by Dinah Ventura
For 25 years, the medical-dental missions conducted with Japanese Rotarians have been bringing smiles all over the Philippines and beyond
Every year since 1981-82, a team of Japanese Rotarians arrive in Manila bearing a load of gifts – a variety of medical and dental aids, their time, expertise, commitment and an endless well of generosity.
Theirs is no ordinary mission.
From a goodwill visit by the members of Rotary Club of Itako, Japan, headed by the late PP Takeo Naka, who was a physician by profession, this charitable pursuit has gone beyond duty to heartfelt commitment, conducted at least thrice yearly through a matched club agreement in 1983 between the Rotary Club of Downtown Manila (RCDM) and R.C. Itako (District 2820).
Rotarian Dr. Yo Omori, who had been joining the mission from the beginning, took up the cudgels after Dr. Naka passed away. The dedicated dentist, who later became president of R.C. Itako, has continued to lead the Japanese team year in and year out, quietly yet efficiently touching the lives of poor Filipinos and those who have been fortunate enough to witness their kindness. Unknowingly, PP Omori has, many times over, mended old wounds made during the second world war in this part of the world.
For his work, Dr. Omori has received the Rotary International’s highest recognition award, “Service Above Self,” as well as a Japanese government award for his service and dedication to our countrymen.
This international medical-dental mission, to date, has conducted countless missions to various locations in the Philippines — from Metro Manila to Mindoro, Bulacan, Tarlac, Laguna, Batangas, Baguio, Bohol, Iloilo, Bacolod, Cebu, Boracay, Palawan and Davao. Together with members of RCDM and some Filipino dentists, the mission also went once to Cambodia and twice to Pakistan. Thousands of indigent patients have received free medical and oral healthcare treatments through these missions.
Its rousing success inspired the members of RCDM to conceptualize and later adopt WCS Project No. WO 4185, the formal registration of which was encouraged by the support of R.I. Districts 2670 and 2820.
Through the dental missions and proper education, the WCS project strives to help improve the general dental health of Filipinos who cannot afford to pay for or are unable to have access to these services. According to statistics, 91.6% of the population has dental caries and 78% has gum disease.
The cause of “bringing smiles” was soon blessed with a Mobile Dental Van, which has been instrumental in the undertaking. During the incumbency of PP Ben Pineda, the initial contribution for the Mobile Dental Van was made through a WCS donation by PDG Masaru Hara of District 2670 during his term as district governor in RY 1999-2000.
The Mobile Dental Van was inaugurated by DG Hideaki Ota of District 2670 and PP Omori on March 7, 2001 in Manila. The custom-made dental vehicle was locally constructed and assembled with the financial assistance of Rotarians.
With this dental van, other Rotary clubs have also been able to conduct their own dental missions, spreading the cause to more beneficiaries all over the Philippines.
Believing that a greater part of dental care is prevention, RCDM members have also taken it upon themselves to organize school visits, lectures and symposia to spread information on proper dental care and hygiene. They form tie-ups with local Rotary clubs, schools, local government units and non-government organizations to facilitate their activities.
Such has been its impact that other Rotary Clubs have joined in the altruistic venture, including clubs from R.I. District 2550 and Districts 3790, 3800, 3820 and 3830, which have made use of the Mobile Dental Van for their dental service projects.
This noble undertaking achieves the sheen of silver this year, gleaming with the bright smiles of Dr. Omori’s team of Japanese volunteers, now coming up to more than 100, and like-minded Filipino brothers.