This was the question posed by Henry Dunant, Swiss founder of the Red Cross.
Yes, it is possible. Approximately 85 aid agencies are currently working in Iraq, but rising attacks on civilians and increasing violence in the lead-up to the June 30 handover are prompting some agencies to develop exit strategies.
Goodness knows, dentists have been doing good works around the world for decades, mostly unsung, with little more than personal satisfaction to gain. Some have established formal groups with boards and budgets, others have flown by the seat of their pants.
Some have turned their attention to those suffering the ravages of war, epidemics or natural disasters while others attend those at home and around the world who suffer the scourge of unimaginable poverty. Some have political or religious affiliations, others do not.
Some have taken sabbaticals from lucrative practices, others have devoted ‘vacation’ time to serve the greater good. Many of the photos we publish on the ‘Show Us Where You Read Oral Health’ page are of dentists (and often their entire teams) providing humanitarian assistance.
Sergeant Linda White was deployed in Afghanistan for six months, from August 2003 to February 2004, with the Canadian Forces Operation Athena. At the annual meeting of the Canadian Dental Hygienists Association in St. John’s late June, she will talk about her role as a military dental hygienist and other experiences in Kabul. These include humanitarian assistance to the local population, assisting at the hospital during land mine explosions and attacks by suicide bombers, and the stresses and strains in the military environment there.
Approximately 600 Canadian Forces personnel are scheduled to deploy to Kabul in August for ‘rotation 2’ of Operation Athena.
Kindness in Action Service Society of Alberta is a group of individuals motivated by a belief in the dignity of all people and their right to basic human needs. Its primary focus is oral health and in 2003 it helped 3,648 patients. Founded in 1993, the organization boasts more than 200 volunteers working on projects in Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Mexico, Belize and Peru.
With its principal motto of Service Above Self, the world’s first service club, the Rotary Club of Chicago, was founded in 1905. In 1910, the club went international with the formation of the Rotary Club of Winnipeg. Today, 1.2 million Rotarians belong to clubs in 166 countries. Rotary International has teamed with humanitarian organizations around the world in efforts to improve the human condition.
There are a million acts of kindness in the naked city performed by individuals and organizations of all description. Hundreds of dentists have served thousands of patients locally and internationally without fanfare. They do so for untold reasons in godforsaken places. To relieve suffering, to stand in the space between need and dignity, that is kindness in action.