Opening Speech by the President of the
Foundation Dentists Without Limits | Stiftung Zahnärzte ohne Grenzen

Dr. Claus Macher on the occasion of the Annual Meeting 2012
on April 28, 2012, at Heilig Geist Haus 2 in Nuremberg
and the presentation by Prof. Dr. Noak, Cologne

Honored Ladies and Gentlemen,

a hearty thank-you for honoring the 2012 Annual Meeting of the Foundation Dentists Without Limits. For simplicity’s sake I will sometimes name the Foundation by its abbreviation “DWLF.”

Our foundation DWLF has been in existence for 6½ years now, and I would like to give you a short overview of its development:

It began with an idea: the thought that it must be possible to counter poverty effectively, without producing much in the way of administrative costs. The aid worker should see the results of his or her work and not just “ransom” himself / herself with money, without knowing what happens with that money.

At the end of 2004 I founded the non-profit organization with my own funds; later the Foundation was recognized also as a charitable entity. In the beginning there was just a handful of enthusiastic people who supported this Foundation.

It was an experiment, and in the beginning days none of us knew whether the idea could be brought to reality. But we never lost heart, despite the many highs and lows. I think especially of the founding members, who were ready to stay the course with me. Here I would like to mention my colleagues Sybille Keller and Bernd Vesper and Wolfgang Credner, our webmaster Sebastian Feldmann (without whom nothing would go forward), our graphic artist Hans Naber, our Business Administrator (and my wife) Tuul Sodnompil, our English translator in the USA, Jere Armen, and the jurist Claudia Mund-Heller, who have always staunchly stood—and still stand—by me with commitment in word and deed.

But also to all those whose honest criticism has brought me to think things over.

Now, in 2012, the Foundation DWLF is a recognized organization. We have more than 1000 active members of the Foundation, and the group of helpers who are active in the spirit of DWLF grows constantly.

Dentists belong to a professional group that can help people at eye level and relieve them of their pain. Above all DWLF works on the philosophy of mutual understanding, compromise and conciliation.

  • It is interesting and also exciting to let oneself in for the adventure of helping personally.
  • Manpower is more important than moneypower.
  • To work towards balanced societies.
  • No politics, no religions.
  • To give one’s tithe to the needy and poor, as every religion demands and is meaningful.  To take a working vacation.

These are the precepts which DWLF and its helpers represent. That is why all religions can be found among the DWLF helpers, and the locations for the DWLF projects have been deliberately placed in countries with the most diverse cultures and religions.

“Without limits” means more than the call to surmount national borders.

We want rather to surmount the blockades in minds that have piled up historical events, religions, prejudices against skin colors, foreign cultures, nationality, social origins and class—this is the focal point of European philosophy, which culminates in the line from the Anthem for Europe: “All men shall be brothers.” 

A vision, yes, certainly, but in this age of the Internet, of comprehensive information and of common problems, a compelling necessity for the future. Many see this and talk about it—DWLF translates this into practical reality, creates precedents, and makes it possible for you to be active in the most diverse religious and cultural areas. 

Practically speaking we can achieve this first by giving our aid-work a secure footing through agreements (like the Memorandum of Understanding) with the respective ministries of health or organizations close to them and then by arranging the technical details.

We find an effective synergy appropriate:

Some donate and collect, so that DWLF can invest and others can help in the field. This DWLF system can only function in the long run, as we are well aware, when all those working together gain an advantage from it.

The advantage for you lies therein that you, working as a rule within the framework of a four-person group—there is a sort of dental jungle-camp atmosphere—with our mobile MDDC (Mobile DWLF DENTAL CLINIC), can collaborate professionally and compare experiences and practices with colleagues from very different regions. In addition, it’s fun and brings you the dentist out of your cage; you‘re not surrounded by competition but rather by colleagues from very different areas of Europe—at the moment primarily from German-speaking areas. Often lasting friendships develop from this work together.

Certainly you should gather information for yourself from your colleagues—that is part of the reason for this meeting—about what awaits you in disadvantaged areas. “To live for two weeks as 90% of the world’s people live all the time.” You can read that on our website. In addition, I could, if we still have time at the end, tell you some nice stories, without naming names.

But there is also the opportunity, through the free or low-cost room and board accommodations during your mission that DWLF has arranged, to take an inexpensive working vacation uncommonly rich with experiences, like no other.

And, under certain conditions, it is also possible to earn continuing education credits for yourself.

