New York City – Dental Volunteers of Israel (DVI), an organization that provides oral health care services to the children of Jerusalem regardless of background, celebrated its 30th anniversary on Sunday night, Nov. 28, with a gala celebration at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Lower Manhattan during the Greater New York Dental Meeting.
Dr Nedal Alayyan was named DVI Volunteer of the Year. During his remarks, Alayyan recounted his experience as a child growing up in Jerusalem and being treated at the DVI clinic. Inspired by that early experience, Alayyan became a dentist himself and now gives back to today’s children of Jerusalem through DVI.
Stanley M. Bergman, chairman and CEO of Henry Schein, delivered the evening’s keynote address. In remembering the late Trudi Birger, founder of DVI, Bergman said, “Trudi was a humanitarian, a visionary and an entrepreneur. She realized that a healthy smile enables a child to eat, sleep, study and grow up without the distraction of pain associated with poor oral health.”
“Now in its 30th year, the energy of the DVI program continues to grow, as evidenced by the letters of praise and support the organization received every day from volunteers of all walks of life, in every dental specialty, and from all over the world,” Bergman said.
Ambassador Meron Reuben, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations and to Columbia, also offered remarks to gala attendees.
Steve Kess, vice president of global professional relations for Henry Schein, Dr Allen Helfer, president of the American Friends of DVI, and Ran Tuttnauer, CEO of Tuttnauer Ltd. and a member of the DVI board, were also honored.
Since its founding in 1980, DVI has been providing free dental care to Jerusalem’s most underprivileged children. At the state-of-the-art Trudi Birger Dental Clinic, children of all faiths referred by the Department of Social Welfare are treated by dentists from around the world.
Volunteering services range from routine to complex dental procedures. DVI also runs a comprehensive preventative dental care program to help young patients develop good, long-term oral health habits. This worldwide work is made possible not only by the dentists who come to Israel and donate their time and expertise, but also by businesses and individuals who donate supplies, equipment and financial resources for DVI’s operating budget.
DVI’s Trudi Birger Dental Clinic is the only free facility of its kind in Jerusalem – without it thousands of children would have no access to dental care. Children in need from all religious and ethnic groups are treated at the clinic, and every child who comes to the clinic participates in an oral health education session with their family to promote improved oral hygiene for life. Since its founding, the clinic has treated more than 20,000 children. In 2009 the clinic provided 13,411 treatments for 3,353 children with the help of its staff and 141 volunteer dentists.
Although oral care is a key contributor to overall health, it is often considered an unaffordable luxury to underserved people who have little choice but to do without it. The situation is dire in Israel. Right now there are over 50,000 children living in poverty in Jerusalem and the numbers are continuing to rise. DVI treats thousands of these children each month at the clinic, yet there are still thousands more who need help.
There is no other organization that provides comprehensive free dental care and education to disadvantaged children in Israel. DVI has won awards from the mayor of Jerusalem, the Israel Ministry of Health and the Movement for a Better Israel, which lauded DVI for encouraging brotherhood and tolerance between Jews and Arabs.