About the History
Himalayan Dental has evolved since 2011 when we met Ang Tshering Sherpa as our tour guide in Tibet. He spoke about his village in remote part of the Everest region of Nepal and the health clinic they were developing. The village of Junbesi and the surrounding valley had no access to dental services. Phaplu the regional town was 4 hours trek away and only occasionally had a government dentist in the local hospital. The people of these villages are mainly subsistence farmers with little money. The men are often away during trekking season working as guides or porters. Some may be away for longer periods working in Kathmandu or overseas; leaving wife children and grandparents to run the house and small farm.
After much research and many emails April 2012 found us in Junbesi with a package of portable dental equipment, instruments and supplies where we set up our first clinic. This proved to be a huge success, 170 patients were treated, we were able perform restorative dentistry as well as extractions. One of our helpers, Shelly Voight from Western Australia asked us if we could establish a similar clinic in the village of Ghandruk in the Annapurna region of Nepal. Shelly is involved in a fund raising organisation which supports their developing health centre. As a result, November of that year saw us establish a dental clinic in the Village of Ghandruk.
From 2013 we have visited Nepal every year for a 2 month period holding dental clinics in both villages.
The Villages and Clinics
Junbesi at a height of 2600m, in the Solukhumbu region of Nepal is on the original Everest track from Jiri, but nowadays is by- passed by trekkers heading for Everest who prefer to fly to Lukla, resulting in a downturn of trekkers passing through the village. Junbesi is a Sherpa village and the population is Budhist. Set in beautiful valley with opportunities to trek to see the Everest range.
Kushudebu Public Health Mission Nepal is the name of the clinic. It has limited support from the Nepalese Government, but its main source of funds is from an Australian based organisation “Friends of Junbesi” and the Wilderness School in Adelaide. The clinic serves a population of around 6000. Patients will walk for several hours to attend our clinics.
The clinic also serves two Monasteries, Chupten Choling(3000 m) two hours further up the valley where 450 refugee Tibetan monks and nuns reside, and Serlo(2800m), a teaching monastery with 100 boys aged 6-16 .
To get to Junbesi from Kathmandu involves a 40 minute flight in a small aircraft to Phaplu. Schedules are very weather dependant. The alternative option is a 12 hour drive over roads which vary from quite good to goat tracks! From Phaplu it’s a 4-5 hour trek up the valley to Junbesi. Weather permitting there is now a 4WD track up the valley.
Junbesi was extensively damaged by the 2015 earthquake. The medical centre is functioning and our dental equipment survived. The village is still in the process of rebuilding.
Ghandruk at a height of 2000m is on the main trekking route in the Annapurna’s. This is a typical Nepalese Hindu village set in a spectacular setting with views of the Annapurna’s.
Sanjiwani Public Health Mission is the name of the clinic. It also has some support from the Government, but is otherwise supported by Sanjiwani Australia. The clinic services surrounding villages with a population of 7000+. Once again patients will spend several hours walking to see us and be treated.
Getting to Ghandruk requires a short flight to Pokhara, Nepal’s second city, followed by 2-3 hours in a 4WD, initially on asphalt roads, but then 1.5 hours up the valley on a rough gravel track. A 1.5 hour trek then brings you to Ghandruk.
Since 2011 we have had 5 trips to Nepal, expanding and improving the dental facilities each visit, enabling us to provide a good range of restorative, and preventative dental services as well as extractions.
Setting up these clinics and organising our annual visits has only been possible through the help and enthusiasm of the following people.
Ang Tshering Sherpa who now runs his own trekking company Keep Walking Nepal and is Chairman of the committee that runs Kushudebu.
Osheen Lama senior nurse at Kushudebu Public health Mission in Junbesi.
Bir Singh Gurung, a senior guide for World Expeditions who organises our visits to Ghandruk.
Chudamani Pant health assistant in charge of Sanjiwani Public Health Mission in Ghandruk.
Shelly Voigt of Sanjwani Australia
Jagan Gurung who organizes women’s groups in the Annapurna region, promoting literacy, health education and information about health services in general.
Funding. We raise funds independently of the organizations that support the two health clinics, this means all funds go towards dental equipment and supplies which we can share between the two venues. We have been fortunate in receiving donations of dental materials from several dental supply companies. Our policy has been to keep the equipment portable simple and inexpensive, servicing modern complex western dental equipment in these remote areas would be a nightmare. We hope in the future to expand our activities to service other remote villages.
Dr John Niven