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.
Michael Oliver, Oliver’s Dental, Sunderland