GOROKAN dentist Tony Collins put his invaluable skills to the ultimate test earlier this year by volunteering in the slums of Madagascar.
After returning from the African island nation where he and a colleague extracted around 1500 teeth from hundreds of people in just a few days, Mr Collins is determined to head back in 2017.
“I saw infections, pain, suffering — you could just not imagine,” the Point Frederick resident told the Express Advocate.
“I’ve done a fair amount of work in East Timor and I’ve seen some pretty shocking dental scenarios, but nothing prepared me for what I saw in Madagascar.
“We had 56 patients one morning and at least 30 at any one time.
“We’d work from sun up to sun down, and sadly we’d have to send 30 home at the end of the day.
“Towards the end of our time there we ran out of anaesthetic — it was shocking.”
The AM recipient is no stranger to tackling big challenges in the name of charity having run from Sydney to Melbourne an incredible five times.
His latest fundraising cause for Thrive Madagascar saw over $3000 raised by Brett Hunter and the Raine & Horne Terrigal-Avoca Beach team at a recent charity auction.
Mr Hunter said it was great to see the community show their support to ensure villagers wouldn’t have to go without pain killers next time around.
“Our first world problems seem insignificant compared to that,” Mr Hunter said.
“Hopefully we’ve provided enough anaesthetic and medical supplies for the full length of Tony’s next stay in order to help those people that are living in far worse conditions than we could ever possibly imagine.”
Mr Collins said his work with Thrive Madagascar opened his eyes to a whole new level of poverty and hardship.
The non-profit organisation provides one of the world’s most impoverished nations with opportunities to lead a healthy and successful life, including dental hygiene.
“The World Bank figures indicate that the average income for Madagascar is $451 a year which shows things have to be pretty desperate there for people to survive,” the 69-year-old said.
“I’ve heard stories of when it’s raining the locals put nets over the storm water outlets so they can collect any pieces of food waste.
“There are 24 million people in the country — it’s about the same size as NSW — and from what I know there are about 57 dentists, which makes 400,000 patients per dentist.
“One dentist can’t see that many patients in a lifetime.”