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January 16, 2013

My Week In Nairobi On a Dental Clinic Mission (Part Two)

Dr. Chilcoat @ 3:19 pm
Smiling happy faces in Nairobi

The smiling, happy faces of some of the children.

What a life changing experience to spend a week living with and serving some amazing people in one of the most wild and beautiful places on Earth!  Nairobi is a place of stark contrast. Beautiful scenery, amazing wildlife, old culture and traditions are set against some of the most destitute of living conditions.  It is a place of very few means.  Cities are filled with slums unlike anything we see in the United States.  Houses are fashioned from scrap, one on top of the other.  Many have no windows, only skylights made from water bottles, allowing slivers of light into the tiny homes.  In the midst of the dirt streets littered with debris, the scrappy shacks and a small river of something (I don’t want to think about what it is) running through the middle of the street I am struck by the colorful beauty and joyful attitude of the people here.  Handmade dresses in bright, colorful patterns, smiling faces, the beauty and elegance of the people seems out of place in such a rough setting.

So, You Think You Are Poor?

My first impression upon taking it all in:  Here in the U.S. if you think you are poor, if you lament your life because you don’t

The second largest slum in Nairobi

Traversing the streets in Nairobi's second largest slum.

have an I-pad or a BMW; If you think you are struggling to make ends meet, you are still rich.  You have not seen poor anywhere back home, not like this. How blessed we are, and how few of us appreciate our good fortune.

While poor, the Kenyans I met in Nairobi are not to be pitied.  Life has a different meaning when material wealth is taken from the equation.  People give of themselves, lend their skills and talents to others freely.  People smile and laugh, not because they have just upgraded their cell phone, but because they are successful at life in a way that so many of us fail.  They have joy in their lives.  They have a sense of community.  They live to see another year, and appreciate it.

Dentistry Under Armed Guard

I don’t mean to romanticize my experience too much. There are unpleasant realities on the prowl in Nairobi, as is true in most depressed and poor areas of the world.  Traveling through town, through the slums, and to and from my host’s home every day, armed security is required.  The organizers of the dental outreach clinic will allow work only during the daylight hours, and caution strongly against venturing out on your own.  The clinic itself has armed guards providing security at all times.

The True Recipients of Gifts

Dr Robert A. Weinstein on dental mission in Kenya

Dr. Weinstein, Dr. Hyodo, Dr. J. Weinstein

I was the guest of one of the dental clinic organizers, Dr. Michael Hyodo, who keeps a residence nearby.  Dr. Hyodo is the Director of World Ministries International, and runs dental clinics in Nairobi. His support and efforts helped make this dental outreach clinic the largest in Kenya’s history.  During the entire week that we were there, the mood and the feeling, everywhere you went, was like a holiday.  People were happy and excited that we were there.  Some of the dental patients had never seen a dentist before, and didn’t even own a toothbrush. People came from near and far in droves to attend the free clinic.

I spent most of my time working in the clinic with dental students, passing along some of my decades of experience to a new generation of dentists. I learned how to make surgical caps in the sewing room, and brought back a few as souvenirs. Having something to offer people here means something. Giving something as simple as the dental care we take for granted, or some of your time, is good for your soul. Hundreds of people were helped through this dental clinic, but the true recipients of the gifts were all of us who were a part of it.

Interested in supporting dental outreach around the world?  Contact Dr. Robert A. Weinstein.


photo collage from Nairobi, Kenya Dental Outreach Clinic

More photos from the Dental Mission Trip




January 8, 2013

Dental Outreach in Nairobi- A Fulfilling Experience

Dr. Chilcoat @ 9:30 am

Personal Growth Through Service

A third year dental student at USC’s Ostrow School of Dentistry, my son, Joshua Weinstein is passionate about his career choice.  Josh is always excited and motivated to work and to help others.  I took it with a grain of salt the first time he mentioned that he would like for me to accompany him on a dental outreach mission in Nairobi.

Kenyan dental outreach mission

"This experience... to do good for people will change your life, Dad".

“This experience and opportunity to do good for people will change your life, Dad”, he said. He had spent time in Africa before, providing dental care and humanitarian aid to some of the poorest communities in the world.  As the idea began to take hold in my mind, I began to realize that the scale of this outreach project was much greater than the ones I had participated on previously in Mexico and other countries.  I also decided that having an opportunity to positively impact the lives and health of people who had never even seen a dentist or, in many cases, never used a toothbrush, was something I could not let go.  Having the opportunity to work on a project like this, side by side with my son, seemed like a once-in-a-lifetime chance.  I had to go.



Dental Supply Companies Help The Cause

In the weeks leading up to the mission trip, I was able to secure generous donations of supplies and instrumentation which

Dr. Weinstein, Josh Weinstein and Dr. Hyodo

Taking a break from the long day

would be needed to provide these patients with safe and comfortable oral surgery services.  Through the generosity of Colgate, Henry Schein and ACE Surgical, I was given many supplies that would be needed to take care of patients in the temporary clinic with the same high standard of care and safety that I provide in my own Dallas oral surgery practice.  What didn’t come in through donations I provided myself, and relied upon the supply donations which were made to the Outreach Project through corporate support and private donations.

In mid-November, I began to tell some of my patients here in Dallas about the mission trip.  I was getting really excited about going.  A patient of mine with familial ties in Nairobi told me that she knew about the dental clinic.  She knew people who were traveling from up to 100 miles away to get in line for the clinic.  Some of her coworkers at a local bank were also from Nairobi, and I began to receive regular updates about the excitement building over there in anticipation of our arrival.  Knowing that people were coming from so far away, a month in advance, to have the opportunity to receive professional dental services was very humbling.  I awaited our departure date with great anticipation.

The Road To Nairobi

The Doctor(s) Weinstein, providing care to a patient

The Doctor(s) Weinstein, providing care to a patient

Traveling to Nairobi is no small feat.  After almost 2 full days, two long  intercontinental  flights, we arrived tired, but excited.  The clinic was being housed in an open-air structure with one wall and three curtains.  Normally used as a church, the structure was literally transformed overnight into a modern and functional dental clinic.  The supplies and much of the equipment had not arrived, and were delayed 2 full days.  Somehow, we were able to scrounge up what we needed to take care of those who had been waiting with patient anticipation to receive dental care for the first time in their lives.  The participants of the USC Dental Humanitarian Outreach Project consist of students and faculty of the dental school.  A student run organization, the Kenya Project is their largest endeavor so far, and is also the largest dental outreach project in Kenya’s history.

I Am So Proud To Have Been A Part Of This

Dental Outreach in the second largest slum in Kenya

Touring the poverty stricken slums near the clinic

In all, 51 dental professionals and 37 support people spent one week in the second largest slum in Kenya, providing quality dental care, hygiene instruction, supplies and treatment to some of the most amazing people I have ever met.  I am so proud to have been one of them.

In the coming weeks, I plan to share the experiences and insights I gained during this week of service.  I hope you enjoy reading about it.  If you would like more information about future missions organized by USC Dental Humanitarian Outreach, or to make a gift, follow this link.

More Photos

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Charles Chilcoat, DDS Dallas TX Dentist (972) 960-1111 care@texaswisdom.com