It’s a typical story on the international volunteer circuit: dentist X volunteers in country Y for 2 weeks, extracts 700 teeth, places an equal number of sealants, has a memorable cultural experience and leaves feeling satisfied. Yet local people are left once again with raised expectations and few resources with which to fulfill them…

Murray Dickson and Geraldine Dickson, 2005

There can be much debate about the rights and wrongs of volunteer based programs. On a very simple and simplified level if we consider “volunteering” to be working – but without financial reward – then voluntary activities require the same level of consideration, ethics, planning, implementation and evaluation as any other sustained program.

There are many avenues to dental volunteering both in Australia and internationally. By seeking out those organisations that act responsibly and work in strong partnership with local agencies and governments, dental volunteers can provide an investment into local communities through skills transfer, offering support and most of all, respecting local conditions.

The past 5-10 years have seen an enormous growth in volunteer based projects.  Most are genuine, though some can be a business disguised as a “charity” or NGO type program. Potential volunteers would be wise to investigate carefully any project they might be interested in, and if possible, contact others who have already worked on particular projects.

The Australian Dental Association had produced a checklist for those wishing to find out more about volunteering, and appropriate organisations.

There is some information in Links about established volunteer programs, and Resources for useful articles.

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First world problem.... flight departure delayed while engineers fix the plane’s blocked toilet.... the day after World Toilet Day.
Update...toilet not fixable, replacement aircraft organised. First world solution.

World Toilet Day 2019. TT in 2007, the beginning of matching dental programs in Nepal with improved access to clean water and toilets. Still the work continues.

TT celebrates 20 years of working with Bishnu, project manager in Nepal. The first few years our dental programs, then adding sanitation with PP/HH, then adding earthquake reconstruction. We salute this hard working, passionate and compassionate local champion. Many thanks Bishnu Ji, dherai dherai dhanyabad mero sathi. Namaskar! ...