Dental Assistant Volunteer - Karen Widmer

I became aware of the opportunity to volunteer with Equal Health through an email my employer received. This reminded me that while I was studying dental nursing my lecturer told me about her experiences in India and she said if I ever get the oppportunity one day that I should take it because it is of the most worthwhile things you can do.

I'd never done volunteer work overseas or been to India before and my first impressions were how busy and noisy the place was, so many people and the traffic was something to be seen! It is also an extremely colourful country.

There is no comparison working in India to working in Australia. Everything is different, from the 'suitcase surgeries' to the number of people seen in a day. Obviously the dental techniques are similar just a bit more challenging, no power etc. I was surprised by how many people refused treatment though, this was purely because they needed to work to live. They must have a huge pain threshold, we could have helped so many more people ...

The highlight of my trip was one particular village that we went to. It was just how I had imagined a rural village to be, mud huts with thatched roofs etc. The children were overwhelmingly friendly. From the time we arrived till the time we left they were constantly with us, showing us around their village, even trying to teach us to speak Tamil. It was a beautiful village and the people were fantastic.

The other health professionals in our team were great, the camaraderie and professionalism shown by them all was amazing ... certainly a highlight!

The whole experience has had a huge impact on me. It was a fantastic insight into how other people live, how happy they are with so little, and how we take for granted how much we have. I thought that we were only scratching the surface of all the people that needed our help, but looking back we made a huge difference to the quality of life of the people we did help. It is a nice feeling to know that through our professions and efforts people are going home free from pain … the most frustrating thing is that you want to help everyone, but you can't …

If you are thinking of volunteering with Equal Health, grab the opportunity with both hands and enjoy every moment, this will be one of the most rewarding experiences you will ever have during your career and the impressions left with you will be there for the rest of your life. It is very infectious … you just want to go back every year …

Karen Widmer - Dental Assistant, Dentistry on Marlston