If you would like to promote publicity for the DWLF philosophy:

Hometown newspapers eagerly run articles, especially since your striking commitment is not encountered every day. Recently the chairperson of a club called me and expressed the opinion that the article about Dr. So-and-so went too far; other club members who were also dentists were now complaining. The dentist claimed that she had paid the flight costs for herself and the others of her team in order to volunteer her help in Africa. Women from the club were now talking about the Mother Teresa from “XY” and that a dedicated woman like that was the one to go to for treatment.

I could only say, “The dentist is not lying; she has spoken correctly. In fact, beyond that she had also organized a donation collection for DWLF.”  

Inwardly I was cheering.

After all, it was justified, and it went directly contrary to the motto: Do a little charitable work and talk about it a lot and at length. To get oneself in a lather because a colleague has significantly and publicly raised the image and esteem for the dental profession is very petty-minded and can only be coming from an anxiety at losing patients to another who has seen the signs of the times.

There is only one response: follow her example!

And as to the comparison with Mother Teresa: my 91-year-old mother-in-law, probably the oldest registered worker in Nuremberg, gave me a postage stamp last week with the words: that fits you all. On the stamp was the proposition from Mother Teresa: “Poverty has not been created by God. We have brought it forth, you and I, with our egotism.” I think our colleague belongs to that group of the few who think about uncomfortable truths and then decide for themselves to do something meaningful. For me, this colleague is a role model.

The advantage for the disadvantaged in the host countries is obvious.

In countries that are still walking in the baby shoes of democracy, this means that the politicians who support us must recognize that they can win elections without having to buy the votes, simply by thinking about their disadvantaged people. For they too have a vote. Therefore public relations work in the host country is absolutely necessary and meaningful, and those politicians who support a good thing should not go unmentioned.   

The surgeon and DWLF Business Administrator Prof. Dr. Tuul Macher has shown by example in Mongolia how to conduct a Press Day.” In 2011, after our huge mission campaign, 9 television networks and 12 newspapers were present. Many telephone calls showed great general interest. I owe her my special thanks. There is something special about Prof. Tuul Macher: she has a Mongolian passport and may only use the name “Macher” in Germany. For Mongolian visitors it is important to know that in other countries she is known only by the name of Prof. Tuul Sodnompil.

The advantage for the PMG is a regular income. The PMG is our reliable partner in the host country who sees to it that the MDDC is functioning and ready for missions and that the instruments haven’t suddenly sprouted wings. The PMG plans the missions with the government along the guidelines of the Foundation (2/3 of the time for charity work and 1/3 for cultural experiences) and gets the equipment to their locations. DWLF can pay him for his efforts and he can rely on a regular income.

The advantage for DWLF is: it can expand the business staff and technology to fit the needs, maintaining efficiency and functionality. DWLF cannot function in any other way.

Therefore please consider any calls for donations or offers of support packets—which make the organization substantially easier—this way:

DWLF is subject to the constant scrutiny of the Finance Office; DWLF may use its funds only within the scope of statutes, and the ratio of days devoted to charitable activity and to associated cultural trips may not be less than 2:1. Not one bit of your donations disappears, and you will find the salaries for the business staff in the lower third of the pay scale.

I myself have only financial disadvantages—but the advantage of seeing an idea that I thought meaningful grow and thrive.

As for the argument that we have needy people here in Germany too:

In Nuremberg Dr. Lohbauer, together with DWLF,  will be installing a useful walk-in care center, in which many colleagues will be able to participate.

There will be a symposium about that this year.

For this reason some DWLF helpers have been driving to Ingolstadt, to the ecumenical Franciscan Brother Martin, who for many years was successfully active here in Nuremberg with his street ambulance” and as a street worker, and who gave us many sensible and time-tested tips during a 3-hour conversation with us. He is for us an absolutely compelling man, who has, on his own initiative, now set something marvelous on its feet in Ingolstadt.

Further happy news:

Thanks to tireless follow-ups with various insurance companies, Mr. Herbert Pretzl has prepared a DWLF-Insurance Package,which covers the period of a mission and can be purchased for 40 Euro. It contains, among other things, liability insurance up to 5 mill. and a small accident insurance policy (10K death, 50K disability) that was wrapped up especially for DWLF after tough negotiations. We expect a tax-deductible “support donation to DWLF” (“Förderspende an DWLF”) in the amount of 40 Euro. It will become part of the “Organization Support Package”(“Organisationunterstützungspaket) or “benefits package” that will be offered by DWLF. The DWLF insurance package will go into effect as of May 1, 2012.

Even happier news:

Those traveling to Mongolia will find it included in the benefits package.

