I think a lot about you and D.V.I. these painful days for you and Israel.
It hurt me so much to see and hear all the condemnation about my beloved Israel
and Her people. How is the situation with the volunteers? If you have got
cancellations in November, December or January, I would love to volunteer
two weeks. I wish you all the best,”
so writes Arne H. of Oslo, Norway, dentist and frequent volunteer of the
Dental Volunteers for Israel program.
D.V.I., established in 1980 by Trudi
Birger, is a non-discriminatory, free dental clinic for needy children. The
clinic is staffed by volunteer dentists from around the world. These dedicated
volunteers, both Jewish and non-Jewish, come from over 13 countries. They
leave their own dental practices for a minimum of two weeks and travel at
personal expense to Jerusalem. D.V.I. supplies rent-free housing to the volunteers.
To date, over 4,000 professionals have volunteered in the program and treated
more than 40,000 children. Drs. Bengtson, father and son, from the U.S.,
and Drs. Bijloo, father and daughter, from the Netherlands, have turned this
volunteer opportunity into a family event.
The children, referred [by the Dept.
of Social Welfare of the Municipality of Jerusalem] to the clinic, represent
a microcosm of Israeli life. Children and parents of Jewish, Palestinian,
Russian, and Ethiopian backgrounds meet in the clinic’s waiting room.
But there are conditions to being accepted
as a patient. Trudi Birger is quite clear when she states that each child
must attend three dental hygiene classes of 45 minutes each. A large TV screen
dominates the classroom where an ethnic mix of children sits on long benches
and watches specially prepared videos that artfully teach the young viewers
how to brush, floss, and eat properly. The children are given worksheets
and must pass a written test which Trudi herself checks. These classes are
conducted at the D.V.I. Suzanne Dellal Prevention Clinic which is in a small
building next to the clinic. Once the child is a patient, (s)he must return
every six months for a check-up.
Trudi Birger, D.V.I. founder and president,
knows the meaning of suffering first-hand. A Holocaust survivor whose childhood
in Frankfurt, Germany, came to an abrupt end in 1933 when the family began
the first in a series of moves to evade Hitler’s army, Mrs. Birger vowed to
alleviate the suffering of children if she were to survive those terrible
years. True to her word, she eventually established Dental Volunteers for
Israel. The rewards of her dedication and hard work can be seen
in the smiles of the 150 children who are treated daily at the D.V.I. clinic
Mrs. Birger credits the ever-growing
circle of faithful volunteers who continue to give freely of their time and
expertise. On the day that @The Source visited the clinic, Dr.
Erkki Kuusisto, the D.V.I. representative in Finland, was present. This
is Dr. Kuusisto’s 9th working visit to Israel. Often he is accompanied by
his wife and they have toured the country extensively in their “free” time.
The majority of dental supplies necessary
for the successful operation of D.V.I. is generously donated by Henry Schein
Inc., under the direction of company CEO, Stanley M. Bergman.
In recognition of her extraordinary
dedication to the dental needs of Jerusalem’s poor children, and the success
of D.V.I., Alpha Omega Foundation,
the veteran international dental organization, will confer on Mrs. Birger
the title of Honorary Member, on December 25, 2000.