David Booth From St Ives Murdoch
Visiting the dentist isn’t easy in Vietnam and so many children miss out on the health and wellbeing benefits a stint in the dentist’s chair offers. This is what led David Booth to found the Christian Health Aid Team (CHAT).
After retiring in 2003, he teamed up with a Vietnamese doctor, Dr. Gabby Ly, to establish CHAT, initially visiting Vietnam a couple of times a year, then with increased frequency from 2007. Since then CHAT has grown in size and scope with each tour consisting of dentists, dental therapists, dental assistants, a doctor and interpreters. Using Dr. Ly’s local contacts, they were able to find suitable places to visit during the ten-day trips, as well as a place to store their equipment in-between visits. Given the amount of supplies they take, this was a very important piece of the puzzle!
Early into the journey, the Vietnamese Health Department established a protocol to ensure safety for all those involved – patients and volunteers – which involved them sending a police officer to accompany the group.
“We used to call the group leader the ‘president’ until one trip where a Vietnamese police officer misunderstood and thought that made me the President of Australia! I had to correct him very quickly and we changed the title not long after that,” David recalls, chuckling.
During the 13 years of trips, CHAT has only been back to the same village once which shows just how big the demand is. After receiving treatment, each child receives a bag that the Scouts and Girl Guides prepare which includes toothbrush, toothpaste, colouring pencils and paper, and a hand-sewn teddy bear. The goodie bag contents are all donated and it’s these donations which have helped continue CHAT’s work. It was also a learning opportunity for students as they gained invaluable experience in examining and devising a treatment plan which could be completed in one day.
For David, the most special memory is of the faces of the children and parents who received care.
“They were always so grateful that we had come all the way from Australia to help them, their faces would light up which is very rewarding.”
David hung up his instruments in November 2017, but he is still heavily involved in the preparation for future trips. More information on CHAT can be found here: www.chatinc.org.au