Andrew Charles, Contributor The Jakarta Post, Canggu, Bali
The dental health of the Balinese is unlikely to be of concern to the majority of tourists to the island, but such is not the case for highly qualified Australian dentist Dr. Barry Walsh, who wants to make a difference to the welfare of underprivileged Balinese.
In a recent interview, Walsh explained that, as he and his family had enjoyed several holidays in Bali over the past couple of years, they wanted to give something back to the people of the island. In September, he presented dental equipment worth almost A$40,000 (Rp 327 million) to the Mobile Dental Clinic of Bali.
"Our visits there have been the most restful holidays we have ever experienced," said Walsh. "Last year, we explored, via the Internet, the possibility of volunteering our services to any of the organizations providing dental services to disadvantaged people in Bali and made contact with a number of groups."
Through a contact at the Seminyak Rotary Club, he learned about the Bali International Women's Association (BIWA), which runs a mobile dental clinic based at the Dental Faculty of Mahasaraswati University, Denpasar.
The mobile dental unit was set up with financial support from the governments of Switzerland and South Australia, with some contributions from Rotary International. The unit is used on a schedule coordinated by BIWA to provide free dental services to children in orphanages and to underprivileged Balinese.
"In our discussions with Mayke Boestami-Anderson, the dynamic past president of BIWA, and the equally motivated Joyce Nelwan, the current president, we received a list of equipment and materials that were needed if the mobile dental unit was to continue to function effectively," said Walsh.
Armed with this information, he approached several dental supply companies operating in Western Australia, the Oral Health Centre, the Dental Health services and the Australian Dental Association, both state and federal.
"In an endeavor such as this, I would have expected to be refused by some of those we approached, as all of those we contacted already provide support to other members of the dental profession engaged in providing services to disadvantaged people," recounted Walsh. "Receiving a 100 percent positive response far exceeded our most optimistic expectations."
In the three months prior to the Walsh family's September trip to Bali, they received a wide variety of donated dental instruments, including surgical equipment, restorative materials, syringes and local anesthetics -- enough to ensure that the mobile clinic will be able to operate several months without further supplies.
Meanwhile, the quantity of donated hand instruments will ensure continuity of service for a number of years.
Transportation of the donated materials and equipment was made possible by the generosity of Qantas. A letter of support from the Indonesian Consul in Perth, together with another letter from former BIWA president Boestami-Anderson, ensured problem-free customs clearance at Denpasar's Ngurah Rai International Airport.
BIWA members then transported the dental equipment from the airport to their headquarters, where they sorted and inventoried the material to be distributed according to the needs of the mobile dental staff.
According to Walsh, the dental treatment needs of the people of Bali have not yet been fully researched, but he highlighted statistics that might help to shed some light on the situation.
"In the Republic of Indonesia as a whole, there is a population of some 219 million people and there are 10,516 dentists; a population ratio of 4.64 dentists per 100,000 population," he said, citing 2005 figures.
"There is a dental school in Denpasar with 550 undergraduates who follow a five-year program. In Bali itself, there are some 82 registered orphanages which receive minimal government support, and an unknown number of unofficial orphanages which receive no government support at all."
The mobile dental clinic operated by BIWA provides dental care to several thousand patients annually, thanks to the dentists and students who volunteer their services.
Another organization, Anak-Anak Bali (Bali's children), provides dental treatment to children at orphanages.
"Their dental care facilities have been put in place by an incredibly energetic and effective dental surgeon from Broken Hill, Dr. Greg Cocks," said Walsh of the Anak-Anak Bali program.
Working through Yayasan Senyum, or the Smile Foundation, Cocks has developed a fully funded plan to build, equip and staff a small independent dental clinic, where free dental care will be given to the children of orphanages aided by Anak-Anak Bali.
Walsh suggested several means by which dentists in Australia could help the people of Bali: volunteering their services through BIWA or Anak-Anak Bali, donating equipment and materials, and donating funds to organizations providing dental care on the island.
They could also volunteer in providing clinical presentations or lectures to Mahasaraswati dentistry students while on holiday in Bali.
"Anything would be welcomed and appreciated," he stressed.
BIWA president Joyce Nelwan, firstname.lastname@example.org
For further information, contact:
Anak Anak Bali, Yayuk Kanti, email@example.com
Yayasan Senyum, firstname.lastname@example.org