Dentist Brendan Ball was uncertain how his offer of assistance would be received when he visited Belarus at the end of May, but he was met with smiles and flowers from patients and an open invitation to return from dental professionals.
At his Freshbrook clinic, Brendon has provided free check-ups and treatment for dozens of youngsters from Belarus during their respite visits to Swindon organised by Chernobyl Children’s Lifeline (CCLL).
Having first travelled to Ukraine in 1999, and made several trips since with dental equipment and supplies, as well as providing training, Brendon wanted to see where his charity Smile Menders could help in Belarus.
With introductions made by Gin McGiffin, chair of CCLL in Swindon, Brendon was able to meet dentists in Swindon’s unofficial twin town of Ozarichi.
“The clinics were much better than I anticipated,” said Brendon. “The main equipment was in place but disposable items were in short supply. And as in the Ukraine the emphasis is still on treatment rather than prevention.”
Talks with officials went extremely well and Brendon’s offer to take a mobile clinic to the area was gratefully accepted. “They were super; there was none of the antagonism or suspicion that I’ve come across in the past.”
Youngsters who had been treated by Brendon were also delighted to see him. The trip coincided with the end of term speech day and, because Gin had lost her voice, he was called to address the school with fraternal greetings from Swindon, before being presented with a large bouquet of flowers.
“The support Swindon families have given children from Ozarichi is greatly appreciated there; Gin is worshipped. Adults and children have huge respect for what she is doing to coordinate trips to Swindon. I was quite overwhelmed by the warmth of the reception.”
Over the summer, families in the Swindon area will be hosting nearly 50 children from Ozarichi who will receive dental and medical checkups and enjoy a wide range of group and family activities.
Pictured, right: Gin, Brendon, Tanya Romanska with Lenin’s statue in Ozarachi