Sarah Lam has continued the Bega area’s long tradition of producing volunteers to work overseas with the charity Mercy Ships.
Dr Lam, a dentist at Beach Street Centre in Merimbula, joined the hospital ship Africa Mercy for two weeks in January during its current deployment in the East African island nation of Madagascar.
“The church bulletin had an excerpt saying that Mercy Ships was looking for dentists and I was like, well, I am the only dentist at Bega and Tathra Uniting, so if this is not God’s prompting through someone’s hand, I have no idea what is,” Dr Lam said.
Having previously completed volunteer work in the Kimberley, coupled with the experience she has gained in her day job, Dr Lam felt she was equipped with the skills necessary to deliver dental care to Mercy Ships’ patients.
“When I was working with Mercy Ships, the two weeks were ridiculously intense. I had never worked that hard in my life and by the end of the second week I was burning out, as I was forewarned by our team leader,” she said.
“To work at maximum efficiency, with optimal care and treatment planning, seeing 20-30 patients a day, is definitely hard work, but it is vitally important.
“Dental work is a most practical way of removing a very obvious source of infection in people, giving them a smile, hope for the future, and taking away pain.”
Since the arrival of the Africa Mercy in the port of Tamatave, Madagascar, in August 2015, the volunteer Dental Team has performed more than 15,000 procedures on over 5,000 patients on its on-land clinic. More than 800 surgeries have also been performed on board the ship by volunteer surgeons.
“I worked with an amazing multicultural and diverse team comprised of local and international dentists, assistants, hygienists and translators.”
“A highlight was bonding with the local group of Malagasy assistants who were incredible in their work ethic, their communication and their conduct.”
“I am most keen to go back to serve for a longer period in the future.”
As Dr Lam arrived home, Tathra surgeon A-J Collins headed back to Africa for his latest volunteer stint with Mercy Ships. Dr Collins joins the Forrest family, also from Tathra, who are half way through their three-year commitment on board the Africa Mercy.