Neil Sikka volunteers in Cameroon
In February, Neil travelled out to Cameroon for two weeks to offer dental treatment to those in need. Neil has supported and volunteered for a range of charities and wanted to contribute to the amazing work that Mercy Ships carry out in Africa.
The Mercy Ships crew is led by a team of volunteers from up to 40 nations, all of whom give their time and expertise for free. Following two years of political liaison and screening assessment, the Africa Mercy was finally able to dock in Douala, Cameroon, on 17 August 2017. This trip in August 2017 was the Mercy Ships first visit to Cameroon. The ship was then able to begin delivering direct medical care to people in need, and train and mentor the local health professionals.
The Mercy Ships capacity building projects will train and mentor more than 700 local health professionals, providing skills and knowledge that can deliver improved healthcare long after the Africa Mercy has sailed on to the next port.
On Feb 26th Neil joined this fantastic cause and woke up to his first morning in Cameroon. Neil was part of a team of 4 dentists and 1 hygienist who were treating over 120 patients each day. Neil said the ship had “An amazing set up with a fully operational hospital on the ship and 500 staff travelling the coast of Africa. It was wonderful to meet people who had travelled from all over the world to be part of this amazing project. My roommate Hugh, was a plastic surgeon from Newport Beach California who was performing surgery that would transform lives overnight”
“The busy days were hard work but rewarding. The week commenced with screening of patients to be offered treatment. We arrived in the Mercy Ships land rovers at 7am, in a large field on the outskirts of Douala. A police presence had been implemented to prevent unrest from those not chosen for treatment. A large crowd had already congregated by the time we had arrived, estimated at over 2000. Such was the desperation of some, many of whom had never previously seen a dentist, that we were immediately surrounded. It took sometime to establish order and create lines of people for examination. We then had the daunting task of picking 600 people out of the crowd who would receive treatment that week, with each person given an irremovable wristband with their registered date. (It is not unknown for people to sell their wristband, hence the need for them to be irremovable). Once the screening was completed, it was straight back to the clinic.
Each dentist would run a station with two dental chairs supported by a volunteer nurse and a local trainee who acted as an interpreter whilst learning the nursing skills that would enable them to work in the future . I was so impressed by the set up. Mercy Ships had taken over a building in the local hospital, refurbished it and installed up to date portable equipment. Everyone knew exactly what their role was, with oral hygiene instructors, hygienists, and a dedicated sterilisation team. We treated so many people who were in need. It was fantastic to be able to help them, and to be a part of the wonderful team of volunteers from all over the world who give up their time to make a difference. I’d highly recommend getting involved if you are able to support this brilliant initiative."
Cases like the photo on the right, highlight just how in need many of those treated by the team are, and what a difference the service the Mercy Ship provides can make.
In April the amazing dental team treated their 8,000th patient in Cameroon. Consider whether you can offer your help, arrange a fundraiser or donate to help this fantastic cause.