A Red Deer orthodontist will be drawing on his skills as a military dentist to help fix the teeth of about 500 Ethiopian orphans this month.
Dr. Ivan Hucal and his dental assistant, Melanie Bott, will fly to the African nation Friday for a two-week volunteer stint with Canadian Humanitarian, a Medicine Hat-based non-profit that brings health and dental services to the Third World.
For Bott, it will be the culmination of a 17-year dream to go on an aid mission that helps a community and offers a “life-changing experience.”
For Hucal it will be the chance for a “boots on the ground” effort that goes beyond making a monetary donation. “You can really make an impact … put yourself in a situation where you see your efforts have an effect.”
Before becoming an orthodontist, Hucal studied to become a military dentist – and he expects to put some of those skills to good use when he begins triaging patients in Ethiopia.
The country, on the eastern Horn of Africa, is the second most populous on the continent, but has relatively few health care professionals – and no dental services for children.
Canadian Humanitarian aims to help about 500 kids, mostly orphans under guardianship, whose parents died of AIDS and other contagious diseases.
“Some of these children have never seen a dentist before,” said Hucal, who imagines coming across just about every kind of oral problem – from cavities to infections that require tooth extractions.
Hucal and Bott raised $10,000 towards covering the mission’s costs, including getting some donations-in-kind from dental suppliers.
They will work in Ethiopia with a team that also includes Olds dentist Dr. Jared Ord, his hygienist wife Lindsay, their 17-year-old son, and Lacombe dental assistant Pam Pinard.
Hucal and Edwards Orthodontics’ staff and patients raised $1,000 for the effort through a ‘guess the number of jelly beans in the jar’ contest. The money purchased toys and flashlights for the kids and will buy four goats for the community.
Toothbrushes will be handed out along with toothpaste, said Hucal, who added the non-profit started by an emergency room doctor plans to take these supplies out annually.
“It should be an awesome experience,” said Hucal. His orthodontic skills will also be tapped into, as he was asked to visit a dental college in Addis Ababa to talk about his specialty.
Anyone wanting to donate to the Villages of Ethiopia campaign, please visit www.canadianhumanitarian.com.