Operation: Mobile Dental Clinic, Serbia, August 2017
Dr. Shelly Zeituni, DMD, is President of the Tel Aviv Chapter of the Alpha Omega Dental Fraternity. Shelly was in the first team of dentists in the pilot program of our Mobile Dental Clinic at Krnjaca Refugee Camp in Belgrade, Serbia in August. These days Shelly works at a private dental clinic in Zichron Yaakov and also serves as Medical Advisor and Medical Scientific Liaison at Novartis. With all this, Shelly somehow also finds the time to volunteer regularly with the Diamond Dental Care project helping refugee and migrant children in South Tel Aviv. When asked how she manages to do all this, Shelly answered: “It‘s just a matter of prioritizing. Once you decide to do it, you can find the time. You get so much from the experience that you find it worthwhile. We can’t count on the government to help. Only heart to heart, people to people.”
It’s no surprise that Shelly was first to serve with our mobile dental clinic. Even before the location and details of the operation were finalized, Shelly heard about the project through a Facebook posting. Shelly got in touch with Natan immediately and got on board.
Organizing the first operation took months, including seemingly endless paperwork required to get permission for the first clinic, and of course training on the unique mobile equipment which was donated to Natan for this purpose. Then it finally happened. The okay came through and soon Shelly was on the plane with the team, including fellow dentist, Sivan Shemer.
Once we got to Serbia we faced many challenges. For instance, our new clinic was just an empty room with no sink or running water. A plumber was called, and the sink installed within a couple days. The work itself was another challenge. Since we were just two dentists, with no dental assistant on the team, each dentist had to serve as the dental assistant for the other, with each of us leaning over the patient and working together without a break. Other than a lunch break, we basically stayed together in the clinic room for 12 hours each day. But it worked out well and we finished each day tired but happy about what we’d accomplished. When you volunteer, if you do it with all your heart, you don’t feel the pain or discomfort or hunger. You feel inspired to do more and more.
Working with refugees has made me realize just how unpredictable life can be. Any second you can go from having everything to having nothing and no one cares.
One of the most moving things happened one day after we’d completed checkups for two siblings, a brother and sister. Once we finished the checkups, the children left. A while later there was a knock on the door and the little boy was standing there holding a plate with 2 bananas. He said “This is from my mom for helping us.” Seeing these people give from the very little they have, made me realize the meaning of giving.