DeCare Dental, Ireland’s only dedicated dental insurance, oral health and wellness company, based in Claremorris, Co. Mayo has been one of the founding members of the Open Doors Initiative and has been involved in a number of initiatives to provide opportunities into the workplace including employment opportunities and educational seminars for those people most in need in Irish society.
One such successful initiative has been the collaboration between DeCare Dental and the direct provision centre in Ballyhaunis, Co. Mayo. The centre accommodates 193 refugees and asylum seekers from 16 different countries such as The Congo, Albania, Yemen, Nigeria, Malaysia, Uganda, Sierra Leon and South Africa. Petraea Costello, HR Manager at DeCare Dental connected with Natalya Pestova, a Direct Provision and Volunteer Support Worker with South West Mayo Development to find out more about how DeCare Dental could offer their support and expert knowledge on Oral health to these refugees and asylum seekers. When asked why DeCare Dental choose the direct provision centre as part of their involvement in Open doors, Petraea commented ‘We wanted to offer our services to a marginalised group in society that are, to a certain degree, forgotten. On my first visit to the centre with Noeleen Lowry, health promotion specialist at DeCare Dental, we met very well educated, energetic and driven men and women who genuinely want to work and have better and safer lives having fled countries marred by conflict and corruption. We felt compelled to help in some way.’
The ball started rolling and DeCare organised an Oral Health seminar at the Ballyhaunis Direct provision centre on the 8th October 2019. Dental Nurse and health promotion specialist Noeleen Lowry educated the large group on the importance of good oral health and the links with overall health and quality of life. She covered the subject of mouth, head and neck cancer and also the ‘Sugar Connection’ clinic which discusses the effect that added sugars can have on your health especially your oral health. She demonstrated how to measure the amount of sugar in everyday foods and went through various popular brands. Ola Mustapha, mother of 3 children and a Nigerian asylum seeker who attended the seminar commented that ‘it was an eye opener to go through the sugar content in food. I took away some invaluable oral hygiene tips from Noeleen. I will always read the food labels from now on!’ Natalya Pestova, the direct provision and volunteer support worker who also attended the seminar on the day had this to say; ‘Asylum seekers are disconnected from mainstream health promotion support due to their institutionalised status in Ireland. It was great to see DeCare Dental come in to Direct Provision centre to deliver an oral health promotion session for parents. It was a great turnout and everyone enjoyed life-long learning about oral health in a relaxed and very informal environment. The presentation was superb: delivered in a very accessible and fun way, packed with tips, advice and visual aids.’
As the seminar was so successful, DeCare will continue to partner with the centre and will be holding another talk in the new year specifically aimed at school children. Natalya also commented that she is ‘confident this session will benefit oral and overall health for families and particularly children in the long term and we hope to continue this collaboration with DeCare Dental in the future.’ DeCare’s mission is to empower people to improve their oral and general health over a lifetime and hopes that this is just the start of a very successful partnership.