Chernobyl Dental Project
Chernobyl Children’s Trust is a non-profit charity set up and run by volunteers to help children and families most affected by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, which occurred on 26 April 1986.
The accident itself killed fewer than 50 people immediately, but it is unknown how many people will eventually die as a result of radiation exposure. Current estimates run to tens of thousands. Chernobyl remains the worst civil nuclear disaster and is one of the most radioactive spots on earth.
The mission statement of the Chernobyl Children’s Trust is: ‘We wish to help build the futures of those affected by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in a principled, effective and humanitarian way. We are committed to bringing trust, dignity and joy both to those we seek to help and to our volunteers and supporters. Together we can achieve this and change lives… one by one…’.
Each year Irish host families open their homes for a recuperative holiday for children from Chernobyl-affected areas. Relatively healthy children are placed with families for up to four weeks. To take a child out of a contaminated area, even for a few weeks, can boost their immune system and generally instil a sense of positivity, which can be lacking in many of their lives.
Bringing back the smiles
For the past three years the dental team at Navan Road Dental Practice has invited the visiting children for an open dental day where treatment and education is provided in a relaxed and caring atmosphere. This has proven to be a wonderfully successful and rewarding initiative. The children have access to treatments that are simply not available in their homeland. By allowing the children to use interactive computer aids and games we can, in a fun way, instil an understanding of good oral hygiene and its importance in relation to general health.The children are accompanied by their host parents, and a translator is on site throughout the day.
We have been very generously supported by our dental suppliers (Colgate, DMI and Henry Schein Ireland) and the uncontained delight of the children when they are presented with their ‘goody bags’ is very moving.
Most of these children come from a background of great poverty and to own such luxuries as toothbrushes, toothpaste and soft toys is a source of great joy and pride. Many of the children take these bags home and proudly share the contents with their siblings and parents.
The dental health of the children varies greatly from one child to another, and the dental team tries to prioritise and attend to what they feel is most urgent. There have been several cases of children coming into the surgery holding their hands over their mouths, sometimes embarrassed to smile because of caries in the anterior area. It is one of the most rewarding moments to see these same children leaving the surgery laughing and grinning widely, hardly believing that they can confidently smile and meet the world.
Thanks to all staff at Navan Road Dental Practice for their work on the day, especially Jennie O’Brien (dental nurse) and Charlotte King who undertook oral hygiene instruction and who took such great care of greeting all the children and host families on the day.
Without doubt, it is a very uplifting experience for our dental team and a real morale booster!