Our first days in Mbale Town were filled with many “meetings.” Short-term and long-term dental goals, logistics, and schedules were discussed at length. As decisions were slowly made, we felt more than ready to hit the field running. Be prepared, Africa! We know your pace is a lot slower than the States, but we will not give in. As soon as we could, we began our work by visiting Hadassah Primary School and implementing what would be only the first of our education and sealant programs. Through the gates of Hadassah, we found the Headmaster Aaron welcoming us with open arms, sharing his learning community. Small classrooms scattered the dusty field. Each separate brick structure had a tin roof and open air windows to house the grade levels. We were greeted with interest by smiling students, some in threadbare green and blue uniforms, and others in worn clothes from the past day’s activities. In a large empty room, students of all ages were slowly gathered together.
And then, there we were.
Our first audience.
We had to pique their interest fast. What better way than starting with a science experiment? We used a disclosing tablet that turned the kids’ plaque pink. A perfect ice breaker since it catches them off-guard and evokes much laughter. Devorah was our brave volunteer.
As the students observed her colored teeth, they were asked to look and make hypotheses. Soon the conversation turned to the brushing basics: small circles, at least two times a day, two minutes in the morning and night. This was foreign knowledge to both the children and teachers, but both were quick to catch on. In all our classroom visits in the States, we’ve never seen such amazement over oral hygiene instructions. The time flew by. We covered sugar laden foods that are dangerous to the teeth and healthy foods that keep the cavity bugs away. Mango, sugar cane, and sweet potato seemed to be the children's first choices. Rice, millet, posho, and cassava were among the common staples eaten in a daily healthy diet. Throughout this time, while we spoke in our Chicago-accented English, the Headmaster translated into Ugandan-accented English. The program came to a close over a two-day period. We were blessed to meet and teach over 200 students, each instructed to become mini teachers for the rest of the community. As time goes on, we are now confident oral hygiene will go viral in Uganda.