Volunteers Sail Into the Amazonian Jungle to Provide Dental Care



Though it’s home to more than 350,000 people, the city of Iquitos in the jungles of Peru can’t be reached by road or rail. Visitors must fly there or sail on the Amazon River. Since 2004, the Amazon Hope project has carried volunteers aboard a pair of refurbished Royal Navy tenders into the region to provide needed medical and dental care.

Volunteer teams comprise up to 8 people, which may include doctors, dentists, dental hygienists or therapists, nurses, dental nurses, physiotherapists, or opticians. They work with Peruvian healthcare staff to treat residents of the Iquitos region. The Vine Trust, a Scottish charity dedicated to helping poor children and communities around the world, facilitates the program.

“This coming summer marks my 14th trip with the Vine Trust on the Amazon,” said Shona Mason, an honorary clinical teacher at the University of Dundee School of Dentistry in Scotland. “I’m still here because this project is executed well. We take care not to undermine the existing local healthcare system. Rather, we aim to encourage its development, help it to achieve its goals, and make life better for people in the region.”

Since 2007, more than 60 students from the dental school have volunteered for the program, which typically includes about 10 days spent on one of the tenders. A qualified dentist from the United Kingdom accompanies them as they carry out basic restorative procedures or extractions. During their downtime, they get to explore the region, meet villagers, and socialize with their hosts.

“There are many motives for being involved in global volunteer dentistry—faith-based ones, humanitarian ones, or a desire to see a different world and be part of it for a while,” said Mason. “We dentists and dental care practitioners have skills that are transferrable globally. We are a practical people who see a need and want to respond to it.”

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