Another refurbished dental caravan has been delivered to Ukraine as Brendon Ball from Freshbrook Dental Practice and his wife Natasha renew their efforts to improve levels of dental care in the Cherkassy region of the country.
Brendon made his first trip with medical supplies in 1999 after Swindon Link introduced him to the charity Dentaid.
He discovered treatment was given without pain killers and found almost no dental health advice. But now, after many visits to supply materials and provide training to local dentists, he says the difference is huge. “Our contact with senior dental staff and government people has eased access to the country and we are now highly regarded in the Cherkassy region. With greater contact and with the influence of Europe there has also been a major shift towards better dental health education rather than drilling, filling or extraction. They also have anaesthetics for their patients.
“The two dental trailers are used across the region which is the size of Wales. They get towed out to serve remote villages but they can only be used from April to October because the severe winter weather destroys the roads. Our third unit is a self contained truck donated by Wiltshire Health Authority which we delivered in 2005 and is robust enough to handle the bad weather.
“However things are sliding backwards. The war against Russia means the resources of a poor country are being sucked into preventing an invasion by their much bigger aggressor. It barely makes the news but there is a major assault going on.”
After the first trip Brendon set up a charity – Smile Menders – and married his translator Natasha. At the end of September they celebrate 15 years of marriage. For Brendon and Natasha travelling close to a war zone is not a new experience. In 2008 they rode around the world on a BMW motorbike. Passing through southern Russia they witnessed helicopters and jets taking off to bomb neighbouring Georgia which was showing too much independence.
Although Cherkassy is in the west of Ukraine, away from the conflict zone, Natasha said the tension affects the whole of the country. “Brendon was in fact given the third mobile clinic in 2008, but there hasn’t been enough money to convert it and buy a towing vehicle
“At the beginning of this year I was getting really upset about the war because my mother still lives in Ukraine, though she’s away from the war zone. We decided we had to do something and we’ve had lots of help to get the caravan ready.
“The people of Great Somerford where we live ran a number of fundraising events and businesses have also helped. Steve Challice of Cricklade Signs has put on the lettering and GWP Packaging in Cricklade allowed us to park the clinic in their yard for months so that we could complete the work.
“The general mood of people in Ukraine is very down because the country is under attack. Dr Ivan Kovolenko, our friend who is the director of dental services in Cherkassy, was so pleased when we said we were bringing another mobile clinic. Any help that Ukraine receives is very appreciated.”
Find out how to help Smile Menders
Photo top, from left, Natasha, Brendon and driver/mechanic Herbie Trinder, who set off on a week long expedition 8 September. Below, Brendon with the 400th edition of Swindon Link magazine at the Battle of Korsun-Shevchenkovskiy museum. Bottom, posing in front of Yuri Gagarin’s personal Mig aircraft