After my first year of residency in prosthodontics, I found myself on a plane flying for the first time in my life to the other side of the planet. I had no clear understanding of what I was meant to do there. I was thrilled but at the same time terrified. This is especially considering that my family tried to convince me that the most landmined country in the world was not the appropriate destination to travel to. But from the moment I met Darren and the team at the Phnom Penh airport, I was glad that I decided to volunteer with the Humble Smile Foundation in Cambodia.
I am a dentist from Moscow. Since I was a student, I have been passionate about volunteering and public health. Therefore, I became a member of national and international dental student associations. By the time I arrived in Cambodia, I experienced enough because I had been involved in numerous projects focused on prophylaxis and oral health. However, volunteering with the Humble Smile Foundation exceeded all my expectations and became the most incredible experience of my life.
I enjoyed joining the very international team on the Cambodia 2017 project. We attended a rural school for 2 weeks. It broke my heart to see children with no knowledge of oral hygiene, unable to afford toothbrushes and toothpaste while cheap, sugary products were sold in their schoolyard. Witnessing the terrible tooth decay rate among these students, we knew we had to make a difference. We donated, taught the children how to properly brush their teeth, and improved the foods offered at the school. Even though this project only reached children in one school, supporting the Humble Smile Foundation regularly can make a significant difference in solving these issues.
Apart from that I have to say that it was an unforgettable experience as we worked, lived and spent time sightseeing together. Our team of people from different countries, people of literally all kinds of cultivations, became a family by the end of the trip. I am grateful to Darren for his patience in any kind of situation even if there was a change of plans. I am also thankful for the opportunity to contribute to the Cambodian community, and to learn about this stunning and so different part of the world.
At the end of the trip, we were touched by the cutest hugs from schoolchildren. Even the most discreet of us, a photographer from Latvia, could not hold back his tears. That was the biggest reward for our work, but not the only one. Before flying back home, we visited two well-known places of interest in Cambodia: Angkor Wat and the Fishing Village. It was incredible to walk through the forests and enter the ancient temples which I saw in the Lara Croft movies when I was a kid and never expected to see one day.