A group of four practising dentists and dental nurses from Teesside have returned from a week-long visit to Northern Greece where they provided vital treatment to refugees.
After fundraising for almost eight months, Dr Paul Averley, Dr Uzma Olbrich, Hannah Bell and Katie Fergusson – all from Queensway Dental Clinic in Billingham – volunteered at the busy refugee camp, organised through medical relief charity Health-Point Foundation.
Over five days, 90 patients were treated including many with professional backgrounds such as solicitors and teachers, alongside families, the young and old – the majority of which have travelled from Syria.
With the closing of the Macedonian border, thousands of refugees are stuck in Greece, unable to move into the rest of Europe. In addition to treating the patients, the dentists and dental nurses spent time speaking to families about oral health and how to look after teeth.
To facilitate the trip, the Queensway team took part in a number of challenges and activities from a London to Paris bike ride and an open water swim in the Lake District to bake sales and raffles with Middlesbrough Football Club, of which Queensway is a local Gold Partner.
Managing partner for nearly 25 years, Dr Paul Averley even sold organic hand-picked potatoes grown in his garden in exchange for contributions. The combined campaign helped to raise £3,000.
These funds covered travel expenses for dental nurses Hannah and Katie, who are both from Billingham, enabling their efforts to be doubled, as well as much-needed supplies.
The dentists self-funded their own places and with money still left, it is going to make another visit in 2018 possible.
Dr Uzma Olbrich, who visited the country to provide dental aid, said: “It is difficult to describe what it is like for those living in a refugee camp. Circumstances are hard, facilities are basic, the winter is cold and sanitation is shared between hundreds. You cannot legally work so the refugees live hand to mouth. They rely on clothing donations and we saw a lot of people who didn’t even own a pair of shoes.
“More worryingly, children left by themselves are not safe due to trafficking being prevalent and rife.
“All-in-all, life in a refugee camp is as tough as it can get so we are lucky that we can offer our services and provide emergency dental care for people who have no access to healthcare unless they have visits from volunteers.”
Health-Point Foundation is a charity that relies on volunteers to give their time and expertise to make a difference to those in need.