In Rural Rajasthan, Mobile Dental Vans Are Offering Free Treatment & Preventing Oral Cancer

Follow Us On

When the sarpanch of Sumel, a quaint, nondescript village in Bassi Tehsil of Jaipur district, Rajasthan decided to quit beedi, many villagers were inspired to follow suit. Not only did the man set an example, but he also started spreading awareness about how beedi can be a major cause of oral cancer. His efforts have significantly brought down the number of tobacco addicts in a village of uneducated farmers. But this laudable feat would have been impossible without Smile Express, a team of dentists who convinced the sarpanch about the ill-effects of beedi. The pretty English name ‘Smile Express’ might sound a tad unfamiliar in the rustic rural context. However, in the interior villages of Jaipur, this name is familiar to many. Smile Express is a non-profit foundation from the royal state of Rajasthan which provides free dental care in villagers through their mobile dental vans and portable dental units. Founded in 2017 by dentist Dr Mukesh Panwar, they are pioneering the cause of oral health care in rural Rajasthan. It is a flagship initiative by Oral Health Promotion Foundation.

Smile Express Rajasthan
At a Smile Express camp

How Smile Express started

Talking to Efforts For Good, Dr Mukesh Panwar shares the backstory about Smile Express. “The seed to serve the society was sown in me during my days as a student of Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya. Much later, when I started working as a dentist, I realised that while dental clinics are aplenty in urban areas, rural India was still deprived of accessible oral health care,” he narrates.

Smile Express Rajasthan
Dr Panwar treating a villager

Panwar cites the example of his native state, “While there are seven government medical colleges in Rajasthan, there is only one dental college, where people can get affordable treatment.” He adds that people in villages have nearly zero awareness of oral health. Many are addicted to smoking or chewing tobacco. They lack any idea about basic dental hygiene – as simple as brushing twice a day. In case they encounter any dental problems, they have nowhere to go until the condition worsens severely. “The primary healthcare centres don’t provide any dental care, and very few dentists are working in rural belts,” Panwar reveals.

Free dental camps in villages

Panwar’s participation in Jagriti Yatra a few years ago propelled him to be a ‘different’ dentist. “During the Jagriti Yatra, I was deeply inspired by the free treatment model adopted by Arvind Eye Hospitals and Dr Devi Shetty’s Narayana Health. That’s when I had the idea of mobile dental facility,” he shares.

Panwar admits to receiving a lot of support from School for Social Entrepreneurs for setting up his venture Smile Express within a year.

At present, Smile Express operates two portable dental units and one mobile dental van in over 30 villages of Bassi Tehsil, Jaipur, as well as a community dental clinic. In one and a half year, their team of six expert dentists have provided free dental treatment to over 3,000 patients.

Through mike announcements, pamphlets and ‘Oral Pulse’ awareness programme, the villagers learn that there is going to be a free dental camp. The foundation also collaborates with local panchayats, ASHA workers and Anganwadi employees to spread the word about these two-day makeshift dental camps in the villages.

Oral cancer awareness and school camps

“From routine check-up to fillings, from Root Canal Treatments to oral cancer diagnosis, we do it all in these camps,” informs Panwar. They also organise regular awareness camps in schools, where students are taught the A to Z of dental hygiene.

Smile Express Rajasthan
Helping village children smile brighter

Smile Express has exerted remarkable efforts in the domain of oral cancer prevention. “Oral cancer is on the rise, but awareness is very poor. The symptoms are not easy to detect by a layman. We have diagnosed early-stage cancer in over 60 patients, who are being treated at cancer facilities at present. That’s why oral cancer awareness features among the top of our priority list,” Panwar shares.

Smile Express Rajasthan
Oral health camp at a school

Challenging the age-old myths

Despite considerable progress in serving the less privileged, Smile Express founder still finds a few challenges. The outdated mindset of the villagers happens to be a major one. Their concept of oral hygiene is still shrouded by myths such as removing a bad tooth can lead to blindness. More often than not, they are reluctant to follow the dentist’s advice which counters their age-old taboos.

Smile Express Rajasthan
A two-day dental camp at a village

“We hope to expand our efforts to more beneficiaries. We want to organise at least one camp every day in a village. Hope we can overcome our funding constraints to achieve these goals as soon as possible,” expresses Panwar.

Efforts For Good lauds the unique initiative by Smile Express and hopes they foster more smiles in the days to come.

