to the point where I couldn’t work, and my carpal tunnel syndrome from repetitive strain from doing dentistry to my patients.
I had to face the prospect of not being a dentist and it’s when somebody takes something away from you, you suddenly put more value on it. You suddenly realise how important that thing is to you. And that’s what happened to me.
I went for a year following surgery of pain free dentistry for my patients and painful dentistry for me!
And I think we can all look at our lives and look at a point in our lives and say “we’re grateful for that”.
Dentistry has given me a very good life. I’ve met some great people and I’ve had some amazing adventures that I would never dream that I would do, including sailing round Anglesey, but more importantly going to Morocco, way out of Richards comfort zone.
So you are here for a reason, you’re here because you are supporting Dental Mavericks, so please think about your lives, think about what you’re grateful for and help us to help these kids so that they’re grateful for the dental health that we can give them.
We need you to volunteer. If you’ve got 2 or 3 days and you want to come out to Morocco, come and see us, we’d love to take you out there and you can then get involved as well. If you haven’t got the time, raise some money for us or dig really deep tonight and give us some money.
After being back home for 2 days after spending a week with dental mavericks the adrenaline is still flowing 😄 I don’t think you can appreciate the hard work everybody puts in with helping these children until you have tried it yourself. It’s a mission to help as many children as possible in the the time you have which in itself is a huge accomplishment and so very rewarding.The people who run this are absolutely amazing and make you feel so welcome 🤗 If anybody is hesitant about volunteering I’d say just do it because I then guarantee it wont be the last time😉 I will definitely be back x
So many gorgeous, happy faces. The best of times with the Mavericks team, working together was a privilege that shaped me. It was the honour of my life to be able to serve these beautiful children, helping them to smile again. I can’t wait to be back in the T-shirt again. Thank you to everyone on this trip, especially to the clinical yin to my yang Jas and to Michael who deserves credit for documenting all of these touching moments with his photography skills xxx#dentalcharity #dental #charity #dentaltherapist #dentalmavericks #morocco #volunteer
I was lucky to participate with this organized professional organisation.the team was lovely and so friendly, and i will recommend all the dentist to try this amazing experience,till the next one, see you soon team ❤️❤️😘😘.
What an amazing experience I had when I volunteered to help out on one of the trips to the Rif mountains with Dental Mavericks. This was the most exhilarating and rewarding thing I have ever done. I had never been to Morocco before so I was a little apprehensive about what to expect, but I can honestly say that with all of the organisation and planning that the Dental Mavericks team do (Cally Gedge and Kerri Geddes) I need not have been worried, I was in safe hands! We took the ferry over to Tangier and then travelled on to Chefchouene where we stayed for 3 days. I helped out with the oral hygiene, applying the flouride to the children and sitting with them after they'd had extractions. I was amazed at how brave these children are. If I ever have the opportunity of returning then I wouldn't hesitate. Thank you Team Dental Mavericks, the work you do is amazing xx
Every year at MPOD we have a competition, the prize is a fully paid trip to collaborate with one of Dental Mavericks’ projects. Being the newest addition to the team, you can imagine the surprise when my name was the one picked out of the bag. But even more surprising was the destination of the trip that Cally told me a bit later: Lebanon.I didn’t know much about this country, and most of the news from there is related to refugees. Anyway, upon arrival we received a warm welcome from Basima and her relatives. We were to spend the next week at her house and from the minute we set foot inside we were made to feel part of the family. My task on the trip was to take pictures, so I was able to observe as much as I wanted. What I saw was a country in a really harsh situation, but with people resolved not to lose their smiles or their will to improve their situation.During the trip we visited several places. A school founded by an NGO focused on Syrian refugee kids’ education. The clinic, where the professional team of Gina (nurse) and Anna (dentist), the two other volunteers, would perform treatments to anyone in need showing up at the door. And an orphanage, full of buzzing kids playing around, laughing and eager to get a picture of themselves.In all these places I found nothing but kindness and gratitude. From the kids, from the teachers, from the patients and from the people involved on the project. I can’t recommend the experience enough to anyone willing to help and ready to receive a dose of reality.
