July 1, 2022

Making a Difference, One Smile at a Time

How a Filipino dentist is helping provide dental care in Africa’s most forgotten regions.

Edward Rodriguez, Southern Asia-Pacific Division, and Adventist Review

The more than 8,000 registered dentists in Africa serve an approximate population of 1.2 billion people. That is a dentist-to-person ratio of 1:150,000. This statistic shows how challenging it is for people on this continent to receive dental health. Most people in these areas long for proper dental health, sanitation, and improvement of life; however, due to poverty and various other challenges, these necessities seem impossible to reach.

A group of dental practitioners saw the immense need for dental health care in these places and proposed a program to help make a change and improve lives, which became International Caring Hands. Meriam Fajutagana joined them; she is a dentist who grew up in the Philippines and dedicated her life to the mission of making people smile through proper dental health care.

Meriam’s life journey as a missionary started in high school. At an early age, she had a dream of becoming an accountant. Her passion for mathematics was what made her so interested in the profession, and she believed that accountancy would be the best match for her. 

During her high school years, she got involved in a variety of ministries in school, which led her to a deeper relationship with Christ. Meriam was reading the Bible and praying earnestly for God’s leading, and it was during these times that she understood God’s message for her. She learned that medical missionary work is the right hand of the gospel, and through God’s healing, people will get to know how mighty and powerful our Savior is. This encouraged Meriam to become a missionary.

“I know taking a medical course is quite expensive, but my decision to take dentistry is something that encouraged me to do more for Him and reach out to more people through the medical field,” she says.

Despite the financial difficulties, Meriam decided to pursue her career in dentistry, and eventually she could get her license to practice.

Meriam finished her degree in dentistry at the Adventist University of the Philippines. Her passion for learning dentistry, partnered with her love for the mission, was reinforced and amplified at the university. 

Today, Meriam is part of a team reaching out to African families seeking health care services as a missionary dentist for International Caring Hands. The team goes to various places to reach people who need health assistance and encourage others to get involved in bringing the good news all over the world. 

With hundreds of families living in places where there is no electricity or in remote areas where it takes days for families to travel by foot to reach the cities, Meriam and other missionary dentists bring the dental clinic closer to them to provide for their needs and introduce the ultimate source of happiness, Jesus.

“We have dental trucks here that carry all our basic equipment to service people who need dental care. These trucks can power our x-ray machines and all our dental equipment. It’s just a blessing to see these people having the opportunity to receive dental services that they have not even experienced their entire life,” Meriam says.

“To see them smile and we get to introduce Jesus to them, it’s just an experience that no amount of money can buy,” she says.

The original version of this story was posted on the Southern Asia-Pacific Division news site.