A Santa Barbara dentist founded a free dental clinic in Afghanistan over twenty years ago, but now its struggling to keep its doors open due to increased control by the Taliban.
Dr. James Rolfe, 84, started the Afghanistan Dental Relief Project in 2003 and opened a clinic in Kabul. Since opening, his facility has provided free dental services for over 200,000 Afghans, mostly women and children.
After his first visit to Afghanistan, Rolfe purchased a shipping container and turned it into a clinic with the basic equipment needed for a dental office and shipped it to the Middle East. He then hired a dentist and a dental assistant, later setting up a school to train Afghans to be dental technicians.
Two years ago, the Taliban took control of the country. Initially the clinic closed for fear of being shut down due to employing a mostly female staff. When it reopened, the Taliban government took away the land property that was gifted by the previous government. The clinic fundraised to find another piece of land to rent and physically moved the buildings there.
After reopening, the Taliban came to check the clinic. When they discovered a female patient who was not wearing a head covering, they severely beat the clinic’s male manager. After being threatened with death, he resigned and fled to Pakistan. Additionally, two female employees quit after being repeatedly harassed for walking to work without being accompanied by a man.
“We neglected to help the Afghan people, and I feel like were doing a lot to help Ukraine, and Israel, and a lot of other countries,” said Dr. Rolfe. “We basically abandoned Afghanistan after going there. Afghans are basically worse off than they were before.”
Dr. Rolfe says scores of people are coming to the clinic every day from impoverished communities they have run out of money and are desperately need sustaining monthly support from people who care.
“Giving Tuesday is coming soon to remind us of how unfortunate people are trying to survive. Please consider a sustaining monthly donation,” said Dr. Rolfe.
Donations can be made to the nonprofit at: https://adrpinc.org/donate/