Voluntary Dental Work in a Transylvanian Orphanage

28 April 2011

In 1992 an event happened that had unforeseen and remarkable consequences.

Father Böjte Csaba OFM, a Hungarian Franciscan priest living in Transylvania, accompanied by fellow priests and a handful of abandoned street kids, broke the locks of an abandoned church in Déva to provide shelter for the youngsters, thus marking the beginning of The Saint Francis Children's Foundation of Déva.

19 years later Father Csaba's organisation is caring for some 2200 orphaned, abandoned, neglected and abused children whose numbers are growing daily. In approximately 65 houses in a country still suffering unbelievable poverty these children literally owe their lives to the Foundation. With very little government support they rely heavily on donations, dedicated staff, volunteers and Father Csaba's constant struggle for their survival.

Four years ago my life took a 180 degree turn when Fr Csaba invited me to visit Déva and the "fully set up" dental clinic. Now, I spend 3 months in Déva, providing free dental treatment to staff and children whose ages range from 3 years to young adults in their twenties. I also hold an advisory role to young mothers' groups (400) in the heartland of Transylvania.

Prevention sometimes most of the time comes too late, even though I try to educate children and carers alike. Periodontal disease is very common even among young adults. There is no specialist support. Notwithstanding water fluoridation in some areas, over 90% of children need some intervention with a diet lacking in such essentials as dairy products, fresh fruits, vegetables and meat, all of which are expensive.

As we are required to provide our own materials, I am very grateful for the assistance and support offered by fellow dentists, the ADA and dental companies for donating instruments. I wish to express a particularly big thank you to the ADA (NSW) for financing the purchase of an XRay unit last year. We are of course still very short of many basic instruments (we only have one hand-piece of each type) and materials and any donations are most gratefully accepted.

I now feel part of a big family and have found that using my dental degree to help others has totally changed my priorities and outlook on life.

I am offering for students to undertake their electives in an environment unknown to them. The experiences gained can be life changing. Anybody joining me would be working under my supervision with food and accommodation provided but not airfares. Transport and sightseeing in Transylvania is included and a must.

Besides the children's gratitude, smiles and thanks I can only guarantee that it will be life-altering for those willing to take the challenge.

Dr Eszter Kalotay,

Associate Lecturer,

University of Sydney, SDH,

2 Chalmers Street,

Surry Hills, N.S.W.2010

m:+61 421528634