SIDON, Lebanon: Upon reaching the front of the line of children, the young boy opens his mouth wide for inspection. After making some notes, the doctor tells him he can close his mouth again.
The boy is just one of dozens of primary school students aged between 6 and 12 who are getting a free check-up at the new dental clinic in Sidon’s Aisha Um al-Moaminin School, which is run by the Makassed Charitable Islamic Association.
The clinic, provided by the international charitable association Give a Child a Toy, offers free full dental care not just for the students, but also for the school’s employees and teachers.
It will be operated by volunteer doctors and is to be managed by former Makassed student Dr. Jaoudat al-Dada.
He explained that after he graduated, he wanted to contribute something to help those children from impoverished neighborhoods.
“All the students in the sixth grade had their teeth treated before leaving the school for good, so that they will always remember us with a healthy smile,” Dada said.
“Every child will also regularly receive a toothbrush, toothpaste and flyers on how to clean their teeth properly and which urge students to visit the dentist every six months to maintain good teeth.”
The clinic, which is open five hours a day, is fully equipped with all the necessary medical equipment to help prevent and treat common tooth problems.
Hanna al-Zaatari, the head of the primary school, said that more than 1,025 students between 6 and 12 would receive dental care at the clinic this year.
The school administration has also integrated educational lessons on how to keep teeth healthy into their curriculum and has banned the sale of gelatin sweets and chocolate in the school cafeteria.
“This project is essential to the students who mostly come from a humble background where dental health is not at all a priority for the parents who can barely make a living,” Zaatari said.
The head of Makassed Islamic Charity, Hilal Qobrosly, said the project was the first of its kind in Lebanon and would help root out dental problems in the early stages to build a healthier generation.
The U.K.-based Give a Child a Toy began as a small charity founded in order to supply gifts and school kits to over 16,000 children during the civil war in Lebanon.
It was soon able to establish 10 library centers, which provided educational and recreational activities for marginalized children across the country.
Over the years, the charity has grown in leaps and bounds and now it also provides vital pediatric medical equipment and treatment to many hospitals.
Speaking at the clinic, the head of the board of trustees for Give a Child a Toy, Lynna Kalo, emphasized the importance of the project at a public school and thanked all who contributed to its success.