||2015-06-16 오후 4:31:00
Dental bus treats underprivileged children
|Dentist Joo Ji-hoon / Korea Times photo by Kim Bo-eun|
By Kim Bo-eun
"Volunteering frees me from the stress of having to do something for money," said dentist Joo Ji-hoon at a school for North Korean defectors in Bokjeong-dong, Seongnam City, southeast of Seoul.
It is his third year, along with several others in the same profession, who staff the "Happy Smile Dental Bus" which is driven to schools to treat underprivileged children. The inside of the bus is no different from a dental clinic _ it is furnished with two chairs and all kinds of pricy equipment.
During the week, Joo treats patients at his dental clinic and, twice a month, he sets out as a volunteer on the bus.
Joo has been a dentist for 19 years.
Although he acknowledged that his job pays well and can be rewarding, he burned out to some extent five years ago after having to deal with sick patients day after day.
"It's not exactly pleasant when most of your encounters are with ill people," Joo said.
So Joo and fellow dentists put their heads together to see what they could do.
He felt like he owed something to society, because he had received scholarships during his student years. His parents had been unable to pay his tuition.
Then he thought he could give something back using his skills as a dentist.
"When I was serving military duty, there was a dentist bus that came to treat soldiers standing guard. That's where I got the idea," he recalled.
At first, the bus struggled without enough volunteers or a proper system. But with corporate sponsorship, those involved were able to set up an effective, fully operational bus.
"Now we do not face major difficulties, but if there was something I could wish for it would be to have better equipment," Joo said.
|The inside of the dental bus|
The team currently runs an oral care business, Zeniton, that sponsors its volunteering activities.
Until recently, it has treated disabled children, children of multiethnic families and North Korean defector students.
"As we visit and treat children, we find new places and children to treat. Our wish is to set up another bus, upgrade the system and expand the range of treatments," he said.
Joo said it is difficult to find children who do not belong to an institution, and mentioned the need to publicize the bus better in order for more people to gain access to the services provided.
"We have big dreams. We want to make a foundation so that we can continue to treat children without financial concerns," he said.