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Service club initiated project to send a team of dentists to the earthquake-ravaged country in November

Newberg dentist Eric Bergquam is a veteran international volunteer, having lent his time and expertise on five service trips to places like Nicaragua, Ecuador and Northern India before embarking on his latest, which took him to Nepal in November as part of a project spearheaded by the Newberg Noon Rotary Club.

What Bergquam most appreciated about the two-week trip, aside maybe from having his 13-year-old son, Ian, along as a helper, was its focus on providing sustainable aid rather than just a one-shot of serving patients. SUBMITTED PHOTO - Lending a hand - Dentist Dr. Jon Engelby, of Sedro-Woolley, Wash., treats a young girl during at service trip to Nepal funded by the Newberg Noon Rotary Club.

The sustainable model is a requirement of Rotary International, which sponsored the trip as part of a larger grant program, so the team not only served 500 hundred patients at two three-day “dental camps” but helped train local practitioners and establish two dental clinics with $127,000 worth of equipment donated by A-dec.

“It’s nice to go over there and set some permanent stuff up,” Bergquam said. “The people in Nepal will continue to receive care for years after we left.”

The project was initiated by Newberg Noon Rotary member Laura Tilrico, who became the group’s international chair after moving to the area two years ago.

A Rotarian since 1991, Tilrico had an established relationship with Kathmandu Rotary counterpart Bishnu Subedi from previous aid projects benefitting Nepal and recruited Bergquam, also a member of Newberg’s noon club, and assistant Anina Chism for the trip, along with dentists Dominic Wenzell and Jon Englby. Newberg photographer Jennifer Ferrel, also a local Rotarian, traveled with the team to document the project.

Newberg Noon Rotary put up $8,000 for the project and received $500 donations from clubs in Beaverton, Lake Oswego, the Pearl district and Milwaukee, helping it to earn matching grants from Rotary at the district, national and international levels. Together with the $8,000 provided by Rotary Kathmandu and its district, $45,000 was put towards the effort. SUBMITTED PHOTO - Devastation - Newberg Noon Rotary sent a team of Oregon dentists to Nepal in November to establish a pair of dental clinics, but one of the intended sites had to be demolished due to extensive damage from the massive earthquake there in April. The earthquake killed approximately 9,000 people and injured over 23,000

Bergquam reported that the quality of dental care in Nepal was quite low, which is why establishing two clinics, both of which will have operational costs covered by a local medical center, and training local service providers was so critical.

Because one of the proposed clinic buildings had been irreparably destroyed by the recent earthquake in Nepal, only one clinic has been established so far. Because of an unofficial embargo placed on the country by India, building supplies have not yet been available to reconstruct the second, but Tilrico expects it to be completed by the end of the year.

Among the 500 people who received care at the camps, ages ranged from five to 70, including 50 special needs children.

One camp had to be cancelled because traveling to its remote location was rendered unfeasible from to lack of fuel due to the embargo. The team did trek seven hours by car along a windy and bumpy road from Kathmandu to Chitwan for one camp.

“I do not know how the people have had the bravery and strength to endure the scale of the devastation we saw,” Ferrell said. “And they were so grateful and kind to us.”

Both Bergquam and Tilrico were effusive in their praise for Subedi, who organized the dental camps and accommodations for the team.

“We’re partners with the Rotary in Kathmandu and they did a great job setting up and advertising,” Bergquam said. “We had a lot of good patients. They had a couple of the local dentists and mid-level dental providers and we worked with them. That was a huge plus. They needed help and we showed them some techniques.”

Bergquam was pleased with how the trip functioned as a cultural exchange, especially for Ian, who had previously traveled with him on a service trip to Nicaragua.

“He did see another part of the world, how the rest of the world lives, how devastating an earthquake can be and, unfortunately, how international politics works with the embargo, where they couldn’t get stuff fixed,” Bergquam said. “It was eye opening to him, I think.”

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