Also Read: With Three Minutes Response Time, The Fastest Emergency Medical Service In The World Is A Non-Profit From Israel

Love this story? Want to share a positive story?
Write to us: [email protected]
Connect with us on Facebook and Instagram

Let us know your thoughts on this story

Support the cause you care for. Browse All CampaignsBrowse all campaigns
Work in progress

Empower Poor Women To Rise Out Of Poverty

1,36,505 Raised
Out of 3,85,000

Share

Quote
It's not how much we give
but how much love we put into giving.
- Mother Theresa Quote

‘Happy Fridge’: The Key To Bridge Food Wastage And Hunger Problem In India

Follow Us On

Rahul Khera and Gautam Jindal, volunteers (aka hunger heroes) at Feeding India, were among the many Delhi NCR residents accustomed to seeing hungry children pick up half-eaten burgers or stale sandwiches from the dustbin and savour those with the brightest smiles. Like many others, they also had the will to promote equitable food distribution but was perplexed about the approach, until they learnt about the community fridge initiative which has gained unprecedented success in Saudi Arabia and few other European countries. Meanwhile, community fridges were already being installed outside restaurants or in public places in a handful of cities like Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Coimbatore and Kochi.

Say Goodbye To Throwing Away Excess Food Because Now You Can Donate The Food To The Needy – Happy Fridge

Thank you for overwhelming response for the Happy Fridge concept. We need more funds from you to install more fridges like this across India. With the limited funds avaialble Feeding India was able to install three fridges only. Kindly donate here http://bit.ly/happyfridge

Posted by The Logical Indian on Saturday, October 27, 2018

Needless to mention, with a shocking 103rd rank in the Global Hunger Index and a food wastage estimate of around Rs 58,000 crore – India was perhaps the best country to implement such an initiative. With Gautam’s help, an enthusiastic Rahul invested his own savings to install a ‘Happy Fridge’ outside his residence at Sun City, Sector 54 in Gurgaon. Set up in 2017 by these Feeding India volunteers, the fridge in Gurgaon has inspired the NGO to scale up the project across India.

No one has ever become poor by giving
– Anne Frank

‘Happy Fridge’ fostered many smiles

It didn’t take long for the local residents to learn about this laudable endeavour. They welcomed it, as wastage of excess food was a recurring problem in almost every household. “Intimating the localities was no mammoth task, thanks to social media. However, it was difficult to spread the word among those who actually needed the food,” shares Rahul, who went from auto stands to slums, inviting rickshaw pullers, ragpickers or roadside vendors to avail the community fridge any time they feel hungry. “The security guards of our residential complex played a huge role in explaining how the fridge works to the beneficiaries,” he adds.

The operational and maintenance costs of the ‘ happy fridge ‘ are being maintained diligently by the community members.

Support the cause you care for. Browse All CampaignsBrowse all campaigns
Work in progress

Empower Poor Women To Rise Out Of Poverty

1,36,505 Raised
Out of 3,85,000

Share

Making memories, sprouting awareness

“I remember one young man who had arrived from a village looking for some menial day job. Somehow he had run out of his paltry savings and had no money to buy one decent meal a day. For about a month, our happy fridge was his solace, till he earned his first salary from a housekeeping job,” shares a jubilant Rahul.

In another incident, a truck driver returning in the wee hours of midnight was starving after a whole day’s hard work. He had run out of cooking fuel at his home, so our fridge was at his rescue.

“The residents keep all sorts of palatable dishes in the happy fridge, ranging from dry snacks, fruits to cooked meals. Sometimes, they even keep raw vegetables, to ensure not a single bit of good food ends up in their trash while other people go hungry to bed,” reveals Rahul.

On an average, each happy fridge supplies around 10-15 meals in a day. The gratitude and pure smiles of the hungry souls after a fulfilling meal are more than enough to continue to motivate Rahul and his neighbours. In fact, inspired by him, many other communities in the Delhi-NCR region set up community fridges in their areas.

Feeding India will set up 500 Happy Fridges

Since the past few years, Feeding India has been a prominent organisation working in the forefront to solve the hunger problem in India. Primarily, they were involved in redistributing leftover food from weddings and parties among the underprivileged people in different cities of India. Their volunteers, better known as “Hunger Heroes of India”, worked actively to bridge the gap between food wastage and food crisis.

“We used to get a lot of calls from individual households to collect their excess food. However, unfortunately, we lacked the manpower and planning to launch our programme on a door to door basis. We were desperately looking for an alternative when we learnt about the community fridges,” shares Srishti Jain, co-founder of Feeding India.

After interacting with Rahul Khera and other campaigners of community fridges, Feeding India decided to amplify this extraordinary project throughout the length and breadth of India. Presently, they have launched the #FightFoodWaste campaign to install 500 community fridges – nicknamed ‘ Happy Fridge ’. So any passer-by – be it a kid going to school without a lunchbox, or a labourer returning home late at night with no promise of a dinner – can now grab a pack of biscuits or a bowl of ‘dal-chawal’ (rice & lentil soup) to satiate their hunger. Click here to contribute for ‘ Happy Fridge ‘ and ensure India never sleeps hungry again.

Feeding India also urges everyone to make a promise to stop wasting food and instead consider donating it to those in need.

Let us know your thoughts on this story

Quote
It's not how much we give
but how much love we put into giving.
- Mother Theresa Quote
Next Click right arrow to read the next story Previous