Training and Education Programs

The other type of project focuses on training and education, which emphasize the concept of capacity building for the region served. Capacity building involves leaving local people in a region stronger and more capable of treating their own populations after a volunteer has returned home. Only a few volunteer organizations concentrate in this area. The Oral Health Initiative programs of Health Volunteers Overseas (HVO) (see, a Washington, D.C.-based private nonprofit volunteer organization, are sponsored by the American Dental Association (ADA). The HVO website has useful information for all volunteers, not just those working with HVO.

Health Volunteers Overseas Program

Health Volunteers Overseas, founded in 1986, is a private nonprofit organization committed to improving health care in developing countries through training and education of local health care workers. By emphasizing teaching, HVO education programs aim to create an indigenous group of trained health workers who can teach others so there is an ongoing capability that will benefit the population long after volunteers have departed.

HVO currently delivers educational programming in a wide variety of areas, including an Oral Health Initiative, which incorporates general dentistry, oral and maxillofacial surgery, as well as public health. Programs vary according to the needs of the country and the educational priorities identified. Certain principles, though, apply to all programs:

  • Training is focused on local diseases and health conditions.
  • Practices, procedures, and skills are relevant and realistic, and include, when appropriate, a focus on prevention.
  • Programs promote lifelong learning.
  • Whenever possible, programs focus on training local personnel who will assume the roles of both educator and provider.
  • Programs focus on relevant preventive and clinical techniques that can be taught, learned, and practiced by the appropriate level of health care provider.

The American Dental Association and Health Volunteers Overseas: Because the ADA was interested in developing training programs that would give American dentists an opportunity to share their knowledge and skills, ADA staff approached HVO representatives. Since 1990, when the dental-education programs were initiated, ADA/HVO volunteers have completed or assisted in the completion of three national oral-health surveys; provided faculty for the University of the West Indies School of Dentistry in Trinidad and for the Dental Auxiliary School in Jamaica; assisted in the formal training of the first orthodontist in Vietnam; developed a dental public-health training program for Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos; and presented continuing-education and foundation courses to dentists and dental school faculty in more than 20 countries. In addition, they have provided journals and other educational materials to most sites where they have conducted educational programs. A total of 454 HVO oral health volunteers have been placed in 1,007 volunteer assignments for 42 dental/oral and maxillofacial projects in 28 countries. By design, the programs seek to establish long-term relationships with the host countries and institutions.

As part of their role in training and education, HVO and the ADA periodically sponsor a training workshop for volunteers. The workshop, presented by experts in international volunteer dentistry, brings together volunteers and potential volunteers from the ADA membership for 1.5 days just before the ADA Annual Meeting. There are group sessions, in which everyone participates, as well as discipline-specific breakout sessions. The program has been invaluable for novice and veteran volunteers alike and has made available many opportunities for all of the volunteers to share their knowledge, information, and experiences. Those who are interested in volunteering but have not yet done so can speak to dentists and others with many years of experience. To learn when the ADA will hold its next volunteer training workshop, e-mail the ADA Division of Global Affairs at


ADAF / Health Volunteers Overseas

ADAF/ Health Volunteers Overseas Oral Health Initiative programs need volunteers for the following locations:

Cambodia, Haiti, Kenya, Laos, Nepal, Nicaragua and Tanzania.
For more information contact Barbara Edwards, or visit