Tzu Chi Foundation has begun its formal cooperation with the local government agencies as part of a recently-ratified agreement by holding its 325th Dental Mission.
The students of Dr. Cecilio Putong National High School (DCPNHS) in Tagbilaran City is the first to benefit from a strengthened dental program on December 9 and 10. Hundreds flock to the dental mission for the opportunity to undergo dental extraction, filling, or cleaning free of charge. On the first day, the coalition of Tzu Chi International Medical Association (TIMA) and local dentists and health workers offered their services to 398 students of DCPNHS.
“This [dental mission] is a huge blessing because it’s free. You would have to pay a fortune at a private [clinic], between Php500 and Php1,000. Students are very lucky to have these free dental services,” says Nilo Sendrijas, DCPNHS assistant principal.
The dental mission marks the first time the Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) between Tzu Chi, the Department of Education, and the Provincial Government of Bohol is invoked. Signed in August 2017, the MoA provides Tzu Chi with the resources necessary to carry out its dental missions in the island province. Among these are three mobile dental buses provided by the Provincial Government of Bohol and the city government of Tagbilaran, the provincial capital.
Although fully-equipped to handle basic dental procedures, the buses are configured for dental filling. The time-consuming procedure warrants more chairs, hence in addition to the two dental chairs in each bus, seven more were setup in a makeshift clinic inside the classrooms.
The aim of the MoA is to provide adequate dental care to public schools across the province. Tzu Chi volunteer Joven Uy explains that the local government has been unable to maintain its dental program due to the steady increase in the number of students. He counts more than 900 public schools but only 9 dentists from the local government are serving them. With access to dental buses and other government resources, Uy hopes to expand Tzu Chi’s Mission of Medicine to remote areas of Bohol.
“The mobile dental clinic provided by the [provincial] government goes a long way in our Mission of Medicine. This will help us deliver dental services to the students in the public schools,” says Uy.
The 21 TIMA dentists are joined by several others from the Provincial Health Office of Bohol. As part of the MoA, the Department of Education will earmark public schools in the province as possible beneficiaries and provide dental personnel.
“The Department of Education will also provide us dentists to help our Tzu Chi International Medical Association (TIMA) dentists to serve the students. We are happy that we have started this program. And after this mission, we’re going outside the city and to rural areas,” Uy adds.
Preparations for the mission began as early as December 8.
Although a bustling city, Tagbilaran has its share of families living below the poverty line. A fee of Php500 to Php1,000 for a checkup at a private clinic is already a fortune for the impoverished of the city.
“Many Boholanos cannot afford dental care, much less a simple checkup. With the help of Tzu Chi Foundation, the students can experience free dental treatment,” says Michael Oliver Dano, a dentist from the Provincial Health Office.
The dental mission comes at an opportune time for Karylle Bautista, a Grade-11 student at DCPNHS. Having chosen hotel and restaurant management as her specialization in Senior High School, she needs to have teeth worthy of interaction with guests in her upcoming line of work. She has encouraged her classmates to seize the chance to have their dental consultations and treatment.
“I told my classmates to take this opportunity since this only happens every year, as well as [Tzu Chi] took their time to come here,” says Bautista.
The first wave of patients make a beeline on the dental mission’s opening. The students of Dr. Cecilio Putong National High School (DCPNHS) were chosen to benefit from the mission. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
A TIMA dentist thoroughly cleans his patient’s teeth with a high-speed brush. Dental cleaning removes deep-seated particles that regular brushing cannot reach. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
Local volunteers such as this group of medical students from Holy Name University serve as the dentists’ aides in the mission. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
Outside the makeshift clinics, students wait for their turn to benefit from the mission. For many, the dental mission is a godsend as their lives barely make enough just to be able to go to school. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
The participation of the dental buses and their personnel maximize the number of patients to benefit from the mission. They were configured to perform dental filling, as the time-consuming process requires more chairs to serve more patients. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
Grade-11 DCPNHS student Karylle Bautista opens wide for a TIMA dentist to apply filling to her teeth. She hopes to work in the hotel and restaurant industry. And for this, she needs a beautiful set of pearly whites to be presentable to her guests. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
At Karylle’s (third from left) behest, her classmates went to the mission with her to have their dental checkup. She told them that such an opportunity only comes once a year. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
Prior to any treatment, a TIMA dentist makes a quick check of every set of teeth on the waiting area. Some were referred to the proper clinic, while others were sent home as their teeth didn’t need any treatment. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】