The scale and scope of Lebanon’s collapse are unprecedented. Hyperinflation, unemployment, and a lack of public (health) services. Small initiatives make a difference in times of need, proves Lebanese dentist Randa Harik (51). When in Lebanon, she provided free dental care to people in Beirut’s old neighborhood of Hamra.
By Arthur Blok
It is these acts of kindness that reflect persons with a big heart. A few years ago, Randa emigrated to California with her partner and daughter. Lebanon was just not a place anymore where she could live everyday life. As for many, for her, the country became synonymous with everything she did not fancy in life.
“Caring for teeth” is a family tradition, Randa proudly explains. She has been a dentist since 1998 and has been close to the dentistry field since she was a child: her mother, Siham, was a dentist, just like her two uncles and aunt.
During another challenging time in Lebanon’s history, in the 1950s, many Lebanese families migrated either to the U.S., Venezuela, Brasil, or other countries in Latin America. Her mother’s family left for Maracaibo, Venezuela, where she completed her education.
Once she graduated, Siham wanted to fulfill her dream of returning to Beirut to open her private practice. Her sibling planned to ultimately join her and open a dental polyclinic in Beirut, which was unheard of back then, but in 1975 the civil war started, and Shiham ended up being the sole dentist in her private clinic.
The clinic in Hamra has been in use for over 50 years; it stayed open and operational even during the dark years of the civil war (1975 - 1990). In this location, her daughter Randa started her career and worked for many years until she migrated to the U.S.A.
Nowadays, she provides free dental care every time she comes back to visit her mother: one week of helping her old clients free of charge. Clients of whom most are in financial need.
Emigrating to the U.S. a few years ago was not an easy step. “It felt that I was betraying my patients whose teeth I have cared for, for a long time. I felt like I had abandoned them and our family’s clinic”.
When the Covid pandemic shook the world, the economy in Lebanon rapidly further collapsed. People struggled, and essential things like dental care became a “luxury.”
As she was visiting Beirut every three to four months to check on her mother, who stayed in Beirut after her father George passed in 2020, she came up with the idea to help out her old patients whose teeth she had worked on for all those years.
“I felt that was the least I could do for them. They were my loyal clients for so many years”, she said. When she visited her mother in April, she sent a message to all her old clients that they were welcome for free scalings and fillings.
She explained that it was a “lovely way” to help out the community, listen to the people, and hear about their hardships and daily frustrations. Randa: “At the same time, it was nice to catch up with those lovely people again, some of whom I have known for over 20 years. I am just happy I could help them a bit.”
This kind of heart-touching story gives hope to the humanity of this tormented Country.