Since about 1948, refugee camps started as tent cities, then slowly transitioned to concrete blockhouses, and then to densely populated urban ghettos. There are 10 Palestinian refugee camps in Jordan. My most memorable Fulbright opportunity was working with our Jordan University of Science and Technology students and faculty at one of them, the Azami Al Moftee Camp in Al Husn. Our mission was to provide service learning community-based experience for the junior and senior dental hygiene students, oral health education to the teachers and Palestinian children living in the camp, and dental screenings and referrals for Palestinian refugee children. Our original goals also included fluoride varnish therapy for each child, but product proved to be unattainable.
At the Azami Al Moftee elementary and intermediate school, two buildings about a block apart afford separate learning environments for boys and girls; and within each building, two distinct schools operate-an AM school and a PM school-each with separate teachers, principals, staff, and children. The schools are funded by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). To support our efforts, Colgate generously contributed 1000 toothbrushes, 1000 packages of dental floss, 1000 tubes of toothpaste, and educational pamphlets and posters in Arabic.
After much planning, the welcome we received from the administrative staff, teachers and students was overwhelming. Just walking into the school generated throngs of children vying to get close. Their repetitive questions included "what's your name, where are you from, how old are you, are you married, where are your children." Two seventh graders asked me if I liked Jane Austin and Hanna Montana. My uncovered, curly brown hair was particularly enticing and I had little hands touching it on a regular basis. They exhibited a strong desire to connect with others foreign to the camp. In the classrooms, we were greeted with proudly performed songs and chants, and the children were quite conversant in English.
With the manpower, enthusiasm and expertise of about 40 dental hygiene students and faculty, product and educational resources from Colgate, and lessons planned and delivered, we were able to reach over 40 classrooms, and provide oral screenings and referrals for over 1500 Palestinian refugee children . Although this may sound like a lot, about 4000 children attend the schools and we only focused on the girls in grades 1 thru 7. We targeted young girls because of the opportunity for disease prevention and because research shows that females are more likely to transfer their health knowledge and behaviors to their families than males. The level of oral disease in this young population is devastating to health and appearance, and there is an unfortunate acceptance of oral disease, a disease which is totally preventable. We could have just stayed in our University offices and simply checking all of the boxes on our dental screening and referral forms-rampant caries, abscesses, gingivitis, poor oral hygiene, dental stain, calculus, needs sealants, needs professional prophylaxis, needs fluoride, needs dental care, needs urgent dental care-without ever examining each child. The children were referred to the Jordan University Dental Teaching Center where their needs can be met at a very low cost. Boys in grades 1-7 will be targeted in the fall.
This project is the beginning of a sustainable partnership between the dental hygiene baccalaureate program at Jordan University of Science and Technology, Colgate and the Azmi Al Moftee School.
Professor Darby has lectured across North America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East; served as editor for dental hygiene journals; is one of the associate editors of the International Journal of Dental Hygiene; is editor of Mosby's Comprehensive Review of Dental Hygiene, ed 6 and co-editor of Dental Hygiene Theory and Practice, ed 3; and author of numerous professional articles. She is a recipient of the Warner Lambert-ADHA Award for Excellence in Dental Hygiene, the Rufus Alan Tonelson Distinguished Faculty Award from the Old Dominion University Alumni Association in recognition of outstanding contributions to the intellectual development of the University, the Virginia State Council on Higher Education Faculty Award, and the Faculty Advisor Award from the American Dental Hygienist 'Association for her work with the Student American Dental Hygienists' Association. In 2003, she received the Outstanding Achievement Award from the Friends of the Old Dominion University Library. During the first six months of 2010, she is a Fulbright Scholar at Jordan University of Science and Technology in Irbid, Jordan.