Empowering health through the YWAM KOHA dental clinic

16 June 2021

The first two weeks of the Trinity Koha Dental Clinic are behind us and already, we have stories to tell. 

For Kevin Mikaere, it’s the first time in a long time that he had his teeth examined. As a self-employed commercial fisherman, his business has had to come first over his health and wellbeing. But after 18 months of tooth pain, Kevin came to the YWAM Trinity Koha Dental Clinic for an assessment. The effects of tooth pain seriously impacted his life. 

“My teeth are in a lot of pain, it comes and goes, but it’s coming more regularly than it used to. It gets to a point where it affects me mentally. I’m too shy to go out and watch my nephew’s rugby games and it’s embarrassing–people shouldn’t have to look at rotten teeth. I’ve found myself rarely going out, and I’m not eating as much either. I’ve actually lost a lot of weight.”

Kevin was extremely grateful for the care he received. He is not alone in his desperate need for dental care. 

“I was a bit nervous coming out here because nobody slides going to the dentist, but I’ve left it so long that I’ve just had to. I’m going to make a donation, as it’s not only me, but I know a lot of other Maori people too–it’s something we avoid. But I’m older now, so I need to sort this out or it could cause another health problem too.” 


A few months ago, it was obvious that due to COVID restrictions, doors to the Pacific islands would not open soon. The YWAM KOHA and the crew were ready for service but had nowhere to go. Instead of focusing on what we couldn’t do, the YSA Board asked, “What can we do? Like the question God asked of Moses, the board considered, “What do we have in our hand?” An idea quickly formed to use the ship’s dental container on land by transporting it to serve New Zealand communities. 


We are only two weeks into a five-week pilot programme, but already we have seen the need is greater than we imagined. Together we are empowering health right here in New Zealand.

In nine days of clinics being open, the following services have been provided: 

  • 156 patients seen
  • 123 treatments performed
  • 165 teeth extracted
  • 73 teeth received fillings
  • 33 dental assessments made
  • $57,451 in services provided (based on the New Zealand Dental Association fee survey.)

All these services were provided free of charge. This was only possible due to the support of our Platinum Partner, Trinity Lands and the partnership of several other organisations like TECT, BayTrust, McLeod Cranes, and many individuals who believe in the work we do. Thank you for playing your part. 


We are now beginning to look beyond this pilot programme. Two main hindrances could bring this work to a halt. Qualified dentists are needed who will volunteer their time and skills. And adequate resources are required to maintain the services. We are grateful for the help and relief so many individuals have received, but we know it is only scratching the surface of the need. There is more to do. 


This week the clinic has moved to the Te Puke area serving the many Pacific island RSE workers who are based there. On 21 June, we will relocate to Kawerau for two weeks to work with Tuwharetoa ki Kawerau Hauora. 

We are grateful to be serving our neighbours in New Zealand and look forward to reaching beyond our borders to empower a healthy future for our Pacific neighbours.