Returning from that trip I decided to pioneer a Dental Mission. I partnered with Coach Ramey Stroud, a Mill City diver, and Stuart Gow, Director of the Matava Eco-Resort on the island of Kadavu. Together we identified dates for our trip, solicited the cooperation of Air Pacific, the national airline of Fiji, the Fiji Islands Hotel and Tourism Association and the Fiji Ministry of Health. Salem Hospital generously shared information about our trip with their staff.
I traveled with Dr. Mike and Mrs. Carrie Litchfield and Dr. Sean Hanson of Salem and Jim and Gina Jepsen from Ione, Oregon. Dave Beard from Tasmania met us at Matava and joined our team.
Air Pacific allowed us each to bring an extra 50 pounds of medical gear. Mike and Sean had received hundreds of toothbrushes, toothpaste samples and dental supplies from their suppliers. Mike brought a portable dental station as well.
Our arrival at Matava was met with excitement. Maggie, the Fijian concierge, let us know that he had shared the news of the American dentists arriving three weeks earlier with the village council. He had made arrangements for us to visit the village the next day to meet with the Chief, the Director of the School (whose classroom’s we planned to use for the clinic) and the village nurse (representative of the Ministry of Health). We took an open boat to the village, walked past sleeping dogs, feeding chickens, children playing, men unloading cinderblocks and women washing clothes.
Our plan was pretty simple; breakfast, a two tank dive then lunch. We opened the clinic at 1:30 and treated patients until dark. Power in the classroom was limited to a single neon lamp powered by a new generator. We had come equipped with flashlights for diving and lighting up teeth.
Each afternoon the number of patients grew as word of our clinic spread. The third day we planned to hold an instructional clinic for the village children to share toothbrushes and toothpaste. Carrie Litchfield, an elementary school librarian in Salem was our point person. Using humor, laughter and smiles, Carrie warmed up the kids, taught basic oral hygiene and brushing technique and passed out over 200 toothbrushes and tubes of toothpaste.
We knew that dental care in the village was extremely limited. We learned that a boat ride to Vunisea, location of the regional hospital an hour away, has a cost of nearly a week's wages each way.
During our stay we had the opportunity to serve nearly 200 villagers from Kadavu Koro. Carrie taught 75 children how to brush their teeth. Numerous rotted, damaged and decayed teeth were removed, mostly from adults, a few from children.
We met many wonderful people during our visit to Kadavu Koro and our stay at the Matava Eco-Resort. We dove the Great Astrolabe Reef most mornings and provided dental care in the afternoon. Our Mission provided an opportunity to provide care for those in need and an education about preserving one's teeth to the children of the village.
Divers and Dental Professionals Combine Work and Passion for Scuba Diving Through Fiji Project - Matava - Fijis Premier Eco Adventure Resort