At this point we would ask you, if you have been convinced by our commitment:

  • To collect old gold for DWLF  (we will send you the components for the waiting room and tips)
  • To donate money to DWLF, which is tax-deductible within the guidelines of the law.
    • It would help us very much if you would authorize an annual contribution by automatic bank transfer of not less than 50 Euro. With this regular and reliable stream of donations, we can plan better for the future.

You are donating to a meaningful cause, which will fully benefit the engagement of your colleagues in the field.

What do we need in general in the way of materials and instruments?

All kinds of small instruments—forceps, elevators, drill tips, turbines, corner- and handpieces; and materials like anaesthetics and filling materials—in short, everything that our ant transport” (luggage / backpacks) can carry.

Whom do we need in Nuremberg?

  • Helpers to allocate and assign instruments and materials according to the information provided by the PMGs. They can be dental assistants who are retired or otherwise have time. Dental assistants will also be financially supported on missions in the future, since they are often in financial straits but can do an infinite amount of good in the spirit of the DWLF idea.
    • In the meantime several firms have declared that it would be easier for them to send a larger package to the Business Office every half year, which DWLF should then distribute. This requires a greater effort from DWLF. Only a few hours a week are needed; the staff in the Business Office and possibly also our colleague Dr. Lehmann will help you wih that. The appropriate materials will be given to the next helpers heading out for the project in question to take along—we call that our “cost-effective ant transport.”  
  • Helpers who could take photos at regional events.
  • Helpers who can take on individual assigned tasks in the Business Office if things are getting tight.

Whom do we need as helpers?

In Mongolia: Assistants and dentists (Great Mission Campaign) in August, 2012

In Namibia: Assistants and dentists (new country—equipment should arrive within a few days). Missions can take place here all year round.

Now, in conclusion, I would like to explain to you why we have especially chosen these particular continuing education topics that Prof. Michael Noak of Cologne and Dominik Fischer of Bayreuth have cordially undertaken to present.

Prof. Noak will speak about a new evidence-based method in caries therapy that he investigated that spares the patient pain and preserves the tooth. With this method he stands in opposition to the conventional school of thought of many professors. He can treat with less pain, and far fewer nerve canals are traumatized—consequently hardly any root canal treatments are performed. This should be a challenge to treatment using his method in the future, especially in disadvantaged countries—there we have only the alternatives of extraction or filling as per Prof. Noak, since root canal treatments are seldom possible. Our colleague Prof. Dr. Reich from Biberach has used Prof. Noak‘s method successfully in his private practice for quite a while now. He will be giving a lecture in Asia this year, as will DWLF, to which all the ASEAN nations are invited.

Mr. Dominik Fischer was most warmly recommended to us as an outstanding expert in his field, and, in a compressed emergency first aid course with practical exercises, he will address the life-threatening complications that can arise in your practice and especially on Outreach missions. He will also tell you what is especially important to take with you on your missions. We will publish his list on our website. On Outreach missions you won’t have an medical doctor with you, after all; therefore it is important to know what to do.

The course will take place in this room we are now in.

What are DWLF‘s visions?

  • To help out and establish ourselves in even more countries and cultures, and to inspire even more helpers and to show them: helping out is fun.
  • To convince even more European, non-German-speaking colleagues of the DWLF philosophy in order to help the needy in former colonial countries and other needy areas.
  • To expand the range of services in select areas as appropriate, so that slowly the local assistants can take them over. For example:
    • On the occasion of the 100th anniversary celebration of the Dentaurum Company, I asked several orthodontists if they would be prepared to conduct  therapeutic consultations with their colleagues in disadvantaged countries via Skype (Internet).
    • The response was enormous. The idea is to get started in orthodontics with removable appliances—after the model of Prof. Korkhaus, where it is feasible and appropriate to the situation. Forty years ago here in Germany, many orthodontists were using this method exclusively. The appliances can be made simply and cost-effectively by native technicians and can therefore help those who suffer because of tooth-placement anomalies.  
  • To financially assist those volunteers for their missions who otherwise, for financial reasons, could not afford to help. We are thinking of dental assistants and dentists who need this. Yes, there are those too: good, dedicated dentists who have filed for personal bankruptcy and now, at almost 60 years old, are left with nothing.

In conclusion I would like to thank all our helpers who have volunteered their aid to needy people in the spirit of DWLF in the field; the donors and patrons; and, above all, the three staff members in the Business Office, namely, the surgeon Prof. Tuul Macher, Kolman Deuerlein, and Franka Selz for the success and the growth of the Foundation.

Not least my thanks go out to the city of Nuremberg and especially to the representative, Dr. Schürgers, the press, and the representatives of the dental profession and their media, who have always had an open ear for our concerns.

I thank you for your attentiveness.

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