Wisconsin Dells Celebrates Dental Services for Greek Islands
The Wisconsin Dells Club just finished a big global grant project to renovate dental clinics on five remote Greek islands near Turkey. None of us knew the Rotarians of Athens and Kos, but we somehow managed to complete this mission together. We had lots of help from District 6250, District 2470 and Rotary International. Here is how it happened.
Past District Governor, Edwin Bos, called me to describe a project he had learned of that involved dentistry. We had traveled together in Nepal, so we knew each other, and he felt I would be able to succeed on this endeavor. Our club had never been the primary partner for a Global Grant, but we had helped other clubs by being participating sponsors, so we knew the concept. They are similar to District Grants, just more expensive.
The goal was to renovate dental clinics that were using 40-year-old dental chairs and operating units. It would cost around $70,000 to install new equipment on islands being inundated with Syrian refugees. The  Dodecanese islands of Samos, Lipsi, Symi, Agathonisi and Fourni had well over 10,000 refugees, and their facilities were in poor condition.
The Rotary Club of Wisconsin Dells, with our group of 27, agreed to be the primary sponsor. We met the requirements, so we thought we could succeed. I decided to call dentists I know and ask for contributions. Rotarian dentists, Mike Bender of Fort Atkinson and Betsy Long, of Wisconsin Dells, donated personally, along with non-Rotarian dentists from the US Public Health Service(I worked for them for 20 years) and dentists from around Wisconsin. We gathered the donations needed, which was matched by our district, then matched by Rotary International. The Greek Rotary Clubs in the grant area also donated, along with their district, until we had the necessary funds.
Beginning in 2019, it took much longer than expected to install all the equipment, due to Covid, but the clinics were up and running by the end of 2020. We received photos of the chairs and units, but I wanted to take some dentists over to see what they accomplished. We returned from our trip to Greece in the end of October. It was great meeting all the Greek Rotarians and seeing the clinics in action. The refugees have now moved elsewhere, but the clinics are treating poor Greek citizens with full time dentists.
Greek Rotary meetings are not quite like ours. We meet from noon until 1 on Thursdays. They start their meetings at 8 pm. We attended quite a few, and none of them were done until around midnight. They were very appreciative, and shared their Greek culture with us. My club is now working on another, much smaller grant, to help Samos Due to a recent earthquake and the flood of refugees, their needs are great but resources limited.
Submitted by Dave Clemens, DDS, Rotary Club of Wisconsin Dells