What is Project Yeti?
Project Yeti is a volunteer dental clinic, set in the Kopan Monastery, overlooking Kathmandu Valley.
Our aim is to provide a high level of dental care to the underprivileged people of Nepal, including monks, nuns, and orphans.
The project began in 2012 to provide dental care and oral health education in Kathmandu.
The clinic is within the Kopan Monastery which is near Boudhanath, on the outskirts of Kathmandu, Nepal.
My name is George Manos and I'm an Australian dentist with over 40 years experience in private practice. I graduated at the Adelaide Dental School in 1973 and recently was inducted as a Fellow of the International College of Dentists.
I have travelled in India, Mongolia and Nepal and have always come home thinking how fortunate we are to enjoy such a privileged lifestyle and peaceful environment. Nepal impressed me as its people have remained resilient in spite of their struggles with poor infrastructure in Kathmandu. Nepalese have a high infant mortality rate and unemployment sits at 50% for adult males in cities and even higher in rural areas. Provision of dental care is minimal for the poor in Kathmandu and virtually non-existent in the villages. I decided that setting up a dental clinic just outside Kathmandu would ease the burden for the poorest.
I had checked out a Buddhist monastery on a previous visit and learned that young people from rural and remote villages were accepted to live and study there, completely free. These Sherpa and Gurkha students were either orphans, children from single-parent homes or simply desperately poor. I offered to bring the necessary equipment and set up in a spare room in their simple medical clinic.
The clinic had no dental materials at all. I bought a portable reclining chair and gathered up basic instruments and materials, resigned to doing simple fillings and extractions. One week before leaving, Southern Dental Industies (SDI) donated 6 boxes of materials. Those boxes definitely put a smile on my face. Then, local supplier City Dental offered instruments and discount on other essential items. Singapore Airlines, known for their assistance in carrying humanitarian aid to Asia allowed my wife and myself a total of 70kg, most of which was dental equipment. Two friends, also travelling to Nepal, carried boxes of precious rubber gloves for us. Once we’d arrived, I purchased a compressor and set up a simple work-flow with my two young helpers, a Sherpa nun and a locally-born monk.
In hindsight, it is hard to believe that for 9 weeks we lived and volunteered in a working monastery where the monks, aged about 8 to adult went about their business of learning and debating as they have done for centuries. The landscape was a sea of maroon robes. My view from the clinic window overlooked a playing area where young monks tore around, chasing and tripping each other; the curious ones poked their heads through the window. They were excellent patients, stoic and, even the 8-year olds did not flinch during pulpotomies and extractions.
Khandro, the Sherpa nun in her 20s, who had been trained in simple clinic nursing skills became my assistant. The 17-year old monk, Pende, still studying year 11 helped by cleaning instruments a few hours each day. Neither had had previous dental experience but learned quickly. My equipment was a portable chair, a portable Aseptico Unit and my headlight. The nurse, Khandro spoke some English and translated instructions to the patients. The nuns from the nearby Nunnery, were often very shy, especially those from remote areas, and covered their faces with their hands. Once they realised that procedures would be explained, and treatment choices offered, they relaxed. For some, it was their first time in a dental clinic. My aim was to work at a steady rate over the 9 weeks, gaining the confidence of the patients.
I examined over 200 patients and prioritised the most urgent. The adult nuns often had decayed teeth which had been neglected for many years. Many had to be persuaded of the value of the risk of leaving these chronically infected teeth untreated. The majority of the teeth were filled using the SDI glass ionomer products. Over 200 restorations were completed and 61 teeth extracted.
Most people had had exposure to fluoride in their drinking water. One particular group of nuns from a particularly remote area, the Tsum Valley had little decay. Sadly, like their Western counterparts, access to soft drinks and sweets in Kathmandu were starting to have effect. Some adult patients who had also neglected their dental hygiene had huge cavities under the hard enamel layers. Without an x-ray machine, transillumination of the teeth was the only way of diagnosing the caries. Young nuns were more fastidious than young monks in brushing.
We grew very fond of the people in the monastery who went out of their way to show their gratitude, and the young Nepalese who humbled us with their resilience and determination to study despite their limited resources. Life is so hard for so many there in ways that we Westerners would find overwhelming.
I welcome any offers of assistance of equipment or donations to make this possible. Anyone interested in this wonderful opportunity to contribute to third world people contact me for further information.
Dr George Manos