Written by Mark Nicholls
Hi to all you lovely readers out there and a big thank you for stopping by. I’d like to introduce myself and the work that my team do, to make a difference to the beautiful world around us.
I’ve been working as a Cruise Director on a river cruise ship travelling on the Irrawaddy river in Myanmar and have been constantly struck by the poverty I came across as we called and visited villages, especially on the beautiful upper Irrawaddy River. One in particular touched me deeply, Kote Tet orphanage and Monastery which is located on the southern end of the 3rd Defile (Gorge) and which is a home to about 100 children who don’t have parents or family to care for them. They are however looked after and educated by Government teachers and adults from a nearby village. I started to stop there over night as part of our cruise program and we would take our passengers ashore to meet the kids and their carers. Our lovely passengers were so touched by the experience that they would ask me… “how can we help?” So I started a fund which passengers could donate to and I would ask the teacher for a list of needs… Sometimes school books, pens, pencils and clothing were needed. At other times we purchased art equipment for them which they had never had before and some of the artwork, the children produced was just stunning!! Medical kits and sports equipment… lol… the kids just loved receiving their soccer balls, badminton sets and volley balls. Sometimes it would be bags of rice to feed the children… So many things they needed and we were able to provide, through the generosity of our amazing passengers.
In 2018 I had two dentists and their wives on board from Utah in the USA, Dr Peter Banks, Dr Jeff Gifford. After a visit to the orphanage they asked me how they could help and we had a discussion about the poor dental health of children in these remote areas of Myanmar. They both told me that they had done humanitarian dental work in South America before and if I was to organise it, they would be more than willing to bring a team to Myanmar to repair the teeth of the children in the orphanage. Once that was achieved, they would then be willing to repair the teeth for as many of the children as was possible from the nearby village. I was so excited because here was an opportunity to make a very positive and long lasting effect on the lives of these beautiful children.
I started work immediately, organising the arrangements for the dental group. With the help of a very special person, Mr Myo, my local guide in Myanmar, without whom it would have been impossible to weave my way through the local government bureaucracy. We needed permission to bring in medical supplies and equipment etc. On many occasions I did wonder if we would ever make it happen. The bureaucracy was confusing and very frustrating to say the least… Mr Myo put me in contact with Dr Thin Naing Oo, the director of the Myanmar Dental Association and things started to “go right”!! a very big thank-you Dr Oo!!!
Dr Oo has had a dental team at Kote Tet assessing the children (see photos on below) so that our team can swing straight into action, repairing their teeth as soon as we arrived.
On November the 9th 2019, a dental team of seven will arrive in Yangon, 2 dentists, plus dental hygienists and assistants. We will travel to Kote Tet via Mandalay to begin the dental treatment with the children…
Watch this space!!!