Serving with a smile!

Dental Surgeon Dr. Viv Valladares

My recent trip to India was a challenging one to say the least; it was fraught with surprises, mentally stimulating but also physically draining. My previous visit to the Tibetan children’s Village in Dharamsala in 2009 was filled with a sense of adventure and wonderful experiences and consisted of a team of four women of my age group.

This time our “team” consisted of my daughter Agnetha, who is currently in her third year of Dentistry, and myself. There was also just a little trepidation due to the many unknowns we would be encountering.

Thus with much anticipation we arrived in Kolkata. We started off on a good note, as we were privileged to be a part of the National Immunization Day for Polio Eradication, on the 10th of January, hosted and organized by the Rotary Clubs of Kolkata. We visited three of the many locations and centres, Topsia Police Station, Sealdah Railway Station, and Alipore Zoological Gardens, and administered the oral vaccine to children 6 years and younger. Thousands of children were immunized. It was indeed very rewarding.

The Mother Teresa’s Missions of Charities was our next and main reason for being in Kolkata. The Missionaries have several Centers, where the sick, disabled and destitute are looked after. The dental clinic situated at the Shishu Bhavan, is where we were to work.

As it turned out, there was a change in the hierarchy, which meant that those in charge, did not seem to think dental care for the children was a priority and as such, were content with the existing “once a week emergency dental service”. While this was disappointing, and frustrating, I did spend time discussing the advantages of a more regular facility with volunteer dentists, training staff and education in dental care. I felt that this was well received and that the outcome would be rewarding, eventually. In the mean time we worked as volunteers at the Shishu Bhavan tending to the sick and needy children.

On returning to Mumbai, I attended several Rotary Club meetings, viz. the Rotary Clubs of Bombay Bandra, Bombay Bandstand, and Bandra Kurla Complex, all of which are in District 3140. I was made very welcome by these clubs, and was impressed by their enthusiasm and the projects that they had completed and were currently planning.
Thus, there are plans underway to install electricity in an entire village outside Mumbai to improve living conditions in hutments and schools; set up an institute for the welfare and education for street kids; housing and education for girls from the Adivasi (low class) community, medical and dental care for village/school children; and aid for the terminally ill and orphanages, to name a few.

On behalf of the Rotary Club of Elizabeth, I made donations of toothbrushes, toothpaste and bath soap to the St.Catherine’s Orphanage, cash donation of Rs 4000.00 (AUD $100.00) to the Shrine of the Infant Jesus for education and medical expenses for the poor, in Nasik, Mumbai, and sent donated of dental materials worth $300.00 and gifts of $100.00 to the Rural Health Care Foundation at Mayapur and Swarupnagar, Kolkata.

One of the highlights of my trip was meeting up with little Minnat Nahvi in Dubai, the ROMAC protégé treated in the Women’s and Childrens Hospital by our very own Mr. David David for cranio-facial surgery, in November 2009.

As of July2010, our district 9500 is the Pilot District for Future Visions; it would be an ideal opportunity to work jointly with the clubs in Mumbai, District 3140 being one of the districts selected for the Pilot scheme.

I therefore, returned to Adelaide, feeling very positive and energized and that while one door appeared to have been closed, there were many more windows opened! I now am looking forward to Future Visions Program 2010 – 2013 with renewed excitement, as DG Alun Hughes’ reminds us “The Future of Rotary is in our hands!”

See Rotary’s Polio Eradication Program for further information.