Project Turquoise Dental mission, by Drs. Yazdani & Kalantar

Project Turquoise, founded by Gazelle Hashemian and Forough P. Yazdani, prides itself on the mission to serve people in crises here in the United States and globally. As we all know, the Syrian Refugee Crises is one of the most horrific, humanitarian disasters in the world today. Thousands and thousands of innocent civilians have been violently and abruptly uprooted from their homeland and cast to a state of survival. To stay true to Project Turquoise’s mission, we decided that we needed to respond and help as many families as our bandwidth would allow. After much research, it was decided that we would concentrate our efforts on Camp Zaatari and Camp Azraq in Jordan, In the fall of 2016, an exploratory trip was organized by Project Turquoise in partnership with Relief International to assess where we could make the biggest impact. During this trip, it was determined that there was a dire need for oral health care especially for preventive and emergency services. There was a 80% caries rate amongst the youth and oral pain was prevalent and for the most part untreated in the adult population. The camp had a 2 month wait for dental appts and the wait was on average 4 hours. Once it was determined that the population was underserved in the deliverance of oral health care, the Project Turquoise Dental mission was born. During this trip, several meetings were arranged with the Minister of Health in Jordan and leaders of partnering NGO’s in the camp.
In the Fall of 2017, a group of dentists from the Washington DC area, including general dentists, endodontists, a pediatric dentist and oral surgeon travelled to Jordan for the first ever PT Dental Service Trip. The group lead by Dr. Neda Kalantar and Dr. Forough Yazdani and accompanied by other dentists: Dr. Rashin Bidgoli, Dr. Hamid Kazemi, and Dr.Pirooz Zia. They were determined to impact the oral health crises in these camps. As a result of a partnership with the University of Jordan Dental School, each American dentist was partnered up with a dental resident to accompany them in clinical care, serve as translators and enhance their dental skills. Days would start early in the morning with an 1 1/2 hour bus ride to the camp, providing clinical care to patients until the curfew time of 3:30 pm. To abide by camp rules, all volunteers were required to leave the camp by 3:30 pm. While the days were long and emotionally draining, it was always hard to say goodbye and we were all eager to return the following day. During our short trip, we treated over 154 patients across two clinics. We also donated over $20,000 worth of dental supplies to the dental team in Jordan. By the end of our mission, we realized that we couldn’t even begin to address all the oral problems, but we wanted to leave the kids with a preventive program that would have a lasting impact. During day 5, over 600 kids were given oral hygiene instructive care, nutritional advice and preventive fluoride varnish applications. The older teens were trained to lead the sessions and became oral health care ambassadors. We left them with ample supplies to continue the program once we left the camp. Our genuine hope is that by empowering the teens to lead and educate the younger kids, we have them left them with knowledge that will improve their overall health. After all, healthy mouth, healthy body!
Our first dental mission was small but impactful. We are forever inspired by the people we met, their struggles, their will to overcome adversity and the overwhelming generosity towards us. We cherish the friendships we made, the opportunity to serve and be served by residents of the camp and to celebrate our similarities on so many levels. Through tears, laughter, humility, engagement, and being present, we learned that the human spirit is resilient and universal. We are forever grateful and changed by this opportunity. We look forward to our next mission with the knowledge that we are a drop in the ocean…so much more is needed. While we pride ourselves in being American, we now know what it means to be citizens of the world. Project Turquoise has applied for an independent non-for-profit entity that can now raise funds. We are excited about this next venture & what we can accomplish together with more local dentists. We are determined to stay true to our mission of “raising awareness and providing support for displaced families in the US and abroad.”
We look forward to increased collaboration to provide opportunities to people in need. Together, one person at a time.
Neda Kalantar, DDS
Forough Yazdani, DDS

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