Julie Richardson

DENTAL MAVERICKS MOROCCO 2013

julie croppedVolunteer Dental Nurse Julie Richardson

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……


DAY 1

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.


DAY 2

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!

Some of the children of Jebah

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.

inside childs mouth

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!


DAY 3

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.

julie and fatimaFatima 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.

dental mavs chefchawen


DAY 4

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.


DAY 5

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!

julie and richard treating redoinVery 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!

child ready to end tootache

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 mavs team

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.

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See What Our Volunteers Say About Their Experience

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 ❤️❤️😘😘.
It was great experience 🙂🙂🙂
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
Amazing experiece would recommend anyone to do it
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…
My second trip with DM to Morocco. Went to the villages in the Rif Mountains this time, amazing local helpers, volunteers and patients. Would definitely recommend joining this amazing group and volunteering. Doing wonderful work taking children out of pain.
One of the best week-end in my life with dental Mavericks.. thanks for everything .. I will never forget this experience..❤🙏🇲🇦
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 😊❤️
I have had the most amazing week with the Mavericks in Essaouira, Morocco. The experience has just blown me away. I'm already thinking seriously about my next trip. We have been looked after so well. Dental Mavericks rock! It's been an absolute pleasure.... Til next time 😍
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. 🙂
My trip with Dental Mavericks was one of the most amazing experiences of my life! I nursed in Lebanon, and felt completely welcomed by every one right from the start. I met so many fantastic people and already want to book my next trip! I would thoroughly recommend volunteering with Dental Mavericks. Miss you all so much already!
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!
After a long journey home yesterday I got back from my first Dental Mavericks trip to the Atlas Mountains in Morocco. I won this trip of a life time by entering a competition on Facebook and i am so so so glad that I did!! I wanted to do something out of my comfort zone and as a trainee dental nurse I also wanted to see what dentistry was like in other countries/places as I’ve only ever worked in the same practise down in Cornwall. I can not explain how scared, anxious and nervous I was to be going away from home, with out my parents, with no one i knew, in a county I’ve never been to, in a family’s house who I’ve never met and to be flying on my own.. but how those nerves and scary thoughts went after meeting the team I was going to be with for the week. I can not explain how friendly and caring everyone was it was like I had known them for years after just spending a couple of hours with them. Morocco is a beautiful country and the views are outstanding but of course the best part about the whole trip was seeing the smiles on the children’s and adults faces when they saw us in the school ready for clinic. They were all so thankful and happy to see us it was a lovely feeling. Everyone was so keen to learn how to brush their teeth, I went around with a tooth model and brush and they all had ago at brushing the teeth, I couldn’t get over how funny and exciting they found it everyone kept coming back to me do it it again which was just lovely and made me feel good knowing i was helping them out with something that is so simple and a daily thing for us to do but basically non existent thing for them. But it was also heartbreaking to see how bad their oral health was, most had decay in their teeth, most had hardly any teeth at all, most had very badly broken teeth, most had abscesses forming giving them chronic tooth pain. But we went over and we gave them the treatment we new would get them out of daily pain and we give them the treatment they needed and the equipment they needed to maintain a healthy mouth e.g tooth paste and tooth brushes & tooth brushing instruction. We saw about 700 patients in 3 days which is a huge achievement for us all, getting that many people out of pain in such a short amount of time. The trip went way to quickly and I can not wait to go back and to book more trips to go and help the people that do truly deserve it! Thank you from the bottom of my heart to the Dental Mavericks for giving me the opportunity to go, and a huge thank you to the team I went with I’ve made friends for life� I hope to see you all very soon�
Keep up the good work !! Proud of Your amazing work
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
It's the most incredible and fulfilling experience that I've ever got involved in. I'm so grateful that I was given the opportunity to join the Dental Mavericks, and I can't wait to go back!
Volunteering as a nurse and working alongside the Dental Mavericks totally changed my outlook on life! Never have I met such like minded inspirational amazing people. Don't just think about it... do it!
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. �
Working with Dental Mavericks was an absolute privilege. They are dedicated, professional, and friendly. It's rare to find a group so dedicated to teamwork, positivity, and hard work even in difficult situations and environments. I'm already looking forward to the next time we'll work together!
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.