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20 June 2017

My Lebanon Experience – Dental student volunteers at Syrian refugee camp

Matthew Billington did not hesitate to sign up when he saw an email offering students a chance to take part in a volunteer programme in Lebanon. The King’s College London Sanctuary Programme is the collective response of the King’s community of staff and students to the greatest humanitarian crisis the world has witnessed since the Second World War: the 60 million refugees fleeing from Syria and other conflict zones. Matthew participated in a Sanctuary Programme initiative, joining a week-long pioneering pilot programme where students have the opportunity to work with refugees.


It gave Matthew, a first year King’s dental student a chance to assist with giving dental care to Syrian children in need of help. Matthew applied for the Programme as a way of giving back, but ended up gaining more out of the experience than he ever expected.

“I didn't just want to stand by, I wanted to make a difference. I realised that it would be such an eye opening, life changing experience that I couldn't turn down,” he explains.  “It was so humbling and gratifying to be part of a venture whose ultimate aim is to give the young refugees what every child in the world deserves; to live a happy, healthy and safe life.”

 “The work done by King’s in conjunction with the University of St. Joseph (Lebanon) and Buffalo University (U.S.A.) is outstanding. I have been inspired to do everything in my ability to help this project and am planning to do lots of charity work to raise money for them in the future.”

During his time in Lebanon, Matthew’s role was varied, from providing dental care, to helping refugee children in the schools at the camps. 

“My primary role as a King’s dental student was to work alongside the Lebanese dental students from St Joseph’s Dental School and the American dental students from Buffalo,” Mathew explains.

“But during my time in the classroom I noticed how eager the children were to learn; they were exceptionally well behaved and did not take anything for granted.”

“90% of the children said they wanted to be a doctor or dentist one day; it made me so grateful to have the opportunities I have in my life,” Matthew said.

 “We were so pleased to be part of this opportunity for our students to work with other dental schools in providing relief to refugees,” said Professor Mark Woolford, Executive Dean of the Dental Institute at King’s.

“King's College London established the Sanctuary Programme to work with refugees globally. This is a college-wide initiative in which students play an important role. Additionally it forms part of our international action and contribution to Vision 2029 of working in service to society.”