It’s Spring Break week here in Birmingham, and our original plan had been to check our kids out of school the week before for a week-long dental mission trip to Da Nang, Vietnam with East Meets West Dental then spend a few days at a beach resort in Phu Quoc before ending our trip in Hong Kong to visit family. Clearly, as I am at home typing this while my “co-workers” take a break from e-learning and my version of a homeschool itinerary, that awesome trip did not materialize.
Due to travel restrictions and COVID-19 concerns, my husband and I decided to cancel the trip altogether 3 weeks ago. We had been so excited to volunteer again with East Meets West Dental, a non-profit organization with whom I had the pleasure of volunteering twice before: once in 2003 as an undergraduate student exploring dentistry and again in 2006 as a dental student. My husband and I volunteered together in 2006 and thought it would be a valuable experience to have our kids volunteer with us this time around. Besides, this would have been their first time visiting my homeland so they could learn more about their Vietnamese heritage.
Volunteerism has always been an integral part of me. As a first generation immigrant, I did not have much growing up, but the amazing lesson that I learned was that I did not need to give financially to make a difference, but rather I can give freely of my time and my skills.
As health care providers, both my husband and I strongly believe in serving and giving back to the community, locally and overseas through organizations with whom we have strong ties. It is important to us to instill that same servant attitude to our kids in hopes that not only will they realize how blessed we can be, but find joy in lifting up others as well.
So how can we introduce our children to volunteerism?
Be realistic, and smart small.
I think we all have to be realistic in picking age-appropriate projects to start. Through Cub Scouts, our boys made goodie bags with a special message for police officers. One of our good friends took her girls to pack food for the homeless. These are easy introductory projects that can grow to something big and more involved later on as they age.
Call on your tribe, and make it fun.
I am very fortunate to be a part of an awesome book club. All of us got together last year with our spouses and children to cook and serve dinner at one of the First Light shelters downtown. The kids all had a role and they took turns serving food and cleaning up together. It was a great experience, and all of the kids modeled after the adults and motivated each other.
Humble our children.
Two Thanksgiving ago I was volunteering at the Birmingham Dream Center through our church (Church of the Highlands) to coordinate the delivery of food for a Thanksgiving meal to families who need them the most. It was by chance that the team was short of drivers to deliver these meals, so I called my husband, and we created an impromptu experience with our kids. We took them to the residents, and our kids walked with us as we hand delivered food to each household on our list. They saw first-hand how little some of these families had. They walked up the narrow stairs, into the cramped spaces, and saw the cracks in the floors and walls. We spent time and conversed with the folks we were there to serve seeing first-hand how much they appreciated a Thanksgiving meal. Our kids still talk about the things we should be thankful for.
Create a family tradition.
For the past 3 years, it has been our family tradition to volunteer with the Giving Hope project for First Saturday Serve at the Birmingham Dream Center. All of us, especially the kids, look forward to this project every year because they get to sort the donated toys by age and gender for parents who will be “shopping” for their children the following Saturday. It has been incredibly heartwarming to see how our kids grow with the project each year. This past year our oldest son was thrilled to be recruited to not only be the Bible runner but to jump inside a box where he stacked and organized the Bibles. He had a blast and was so proud of how neatly he could stack them. Our youngest son graduated from marking out barcodes to becoming a runner for Bibles, wrapping paper, bows and tape. Before we know it, they will become one of those “big kids” whose job is to lift and move the giant bins of toys.
I love volunteering with my family, and that passion carries over to my work family as well. At my pediatric dental practice, we are constantly looking for ways to give back to the local community. Since the opening of our practice, we have been performing free dental screenings at Mitchell’s Place and United Ability annually. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, I helped to mobilize local dentists to donate PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) to Children’s of Alabama. It is my goal to have our entire team at work participate in a volunteer project this year and start a new family tradition.
Dr. Quyen Ying is the pediatric dentist behind Liberty Park Children’s Dentistry. Her office is currently running on limited hours due to COVID-19.
Due to concerns regarding the high risk of COVID-19 transmissions, our office will have limited hours to see URGENT/EMERGENCY patients only.
The American Dental Association and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry have released guidelines for what constitutes a dental emergency vs. non emergency procedures. When in doubt please call us at 205-403-5423 to consult with Dr. Quyen.
Ex: extensive dental caries causing pain.
Ex: abscess or localized bacterial infection resulting in localized pain and swelling.
Ex: tooth fracture resulting in pain or causing soft tissue trauma, tooth avulsion, tooth luxation.
Initial or periodic exams including routine radiographs.
Routine dental cleanings.
Extraction of asymptomatic teeth.
Restorative dentistry on asymptomatic teeth.
Aesthetic dental procedures.