GREATNESS FROM SMALL BEGINNINGS...

by Aryan Panchmatia

Published: 11th September 2019

Aryan Panchmatia is an A-Level student at Kisumu Senior Academy who will be pursuing his further studies in Dentistry in 2020. He has been an active volunteer at RKF for 2 years and shares great enthusiasm for creating awareness about Oral Hygiene.

 

When I first heard about The Rahul Kotak Foundation (RKF), I was rather skeptical about wanting to be a part of their workshops. Unfortunately due to the reputation many Kenyan NGOs have, I assumed they were another charity that prioritized fundraising and money over actual ground work. My misconception about RKF lasted for a whole year until I joined them for their 2018 workshops.

Upon meeting with the RKF team and volunteers, I found myself actually enjoying the presence of the company I was in. The discussions we had were very engaging and even amusing at times. Bringing together such a diverse group of people allowed us to come up with different solutions to the challenges ahead of us. The sessions were not boring; in fact the team games we played helped us focus and work together as a unit, something I didn’t expect but now cherish as part of my volunteering experience with RKF.

Since this blog is about my experience as part of the Dental & Oral Hygiene Workshops we carried out, I must point out a few important yet disturbing facts. A newspaper report by ‘The Standard Kenya’ reveals that cases of tooth decay occur in 34.3% of the Kenyan adult population and 46.3% amongst children. These statistics illustrate the increasing need for awareness about the importance of oral hygiene.

The Rahul Kotak Foundation recognizes the prevailing problems that many children, especially those that are vulnerable, are facing and is certainly contributing by coming up with creative solutions. It is unfortunate to witness children as young as twelve years having nasty cavities, and in most instances, not being able to afford the expensive treatment that would remedy their problems.

But I must stress that the problem starts with lack of awareness.

The 2018 RKF workshops lasted from 1st July to 6th July. The Dental and Oral Hygiene workshops lasted for two days, which was, in my opinion, adequate time needed to educate the targeted age groups of 4-9 year olds across two schools: Valley Academy in Nyalenda  and Elimu de Ark near United Mall. In 2019, the workshops took place at Next Gen Immaculate ECD Centre & SHAMCO ECD Centre, both in Nyamasaria. The workshops have resulted in over 450 students learning about the importance of maintaining good oral hygiene.

The workshops were headed by Dr. Bansri Raval, who was very enthusiastic to have us help in teaching the young children the appropriate brushing methods. Most of the team of volunteers were even surprised to hear that we had been brushing our teeth in the wrong way! Apparently, the toothbrush is meant to be moved vertically and not horizontally…

The workshops were planned in a way to ensure an equal amount of attention was given to each child. Volunteers were divided into different teams and assigned to different age groups. The best part about working in these teams was how well we all adapted to our roles and worked united as a whole. It was amazing to notice how easy communicating in Kiswahili had become with the children, since each team had at least one competent Kiswahili speaker – who would be our constant lifeline!

The resources put together by ‘The Rahul Kotak Foundation’ included toothbrushes, toothpastes, dental models, and educational charts. Each and every child, a few of whom had never even seen a toothbrush prior to the workshop, went back home not just with the correct brushing techniques and an education about oral hygiene, but also with their very own brand new toothbrush and toothpaste to help them continue practicing what they learnt. MY favourite take away from the workshops, and dare I say many of the children’s favourite take away was the brushing song. Brush, brush, brush your teeth… (sing it like you would sing row, row, row your boat and it will be stuck in your head for weeks to come).

Personally, I believe that we had achieved our goals that we had set out for the workshops. You could tell by the excitement and enthusiasm with which each child received their set of toothbrushes and toothpastes, and their eagerness to demonstrate what they had been taught. At the end of the day, we were confident that these children were definitely more educated about the importance of their oral hygiene.

The title I chose for this blog is from one of my favourite video games called ‘Uncharted’. I felt that it would have been easier to relate the impact that ‘The Rahul Kotak Foundation’ is having on the society to the saying. Day by day RKF is growing bigger and better. They are enabling underprivileged children access to amenities that have been for so long out of their reach. Apart from their Meals program that serves over 5,000 meals every week, they are trying to improve the quality of education students receive in the slums and rural areas of Kisumu. Think about the enormous amounts of potential that could go wasted if not given the opportunity. Every one of us is equal, even though our circumstances may be different. And it is the resilience of the people that allows them to rise from the most devastating of situations and break out of vicious cycles of poverty. 

I am certainly looking forward to contribute to another one of RKF’s endless efforts at changing the lives of many individuals. To a brighter future with equity…

Would you like to volunteer with RKF? Write us an email on info@therahulkotakfoundation.org with your details and availability.                                         

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