November 18, 2015 - 11:30 AM
KELOWNA - A group of Kelowna dentists have come together to provide an essential service to a Syrian refugee family who moved to Kelowna this past summer.
The Central Okanagan Refugee Committee has helped bring several families to the Okanagan from Syria. Committee chair Marilyn Perry says although the churches that make up the committee were able to secure all the basics, like a house, furniture, groceries and transportation, dentistry is not something they can provide.
Mohammed Al-Shahoud, 53, his wife Sara, and their five youngest children were brought from Jordan to Kelowna this past July. Most of his teeth had to be removed and he is being treated for a chronic lung disorder, but that doesn’t stop him from smiling.
“There is nothing difficult here (in Canada),” he says. “We are very happy.”
Al-Shahoud’s children are all between the ages of nine and 18, and attending school and learning English. Although they are getting caught up in the classroom, some haven't been to a dentist in years.
Dr. Shane Gagner of Highlands Family Dentistry in Kelowna heard about Al-Shahoud and his family through one of his technicians and decided to offer his help. When he found out six people needed updated X-rays, examinations and possibly treatments, he decided to reach out to the dentistry community.
“At the last Kelowna Dental Society meeting we got an email list going of guys that were interested, at this point I wasn’t asking for a commitment to provide treatment it was more if they are interested in being in the loop,” he says. “We have more than six dentists (who are interested).”
Once the initial exams and X-rays are done, the files will be sent to local dentists who are willing to volunteer their time. Any major problems that need to be addressed will be decided on a case-by-case basis.
“It isn’t what first crossed our mind,” he says. “What first crossed our mind was maybe they have some basic needs we can take care of to get them to more of a stable point. Whether or not any major needs are met will be up to the individual practitioner. Each of the family members is different. Some have had treatment in the last couple years and several have not had treatment for quite a number of years.”
Gagner agrees it is his first priority to look after the needs of locals, but that now includes Mohammed and his family.
“At this point they are locals,” he says. “It doesn’t really matter to me if they’re new to town or have been here for 30 years. The more we integrate them into some of the basic services we provide for other locals who have needs they can’t meet... then that’s a win.”
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