● Are you interested in using your dental skills to make meaningful change?
● Are curious about exploring and learning about new cultures and communities?
● Are you looking for a challenge to test your dental skills in a new environment?
If you answered yes to any of the above, then the Sepik Dental Clinic might be the ideal volunteer opportunity for you. Read on below for more information about the role, the project need, and what is involved.
Why is the Sepik Dental Clinic needed?
Currently along the Sepik River in Papua New Guinea, there are over 100,000 people living without access to dental care. The entire East Sepik Province only currently has two dentists and two dental chairs serving a population of at least 450,000 people. The dentists are based in the port city of Wewak, which is over a week’s journey away for some, and many cannot afford the high price. Because of this, people may go years without being able to access routine procedures like extractions and fillings. This project will also serve as a model for provincial and national governments in PNG about what can be achieved in remote areas.
What is the Sepik Dental Clinic?
The Sepik Dental Clinic is a dental facility being built in the river village of Korogu, as a location from where dental services can be provided to communities up and down the village. The facility is a purpose-built building, constructed by locals using traditional methods and local resources. It will contain a tandem set up for two dentists - one portable dental chair each, and new portable dental equipment. You can see the latest on the overall project here.
Why are dental volunteers needed?
The Sepik Dental Clinic needs the support of dentists from across the world to provide these life-changing dental services. Although the long-term aim is to be able to employ local dentists to be permanently based in the village to provide dental services, that is not viable currently, so external dentists are required.
Why should I volunteer?
The goal of the Sepik Dental Clinic is to provide much-needed extractions and fillings to local communities who otherwise cannot access dental care. As a volunteer dentist, you will have the opportunity to make a life-changing difference to the people of the Sepik region, who otherwise cannot access dental care. It is also a unique opportunity to be immersed in the traditional culture and practices of Papua New Guinea as part of their community.
● Make a real impact in the lives of people living along to Sepik River
● Feel a real sense of purpose through using your skills to make real change
● Opportunity to build your skills, complete many procedures and develop professionally
● Explore the unique cultures of communities along the Sepik River
● Develop a deeper understanding for the inequality in health care around the world
● Have an amazing adventure that is unlikely to be replicated
What is the volunteer role?
Volunteer dentists will be based at the Sepik Dental Clinic in Korogu village providing dental services to members of the community and surrounding river communities. This will most likely involve providing fillings and extractions, however there may be other services as well. Community engagement will be coordinated by local partner Project Sepik to ensure that there is a stream of patients for you to service.
How long do I need to volunteer for?
Given the remoteness of Korogu village, there is substantial travel time and costs involved in reaching the village. As such, we recommend that dentists aim to volunteer for a minimum of two weeks to maximise the return on your travel time and costs. Being able to attend for a month would be ideal and stints of up to three months are able to be coordinated. If you are interested in volunteering for a duration outside of these timeframes, please reach out to us.
How long does it take to get to Korogu village?
Travel to Korugu is via Wewak. There are various flight options, but the most direct route is from Brisbane to Wewak, with a short stopover in Port Moresby, which takes around six hours. From Wewak to Korogu village you will travel by around three hours to Pagwi by car and then motorised dugout canoe for around 30 minutes up the river. Factoring in stops and delays, it is likely to be around a full day of travel to arrive at the Sepik Dental Clinic.
What is the accommodation like?
The dental clinic is being built to include accommodation facilities within the same building. The facilities will be relatively basic as the community does not have electricity.
Conceptual Design of Sepik Dental Clinic
Building will provide accommodation and work area for visiting dentists. Design carried out by Sydney volunteer Designer.
What are the dental facilities like?
The dental clinic will be set up using portable dental equipment. A generator will be in place to provide electricity for use of the tools and other equipment. Ongoing supplies will be provided from Australia to support the ongoing running of the facility.
How much will it cost?
Flights from Brisbane to Wewak are likely to cost around $2,000 AUD return, which is the most significant cost. Travel from Wewak to Korugu and ongoing accommodation and food expenses will be covered as part of the project. As such, the direct cost of volunteering is likely to be very similar for you, regardless of whether you stay for two weeks or two months.
When can I volunteer from?
Construction of the facility is expected to be completed in early 2024, so we are seeking expressions of interest from then onwards. Please let us know the rough date ranges that would work for you, and then we can confirm a time period. As there is capacity for two dentists, there may be overlap with other volunteers.
Who is running the Sepik Dental Clinic project?
The Clinic is a uniquely international effort. The Rotary Club of Kenthurst in Sydney has created strong connections with locals in Korogu village. The Toyama Mirai Rotary Club in Japan is sourcing portable dental equipment which will be made in Japan. In Papua New Guinea, Project Sepik and the government are collaborating with RAWCS (Rotary Australia World Community Service). Most importantly, members of local communities give their input and support at every stage of the Clinic’s construction, making this truly a global community inspiration. You can see the latest on the overall project here.
Can I bring someone else with me?
The facility can accommodate two dentists working consecutively, so if you have friends or colleagues who would like to volunteer at the same time, then that can definitely be arranged. Partners or other volunteers without dental skills may be also able to volunteer in conjunction with a suitably trained dentist. Please reach out to us to discuss if you’d like to explore bringing someone else with you.
Can I access financial support for the travel?
You may be able to access grants to cover travel through dental associations and Rotary. For example the NZ Dental Association Voluntary Dental Aid Grants (see here) can provide support to dentists providing voluntary service. Similarly, local Rotary Clubs or dental clinics may be willing to sponsor your trip.
If you are willing to volunteer, but the cost of travel will be a barrier to you, please reach out to us so we can see what support we can arrange to help.