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The West Coast Kids are smiling again

How RSD is effectively supporting a lovely dentistry project in South Africa

Around 160 kilometres north of Cape Town – on South Africa’s stunning west coast – is the small village of Paternoster. Many families here live on the edge of a basic subsistence. For children, this also means inadequate medical care. And this includes the care of their teeth. So out of the 300 children at the only school in the village, 95 per cent therefore need dental treatment. The „West Coast Kids“ aid project is therefore an absolute lifeline for them.

It is possible thanks mostly to the dedication of the large Berlin dental practice KU64. For ten years, its specialists have been travelling to Paternoster for at least a week every January or February. Their aim is to treat the children in order to preserve their decayed teeth. They teach the young students about oral hygiene so that the damage does not get worse, in other words, prevention.

How tourism can be a force for good

The helpers on this project are volunteers, and their funding comes from donations. The RSD Travel Group has also made a sizeable donation to mark its ten-year anniversary: a proud Euro 10,000. This includes pens and key fobs as small presents for the young patients. RSD Germany’s Managing Director Horst Zsifkovits is particularly attached to this dental project: „It’s a wonderful example of how tourism can be a force for good in the poorer regions of the world, and it can bring people from different countries together.“ Will RSD be continuing to support the „West Coast Kids“ in years to come? Horst Zsifkovits: „I would very much imagine so, yes!“

„The right smile can change the world. We want to give the children of Paternoster back their smiles“, says dentist Dr. Stephan Ziegler. The head of the KU64 dental practice flew out to Paternoster recently. He is grateful for RSD’s commitment: „It was a huge support for us, and one that we were able to put to great use!“ The dentist says that, as a result of this assistance, „Lots of projects were started that are now continuing to have an effect in the longer term and on which we are able to build over the coming years.“ The campaign has already been followed by TV crews. Many viewers have therefore already been able to enjoy fascinating insights into how the help of the dental angels is provided in the village. And how the school children warmly welcome the four dentists and their six assistants from Berlin with a dance. As well as how Stephan Ziegler and his team, with the equipment they bring with them, set up a temporary children’s dental practice – in the church hall’s community room. And also how they have to improvise and carry out their work in difficult conditions.

Showing how to clean your teeth

In small groups, the young South Africans arrive at the treatment centre. They’re curious, a little shy, and some are even slightly afraid. It’s no surprise. „Broken, broken, broken“ is often the first diagnosis when Dr. Frank Schreiber takes a look at the young patients‘ rows of teeth. „It really gets to me. Such a small child. It’s so sad“, explains the expert from the KU64 team on location. On average, he and his colleagues have to fill 2.5 cavities on every patient. In other words, rescue teeth that would normally be extracted in South Africa. This is also why most children aged three have already lost their milk teeth.

Since caries is the biggest problem, the Berlin dental experts invest a lot of time in the subject of „Proper dental hygiene“. Many of the children literally do not own a toothbrush. And if they do, hardly any of them knows how to use it properly. So the surfaces of the children’s teeth are stained so that they can see where their problem lies. Then, it’s a case of everyone brushing their teeth together – conscientiously, but also while having fun.

The KU64 team also carries out home visits in Paternoster. To the rural village of Kita, for example. It’s also important to mention the cooperation with the volunteers from the Stuttgart-based „Encouraging Children – Creating the Future“ foundation. They work all year round here as educators and advisers. They also make sure that the little ones clean their teeth even when the Berlin dentists are not around to supervise them. Instead, they are brushed daily, even once the German dental team has flown back home. And at this moment, the day of departure, the grateful dental patients are more than happy to dance again.

Other impressions of the project: