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A healthy future for all

Koha Dental healthcare

Retired dentist Sue Cole heads the Trinity Koha Dental Clinic, which runs under the umbrella of YWAM (Youth with a Mission) Ships Aotearoa. The clinic consists of a container, a caravan, and a group of volunteers who move between poorer communities offering free dental care. Sue has three volunteer dentists on deck today, working at pace out of a caravan in a Tauranga carpark.

Dental treatment for free

A desperate young woman walked into the mobile Trinity Koha Dental Clinic with a front row of rotting teeth – and walked out with a wide smile.
Nurse Emily Schulz was there during one of the woman’s stints in the dentist’s chair. Over two treatments, she received $6000 worth of dental treatment for free.

“It’s not every day that you get given a gift that is so powerful it gives you back your dignity and self-worth and to see a 30-year-old walk away with that again… This is meaningful work.”

Emily Schulz,
Dental Nurse

“It’s a new initiative in New Zealand, we work with a team of volunteer dentists to make a difference in oral health in our backyard. We can’t meet all the need that there is but we can make a small difference to those that are coming in [terms of] relief of pain, dismantling some fears, and helping provide life-changing dentistry for them.”

Sue Cole,
Trinity Koha Dental Manager

Trinity pledges $300,000 over three years

Marty Emmett, Managing Director of YWAM Ships, says a strategic partnership with Trinity Lands has brought welcome certainty for his organisation’s work at home and – now borders are open again – across the Pacific.

Trinity has pledged $300,000 to YWAM Ships across three years. This is equivalent to half the organisation’s annual operating budget and Emmett says YWAM Ships feels grateful to have such substantial, long-term support.

“Trinity’s support of us is staggering, and their belief in us to deliver quality care to marginalised and vulnerable people gives us real mana. Together we are impacting so many people with free dental and we couldn’t do it without Trinity and their incredible generosity.”

Marty Emmett,
Managing Director of YWAM Ships

Mobile dental clinic

The idea for the mobile dental clinics grew from the close working relationships between the organisations. Trinity Lands has already contributed $100,000 to the Trinity Koha Dental Clinic.

“With Covid, we couldn’t go overseas for our usual mission to the Pacific and we knew there was so much need locally and, with Trinity behind us, it all happened very quickly,” Marty says. “They bought us a caravan, kitted it out with brand new equipment, and we hit the road.”

Marty Emmett

Treating patients from 5 to 90

In a mid-2021 pilot run across the Bay of Plenty communities of Kawerau, Pukehina and Welcome Bay, 463 patients were seen by 12 volunteer dentists. Across 24 clinic days, the volunteer workforce assessed and treated a range of patients aged 5 to 90. Most required fillings or extractions. The total value of the treatment provided for free was $165,658.

“The operating costs were about $30,000 so that’s almost $6 of value for every dollar spent – that’s an incredible return on investment.

“There is a much higher need in Tauranga than many people realise. Clients come to the service through other charities, such as the Salvation Army, Good Neighbour and Lifezone Church in Judea. Many are homeless, or close to it; vulnerable Kiwis whose lives are marked by crippling tooth pain and, often, a loss of dignity.”

Marty Emmett

Dental care for RSE workers from Vanuatu

In October, the Trinity Koha Dental Clinic returned – this time in the Tauranga suburbs of Judea and Welcome Bay.

It’s in this carpark outside Lifezone that the dental clinic sets up for a week in the October school holidays. A steady stream of RSE workers from Vanuatu come through the clinic today, referred by their employers. A volunteer fluent in Bislama runs a quick workshop on oral hygiene while the men take turns in the dentist’s chair.

Herol is 28 and in New Zealand on his fourth deployment as an RSE worker. He works on a kiwifruit orchard in Te Puke and has taken advantage of the opportunity to have his teeth checked and cleaned. Through the interpreter he explains it’s only his second time visiting a dentist but, as he normally favours a low-sugar diet, his teeth are in good health and he doesn’t require any treatment today.

Dentists value supporting the community

Katie Ayers, Hamilton paediatric dentist and immediate past president of the New Zealand Dental Association pops into the carpark clinic to visit the team. She says dentists value the opportunity to support the community – whether it’s one day in the mobile clinic or a two-week sabbatical to the Pacific.

“This is a really good opportunity for dentists to give really make a difference for a number of people in a day.”

Katie Ayers,
Hamilton paediatric dentist and past president of the New Zealand Dental Association