Interfaith in Action

By Allison Berger, Communications Assistant

On Wednesday, May 31, Christ Church Cranbrook was presented with the Interfaith Champion-Building Bridges Award for our role in the Interfaith Refugee Dental Program by The Muslim Unity Center. This award recognizes the efforts of many people in our church community to foster connections and build bridges in order to continue to help refugees via the Interfaith Refugee Dental Program now and in the future. To view Father Bill’s acceptance speech, click here!

The Interfaith Refugee Dental Program truly began in 2021, when the church received a call asking for help with a significant problem at a hotel in Dearborn, where over 400 Afghan refugees were trying to find their way after their lives were displaced due to the fall of Kabul. Seeing that we needed to step in, we went to help as soon as possible. 

Once we arrived, we set about conducting an informal survey to assess the needs of the refugees with the help of members of the Wayne State University Medical School’s mobile health clinic team. Several immediate health concerns were identified, such as war wounds, hypertension, diabetes, and pregnancies. However, a large number of responses identified a significant need for dental care. In fact, 40 out of 62 refugees that were surveyed complained about tooth pain, bleeding, and oral swelling.

After identifying the major need for dental work, the church began to reach out to members of the Interfaith community. One of the first connections we made was with Rouzana Hares, DDS, of the Muslim Unity Center. She had worked with the church on other collaborations in the past and had experience working in refugee dental health. Together, a plan was set in motion to treat the refugees. 

It began with the first one-day clinic hosted by Dr. Shakeel Niazi in February 2022. With the help of dentists, dental teams, volunteers, and translators, 35 patients with the most acute cases were treated. Since then, the scope of the original plan has grown exponentially. After receiving grants from Delta Dental Foundation and private donations from Christ Church Cranbrook and the Muslim Unity Center, the Interfaith Refugee Dental Program was created. The program has continued to grow as it aims to restore oral health and provide limited cosmetic dentistry to refugees. Although most of the need for the program is present in southeast Michigan, the program has even expanded to West Michigan with the help of Dr. Colette Smiley. 

Christ Church Cranbrook is very honored to have received recognition for our role in the program’s success; however, it is very important to remember that the Interfaith Refugee Dental Program was only able to come about due to the efforts of many who came together to achieve a goal. As Rouzana Hares, DDS, expressed at the award ceremony, the program truly embodies what interfaith is all about – understanding that, albeit our differences, we are all humans who connect at a certain point and are able to come together to provide quality services to our communities.

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