Sydney dentist Dr Phil Stein recently returned from Jerusalem, where he was one of the many overseas volunteers providing free dental care to Ukrainian refugees.
Dental Volunteers for Israel (DVI) was established by Holocaust survivor Trudi Birger in 1980 and provides free dental care to the 200,000 children in Jerusalem who live below the poverty line, as well as to Holocaust survivors and needy seniors. Since 2016, DVI has been providing free dentures to Holocaust survivors.
The organisation relies heavily on overseas volunteers and Stein has been volunteering there since 1996.
“I’ve done it under the radar a little bit, but it’s an organisation that has no presence in Australia, and it’s an organisation that struggles to survive,” Stein told The AJN.
“If you love Israel and you want to advocate for Israel, this really is a little diamond in the rough because it’s just got humanitarianism oozing out of it. It’s so nondiscriminatory.”
As well as treating seniors, Holocaust survivors and many Charedi children, DVI also treats Palestinians and, more recently, Ukrainian refugees.
“You treat whoever comes in on the day,” Stein said.
“You’re treating a person irrespective of what their attitudes are and I think that shouldn’t come into it. Everyone in there is treated as an individual, no matter what nationality.
“We had some Ukrainian kids, we had some Palestinian kids, but the majority is Charedi kids. The families aren’t well off, so the kids have dental problems and the parents can’t afford to fix them.”
After two years of COVID interruptions, Stein travelled to Jerusalem at the first opportunity this year and has already booked his next trip in 2023.
As much as he puts into DVI, he says the organisation provides him with so much more in return, and he hopes to inspire more Australian dentists to volunteer their time and services.
“They treat you so well there that I almost feel like I get more back than I give,” Stein said.
“The staff are amazing – they’ve been there for a long time. They could all earn a lot more than they do there, but they stay because they like the cause.
“I get a lot out of it. That wasn’t my intention, that was a consequence.”