WELL... where do I begin?! 🤯 I can genuinely say that this trip has been AMAZING from start to finish. Every moment, every second. 💫 I had no idea what to expect but it has surpassed any expectation I ever could have had. I’ve learned so much 🥰 I have met people who are truly beautiful inside and out that have fully embraced me, I have seen a different way of life and can only hope to see more of and continue to learn about in the future. The work ethic of these people is like nothing I have ever come across before. 👏🏽 I will forever be thankful for this opportunity can not wait for more in the future. 🙏🏼 A special thank you to Gina Louise Goddard Cally Gedge Amin and Manar for everything this week from making me feel so comfortable to having me belly laughing all day long. My heart belongs to you dentistry and the dental mavericks particularly! ♥️
After my second trip to Morocco with DM I’m so proud to be part of such an amazingly dedicated team working tirelessly to achieve valuable life changing treatments for all those kiddies in dental pain, and setting new goals for sustainability in future generations!www.dentalmavericks.org
Wow. So proud of this team. Worked so hard for our patients and each other. Humble enough to learn from each other and grow. Now, there’s a recipe for success. Worked side by side with my son as a clinician. Got back last night from my 14th Dental Maverick expedition. Up in remote, rural villages in the Rif mountains of Morocco getting kids out of daily pain, giving oral health education, preventive fluoride therapy and enough toothpaste and tooth brushes for the foreseeable future. 1600 benefactors!!!We sponsored a football tournament organised by Rif Com to build bridges and develop trust. This is really good for the soul. I’ve done a good few of these now but this was the best. If you want to get involved message me or go to www.dentalmavericks.org. It just might change your life. It did mine. And those of the kids. HERE’S TO MAKING A DIFFERENCE!!!https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/…/finalCharityHomepage.act…
Hello everyone! I have just returned from 7 days in Morroco 🇲🇦 working within Asni alongside the Dental Mavericks. Wow what can I say what a rewarding and life changing experience! I couldn’t have wished for a nicer group of people I was working alongside an also the local village people were very welcoming an very friendly an very much respected what the Dental Mavericks team have helped them with ending their daily dental pain. I would totally recommend taking part in this project. I didn’t want to come back! I will be returning next year!! 😘😘
I have just returned from a week in Asni,Morocco with the Mavericks and can honestly say its has been such a rewarding experience.I was part of an amazing group and we all got on so well we did not want to leave. The Asni community was full of wonderful people and they were all very appreciative of our time in the village getting them out of dental pain. 🥰Looking forward to helping on another project with you next year
having done 4 trips with Mavericks I can say hand on heart no ome will regret going on a adventure with themchanges lives including your own for the better and make amazing friends and memories !!! come on join our family xx
Had an incredible time as part of Project Essaouira, Morocco 2019... one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever done and I miss it already. It was the dream team, thank you for looking after us so well 😊❤️
We were privileged to spend 2 weeks in Lebanon Bekka Valley with DentalMavericks. It was an eye opening experience to work with refugees and children.DentalMavericks provides an important role providing dental care for the most disadvantaged group in this area. Well done.We wish you all the best. 🙂
Last week I finished the project with DM in Bekka Valley. Since day 1 I got so much love and support from Cally, other volunteers and the team on the ground (not to forget Kerry who helped organise everyhting before the trip) The only downside could be you fall in love with Lebanon and can’t wait to go back.
Recently returned from my first trip to Asni Morocco ( but won't be my last ).The Dental Mavericks are a well run charity, everything about the trip was organised and I felt very well supported by Cally and all her team. If you are looking for a rewarding trip, outside of your comfort zone but one which is an amazing, humbling experience then you should definitely sign up
Amazing amazing AMAZING experience. I loved every minute, I would recommend it to anyone! Kerri did an amazing job for her first solo trip with a group and it was just nothing I have ever experienced. The people are lovely and are so appreciative of you being there. Working with Richard and becoming a dental nurse was wonderful and just made me want to become a dental nurse even more than before! I would definitely go back and would recommend in anyone into going! Thank you dental mavericks for an amazing trip and an experience of a life time!
I’ve been involved with Dental Mavericks for 5 years and have recently come back from my 5th project in the Rif Mountains. Over the years I’ve worked with people from all walks of life from all over the world, people who have one purpose while on these projects, to take these beautiful children out of daily dental pain. Ive made some awesome friends. It's the most incredible and fulfilling experience that I've ever been involved with and an absolute privilege to work with such inspirational people and to call myself a Maverick. Thank you Dental Mavericks for the opportunity x
What an absolute privilege for our NZ team of dental volunteers to join the Dental Mavericks in Morocco. They are a fabulous group, passionate about sparking positive and lasting change, for the Moroccan community's we worked in. If you want to add some fun and real meaning to your travels, get involved it will change you forever. �
Dental Mavericks have given me a wonderful life changing experience to work alongside them in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon. This is a fantastic opportunity for any Dental Professional to become involved with. It opened my eyes to the harsh reality of such huge numbers of displaced refugees. In my ignorance, I previously thought of them as homeless and poor, rather than of who they are professionally before they found themselves in the circumstances they are currently in today. Having experienced day to day life in a refugee camp, it made me connect fully with the people and gave me an understanding and awareness I wouldn't have gained otherwise. I would therefore like to thank the Dental Mavericks team for a fantastic experience that cannot be gained by simply reading about it alone. I thoroughly recommend this to anyone considering volunteering for such an amazing cause.