Dental team to board ship for Vanuatu

By Melissa Nightingale

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DENTAL TRIO: Aleishia Norton (left), Hadleigh Reid, and Pam Hiroti from Victoria Dental will give emergency treatment to people in Vanuatu.PHOTO/STUART MUNRO
DENTAL TRIO: Aleishia Norton (left), Hadleigh Reid, and Pam Hiroti from Victoria Dental will give emergency treatment to people in Vanuatu.PHOTO/STUART MUNRO

Two dental assistants and their boss are heading to Vanuatu next month to bring dental care to the people of the South Pacific.

Pam Hiroti, Aleishia Norton and dental surgeon Hadleigh Reid will be joining the team on the medical ship Pacific Hope to give emergency dental treatment such as extractions, fillings, and cleans.

They will be on board for two weeks, starting July 15, and are looking for sponsors to help fund their work with the organisation, Marine Reach.

For Miss Hiroti, the opportunity to work on the ship - which the trio must pay to volunteer on - was the reason she got a job as a dental assistant in the first place.

This will be her third time doing volunteer dental work overseas.

"The first one was why I came and got a job with Hadleigh, actually," she said.

"When you volunteer, you need a skill. I was like, 'What's a skill that I can get?'"

Miss Hiroti decided to become a dental assistant to build her skills so she would be able to use them in volunteering.

She rang up the Victoria Dental clinic "once a week for about a month" until they gave her a job.

For Dr Reid, it is the sixth or seventh time he will be donating his services overseas.

"Pretty much I've always assumed I would help out, volunteer in other countries," he said.

"After having holidays for the sake of holidays in different countries, I've found I get a bit bored."

On the medical ship, Dr Reid said it was a "cool, fun, positive environment".

This trip would have two dentists working, and they expected to get through 30 to 35 patients per day.

Miss Norton will be embarking for the first time, and said she always wanted to do volunteer work, but "never really knew where to start".

"This is my first time, so I'm really excited. It'll be an eye-opener, that's for sure."

She wanted to help people who "don't have as much opportunity as us, perhaps".

"I don't want to say 'less fortunate'. You go over there and they're so happy with what they've got."

Miss Hiroti said volunteering was "a lifelong passion".

"The boat itself holds 60 people. So you end up living alongside 60 strangers."

Those on the ship were not just dentists, there were other types of medical professionals as well - all "like-minded people".

"Some people will float on that boat for eight months straight. Then you've got people like us who just fly in for two weeks and be like 'Gosh, that was hard', then head back to civilisation."

Miss Hiroti said the experience left people "on cloud nine".

"It takes you a while to get back into reality, the normal swing of things."

The fundraising was "a bit freaky", but they had already written letters to a number of local businesses seeking sponsors.

They wanted to thank Moore Law, Moore Stephens Markhams, Q-West, Energy Direct, and A.P. Plumbing and Gas.

Staff members from the latter also provided personal donations.

In total they hope to raise $5000. This covered Miss Hiroti and Miss Norton's flights to and from Vanuatu - $850 return each - and their stay on the ship, which was $750 each.

They are hoping to donate extra money to Marine Reach.

So far their Give a Little page has raised $2300.

Head to www.givealittle.co.nz/cause/PamAndAleishiaVanuatu to donate for their trip.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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