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Te Puke Times - 2021-06-10

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Mission exposes dental gap

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Unable to take its services to the Pacific, a Taurangabased medical aid ship is bringing its mobile dental clinic to the Te Puke’s seasonal Pacific community. When Covid-19 prevented Youth With a Mission(ywam) Ships Aotearoa sailing to remote Pacific Islands to fulfil its original mission, a brainstorming session produced the idea of offering a five-week pilot programme to provide dental care in the Bay of Plenty. Called the Trinity Koha Dental Clinic, patients are able to give a koha (donation) if they wish, but there is no expectation to pay, says YWAM Ships Aotearoa managing director Marty Emmett. Currently working with health providers to treat people out of its dental container and caravan-based dental clinic at Whaioranga Trust on Welcome Bay Rd, the container and caravan will be set up at a Te Puke orchard from next Monday to treat the area’s RSE workers. “We thought, ‘we’ve got a dental container so why not put it on a truck?’ We can go anywhere . . . There is a desperate need right here in the Bay as a lot of people have poor access to oral care,” says Marty. He says the work in Welcome Bay has been “cranking along” and been so successful people were being turned away. “What we are realising is that there’s a story that’s not being told here — there’s a massive disconnect between what the actual needs are in the oral space versus the provision for them.” The visit to Te Puke to focus on the dental needs of RSE workers goes some way to compensate for the organisation’s inability to visit the Pacific Islands. “That’s the joy of what we are looking to do in Te Puke — it actually ticks that box for us and that’s exciting. Also, for me, part of the Te Puke initiative is giving back to two of our major sponsor partners, Bay Gold and Trinity Lands. Trinity Lands have come on as platinum partners and Bay Gold have been a financial partner since we started.” The clinic isn’t open to the public. Marty says the service couldn’t be provided without volunteers — including dentists volunteering their time and expertise. One dentist from Whanganui has committed to four weeks with the mobile clinic. “The thing for us is, it’s all about the obligation to the community and we feel it’s our obligation to do something. And whole thing that underscores this is volunteerism. We are all volunteers. I believe the real gift of the Trinity Koha clinics is the volunteerism, and that people that will come and give of their time to help and I think the need’s so great that we need more of that.” The clinic has been made possible thanks to a $15,000 grant from Baytrust, along with substantial funding from TECT and multiple businesses such as Bay Gold, Southern Cross Horticulture, Sequal Lumber and Trinity Lands Ltd. Taurangabased firm Mcleod Cranes has offered to move the container around the Bay of Plenty free of charge. “Our commitment at this stage is for the five-week pilot programme. And then after that, we’re just going to reassess and see but I think the reality is we’re going to keep going. Because there’s not many others in this space, helping those in need.”

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