Yokota Volunteers paying it forward-one smile at a time

Yokota Volunteers paying it forward-one smile at a time

by Annabelle Moore, Field Office Coordinator
Yokota Red Cross

Yokota Volunteers turned their tassels at the Red Cross Dental Assistant Program Graduation Ceremony on 13 June 2019. Students Olga Gaiduk and Saeri Forest celebrated completing over 650 hours of volunteer service at the 374th Dental Squadron.

The entire dental clinic staff came out to honor Olga and Saeri’s hard work, sacrifice and commitment to bettering the oral health and wellness of the Yokota Air Base community. The program is a free apprenticeship opportunity for civilian volunteers to learn the essentials of dental patient care and administrative clinic operations.

Olga waited patiently for months for the opportunity to attend the non-licensing Dental Program. “I always wanted to work in dental field and I knew it to be true because I loved every minute of my training, even when it wasn’t all perfect or what I expected it to be”. For Saeri the program offered a career launching point and easily transportable expertise “As a military spouse, I felt it was really important to get a skill that you can use wherever you go and helps you get a job. Also, I’ve been interested in medical/dental field and thought this program would be a good start of my career.”

As the program kicked off Olga and Saeri quickly found themselves immersed in the bustling operations of an overseas dental clinic serving a diverse array of active duty and military family patients. “My typical day would start with me being at work before 7 am … so I had enough time to prepare for the day. I’m not going to lie; my days were busy … I didn’t just sit around when I had nothing to do though and always tried to go and offer my help where it was needed around the clinic. Some days we saw 8-9 patients and some days there was only one, I just had to be ready for pretty much anything. The key was to talk to my doctor but also use common sense and time management”.

Reflecting on their last 6 months of intensive academic and hands on training Saeri advises future dental assistant students to always be inquisitive and speak up with questions. “Always ask your doctor or trainer when you’re in doubt. This can prevent accidents and you get to acquire new skills or broader knowledge.” Olga recommends new students to not take lightly a challenging but rewarding career in Dental Assisting, “Main tip I want to give to the future students is to not be lazy. For the next 6 months this will be your full-time job. Treat it as such, dedicate yourself to the program and the people and it will pay off…People in Dental squadron are very hard working and they value your honesty and hard work the most…Another tip is to work fast but not to rush and cut corners when it comes to cleaning and infection control, patients trust you so please don’t betray their trust.”

Looking to the future they plan to put their newly crafted skills to work right away. “My main goal,” Olga says “is to become chair side certified through DANB [Dental Assisting National Board] before we leave Yokota in 2021 so I can work in the US. The Dental Squadron is there to help me [work towards this goal]. Later, I plan on getting a degree in Dental Hygiene.” For Saeri who is about to depart Yokota for their next duty station, the program gave her valuable insight to the daily life of dental professionals. “I wanted to be an RN before starting this program, but I found out dentistry is really interesting as well. I’m thinking about going to dental hygiene school and be a hygienist now. It’s always good to have more options for your future!”

Volunteers are the backbone of the American Red Cross, constituting 90% of the humanitarian workforce. As part of the 374th Dental Clinic Olga and Seari not only developed their skills but developed a professional family network. “…being able to offer my help fills my heart. Your honest help never goes unnoticed. I feel so appreciated being a Red Cross Volunteer, especially in our dental clinic. I am now a part of a family and, overseas being away from my real family, this means a whole lot to me.” A sentiment quickly seconded by Saeri “It really meant a lot to me! I really enjoyed working at dental and felt grateful when somebody appreciated me for working as a volunteer. It’s a great way to give back to the community and I’d love to keep volunteering on my next base as well.”

The American Red Cross offers professional training courses such as the Dental Assistant Program worldwide as part of the Service to the Armed Forces mission. Here in Japan, you can find courses at Yokota Air Base, Camp Zama, Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Kadena Air Base, and Marine Corps Base Butler.

To learn when the next Dental Assistant Program begins contact the Yokota Red Cross office at DSN: 315-225-7522 or commercial: 042-507-6547. You can also email yokota@redcross.org. The Yokota Red Cross Office is open M-F 0800-1630 located in building 535.

Subscribe to our Stripes Pacific newsletter and receive amazing travel stories, great event info, cultural information, interesting lifestyle articles and more directly in your inbox!

Follow us on social media!

Facebook: Stars and Stripes Pacific
Flipboard: Stars and Stripes Community Sites

Looking to travel while stationed abroad? Check out our other Pacific community sites!
Stripes Okinawa
Stripes Korea
Stripes Guam

Recommended Content