On December 9 and 10, Tzu Chi Foundation formally began its cooperation with the government of Bohol under a recently-ratified Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) by holding its 325th Dental Mission. Dr. Cecilio Putong National High School in Tagbilaran City became the first to benefit from the MoA, with 398 students having undergone free dental filling, extraction, and cleaning.
Signed in August 2017, the MoA aims to provide adequate dental care to schools all over the island province. The local government will provide Tzu Chi the resources and manpower to pursue its Mission of Medicine.
Tzu Chi Foundation has begun its formal cooperation with the local government agencies as part of a recently-ratified agreement by holding its 325th Dental Mission.
The students of Dr. Cecilio Putong National High School (DCPNHS) in Tagbilaran City is the first to benefit from a strengthened dental program on December 9 and 10. Hundreds flock to the dental mission for the opportunity to undergo dental extraction, filling, or cleaning free of charge. On the first day, the coalition of Tzu Chi International Medical Association (TIMA) and local dentists and health workers offered their services to 398 students of DCPNHS.
“This [dental mission] is a huge blessing because it’s free. You would have to pay a fortune at a private [clinic], between Php500 and Php1,000. Students are very lucky to have these free dental services,” says Nilo Sendrijas, DCPNHS assistant principal.
The dental mission marks the first time the Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) between Tzu Chi, the Department of Education, and the Provincial Government of Bohol is invoked. Signed in August 2017, the MoA provides Tzu Chi with the resources necessary to carry out its dental missions in the island province. Among these are three mobile dental buses provided by the Provincial Government of Bohol and the city government of Tagbilaran, the provincial capital.
Although fully-equipped to handle basic dental procedures, the buses are configured for dental filling. The time-consuming procedure warrants more chairs, hence in addition to the two dental chairs in each bus, seven more were setup in a makeshift clinic inside the classrooms.
The aim of the MoA is to provide adequate dental care to public schools across the province. Tzu Chi volunteer Joven Uy explains that the local government has been unable to maintain its dental program due to the steady increase in the number of students. He counts more than 900 public schools but only 9 dentists from the local government are serving them. With access to dental buses and other government resources, Uy hopes to expand Tzu Chi’s Mission of Medicine to remote areas of Bohol.
“The mobile dental clinic provided by the [provincial] government goes a long way in our Mission of Medicine. This will help us deliver dental services to the students in the public schools,” says Uy.
The 21 TIMA dentists are joined by several others from the Provincial Health Office of Bohol. As part of the MoA, the Department of Education will earmark public schools in the province as possible beneficiaries and provide dental personnel.
“The Department of Education will also provide us dentists to help our Tzu Chi International Medical Association (TIMA) dentists to serve the students. We are happy that we have started this program. And after this mission, we’re going outside the city and to rural areas,” Uy adds.
Preparations for the mission began as early as December 8.
Although a bustling city, Tagbilaran has its share of families living below the poverty line. A fee of Php500 to Php1,000 for a checkup at a private clinic is already a fortune for the impoverished of the city.
“Many Boholanos cannot afford dental care, much less a simple checkup. With the help of Tzu Chi Foundation, the students can experience free dental treatment,” says Michael Oliver Dano, a dentist from the Provincial Health Office.
The dental mission comes at an opportune time for Karylle Bautista, a Grade-11 student at DCPNHS. Having chosen hotel and restaurant management as her specialization in Senior High School, she needs to have teeth worthy of interaction with guests in her upcoming line of work. She has encouraged her classmates to seize the chance to have their dental consultations and treatment.
“I told my classmates to take this opportunity since this only happens every year, as well as [Tzu Chi] took their time to come here,” says Bautista.