Tzu Chi Provides Dental Outreach To Underprivileged Families In Phoenix

National Headquarters  |  January 15, 2024
Dental outreach on site
Entering the scene of the dental outreach felt akin to stepping into a large dental clinic, with appropriate workflow arrangements allowing each volunteer and physician to focus on specific treatments. Image Source/Tzu Chi National Headquarters

Written by Ren Liu, Juanjuan Huang
Translated by Ariel Chan
Edited by Jiali Liu, Andrew Larracuente

Tzu Chi has provided outreach services for over 20 years, with dental care being one of the most popular programs. Dental treatment can be prohibitively expensive for the economically disadvantaged, making Tzu Chi’s provision of free, high-quality care invaluable.

Tzu Chi National Headquarters has hosted numerous free clinic events, but dentistry was just one of the many medical services offered due to a lack of dental equipment. With support from the Tzu Chi HQ Region, they received a fully equipped dental clinic on wheels. Additionally, the Tzu Chi Medical Foundation purchased medical insurance for the clinic. In June 2022, they held their first dental outreach event.

Through the collective efforts of volunteers, recruiting efforts were intensified, and the medical team expanded. On December 17, 2023, Tzu Chi National Headquarters volunteers conducted dental outreach at the Jingsi Hall of the office for families of the Catholic Shelter for Women and Children and previously registered impoverished residents in the community.

Breaking a Sweat at the Outreach Site

Many families in shelters lack medical insurance, with some enduring dental issues for a long time. On that day, a diverse team of dental professionals from Taiwan, the United States, Africa, Japan, Korea, Spain, and China, along with Tzu Chi volunteers and TSMC family members, served the local underprivileged population. The quality of Tzu Chi volunteers’ service and medical standards deeply moved those seeking treatment.

Volunteers worked tirelessly to prepare for the outreach, busy with equipment preparations a day before the event transporting all dental equipment to the outreach site. Even with the sweat and toil, smiles of joy adorned everyone’s faces.

On the day of the outreach, volunteers arrived early at the venue. As patients arrived, verifying identities and registration information began promptly.

Entering the outreach site felt like entering a large dental clinic. After initial consultations with physicians, patients were directed to the X-ray area. Based on the images, patients were allocated to teeth cleaning, filling, or extraction departments. Proper workflow planning allowed each volunteer and physician to focus on specific treatments, reducing patient wait times and increasing the number of patients seen.

A team was also set up for humanitarian reception. Volunteers embodied the humanistic spirit of Tzu Chi—English versions of the Tzu Chi Scripture were displayed on the large screen of the Jingsi Hall, distributing inspirational messages and providing explanation services to patients. Additionally, volunteers spontaneously provided transportation and childcare services for those inconvenienced by the outreach.

TSMC Family's Presence

TSMC family members also contributed their efforts to families visiting the shelter for treatment. Mothers of TSMC family members actively participated in internal operations, undertaking tasks such as high-temperature and high-pressure cleaning of dental equipment, blood pressure measurement, and X-ray data entry.

Hailing from a family with a dental background, TSMC family member Shuling Qiu attended dental volunteer training at Tzu Chi National Headquarters in August 2023. She once said during the course, “From today’s course, I’ve learned more detailed and comprehensive knowledge, hoping to pass it on to volunteers when I return to Phoenix, as well as hoping to spread love.” Today, her dream has finally come true!

Driving 40 miles from the north of Phoenix to the south to become a community volunteer at the Tzu Chi Service Center, I feel very rewarded.

TSMC high school students aged 16 and above also lent their support. The boys assisted in equipment handling and traffic direction. At the same time, the girls were responsible for distributing winter clothing, shoes, toys from local thrift stores, and oral hygiene kits donated by “Health Banner,” a local healthcare institution. They found great significance in participating in the outreach at the shelter and pledged to continue doing so in the future.

Cross-Religious Compassion Warms the Heart

The love delivered by TSMC parents and children before Christmas allowed mothers living in shelters to feel the joy of having clean teeth. They expressed sincere gratitude through bright smiles: “I had an excellent experience. When I came here, the love and peace of mind nourished me. Thank you very much for helping me get beautiful and clean teeth!”

Despite Tzu Chi being a Buddhist charity organization, it transcended religious boundaries by organizing outreach for people at the Catholic Shelter for Women and Children. Residents learned about Tzu Chi through interaction with volunteers, and the sincerity and warmth demonstrated on-site deeply touched those seeking treatment. They did not expect people of different religions and ethnicities to care so much about their health.

Although religious beliefs differ, what remains the same is compassion and great love. May those in need receive health and stability, and may love and care make the world better.

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