This August I returned to the Kopan Monastery in Kathmandu for the third time. However, this visit wasn’t for a retreat, but was instead to provide much needed dental care. I had made contact with Dr George Manos, an Australian dentist who had been a Buddhist for many years, and had finished setting up the dental clinic in 2014. He was keen to have volunteers on board so I jumped at the chance. Ara, a young dentist also from Australia, joined us as well.
To set the scene a little, we had all bought our flight tickets prior to the major earthquake in April. The only concern back then had been the monsoon weather at this time of year. George had said all would be fine. But now we also had to think about aftershocks, and whether we would even be able to operate the clinic as we didn’t really know what damage had been done.
Having worked for the NHS for the last 9 years, I felt pretty confident and ready to tackle whatever challenges presented to us. The first few days setting up the clinic were interesting as we had to be extremely organised and logical, and we had to oversee the final installation of a much needed generator which would keep us running during the frequent powercuts. Thankfully besides some cracks in the walls, there had been no major earthquake damage.
After trying to arrange the many instruments and pieces of equipment George had bought for the clinic, we soon realised how grateful we were for our dental nurses back home. We did have the wonderful assistance of Kopan monk Phende, who has recently been accepted to commence training as a hygienist and will be a huge asset to the clinic. George had taught him basic cross infection control, and having him to translate and reassure patients was priceless. He was a most smiley and positive ray of sunshine at all times of the day.