One of the most rewarding experiences in life is being able to give back to others while doing what you love to do. Dr. Patel recently was able to combine his love for dentistry, giving back, and travel into a volunteer trip to Africa in August. Dr. Patel and his family traveled to Tswalu Kalhari in Southern Africa and Livingstone Town in Zambia.
On his trip, Dr. Patel began by volunteering at the Tswalu Dental Clinic which is a part of the Tswalu Foundation created by Johnathan Oppenheim. The foundation’s mission is to develop a platform where visitors can get involved in the community and contribute in various ways. Dental professionals can volunteer to treat patients and educated them on oral health. Actively involved in this foundation, Dr. Patel with the help of Carey Barrs of Benco Dental Supplies, donated over 150 toothbrushes, toothpaste, and floss. He also helped treat many patients and donated much needed dental supplies and equipment to the community. Dr. Patel and his family also visited the local school in Tswalu where they donated school supplies to the children and teachers. It was truly an amazing experience for Dr. Patel and the residents were extremely welcoming and exited to meet him and his family.
Dr. Patel also had the opportunity to visit Zambia where he traveled to the Nakatindi village and community school located outside of Livingstone town. With an estimated population of 3000 people and average household income of $80 per month, Sanctuary Retreats (a philanthropy project) works to help these communities improve their general well-being. This includes the areas of infrastructure, skill development, education, future welfare, and most importantly health and dental care. The Nakatindi village has 500 children of which 2/3 are orphaned. Seventy-five percent of residents are affected by HIV. Dr. Patel and his family are strong supporters of this cause and financially donated to help improve the village and its community school. There are several community projects that are working to improve the village including a feeding program to provide lunch to the children, a vegetable garden, and future hopes to build a medical clinic to provide healthcare.
Reflecting on his trip and the memories and experiences he has received, Dr. Patel says, “Visiting this village was an extremely profound experience. It was a mix of sorrow and happiness. The happiness came from seeing the smiles and enthusiasm and excitement of all of the children within the community. They were so joyful and content, even though they have so little and even with the alarming conditions that they live in. The sorrow comes from knowing that they are not only orphaned, and barely get one meal a day, but also that many of them are affected by HIV and that don't have access to healthcare or medicines that could improve their health. I’m so grateful to have had such an experience for myself and for my family to be able to see how many others live on the other side of the world. It definitely reinforced the appreciation and gratitude for all that we are so fortunate to have. Seeing the world, the entire volunteer experience, and being able to give back to others is a truly rewarding experience”.
With plans to return to these villages, Dr. Patel will continue to pursue his passions of dentistry and giving back by supporting these causes both now and in the future. He cannot place a value on this trip and knows his experiences and memories will always be priceless. Dr. Patel has traveled internationally as a volunteer dentist to Nicaragua, Brazil, Peru, and now Africa and hopes to continue to educate and treat children and adults in underprivileged communities.