Our Founder, Dr. Ray Damazo, known in Africa as the “Safari Dentist,” built the Maasai Dental Clinic to provide free dental and health care to the more than 50,000 Maasai people who live within walking distance. The American Dental Association President Charles H. Norman said, “Dr. Damazo has spent more than 45 years alleviating human suffering and improving the quality of life and oral health of individuals abroad, including serving remote villages along the Amazon, and people living in the bush areas of Kenya and Tanzania.” He has worked thoroughout the African communities for over 19 years, and in 23 different locations.
Dr. Damazo received the 2014 American Dental Association Humanitarian of the Year Award, and the 2013 Washington State Dental Association Citizen of the Year Award for exemplary service to others.
Dr. Damazo was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts in 1929. His parents emigrated from the Azores Islands as children and instilled in their ten children a need for education and the importance of contributing to make the world a better place.
Growing up in a rural setting exposed to woodland birds and animals, combined with a love of Frank Buck’s African movies, a young Raymond Damazo was motivated to pursue and complete a Bachelor of Science degree in Zoology and an advanced degree in Dentistry.
Dr. Damazo practiced general dentistry in Bellevue, Washington, for many years and retired in 1993. He has had a lifetime commitment of giving back through dentistry, and has personally financed all his projects. His passion for helping those in need has always been without remuneration. He has treated thousands of people both here in the US and abroad.
Beginning in 1965, Dr. Damazo began reaching out and helping in areas of great needs. His first assignment was in a remote part of Brazil. He spent four months teaching emergency dentistry to an American physician who served isolated villages along the Amazon River. The combination of the desperate needs of the people, the exotic flora and fauna, and the exhilarating landings of a modified Cessna 182 on dirt strips carved out of the jungle, fueled his adventurous spirit.
Dr. Damazo’s desire to continue to give back ultimately led him to Africa, where he found many people and areas with unfilled needs. He developed a program in 1987 to teach emergency dentistry to clinical officers (physicians assistants) in Kenya. Although they were the primary medical caregivers for millions, they had very little training in dentistry.
In 1991, Dr. Damazo and his wife Gail, his highly skilled, unflappable, dedicated partner of many years, embarked on an ambitious endeavor to bring dentistry to the people of East Africa. Driving a 4x4 Land Rover and a one-ton trailer packed with portable dental equipment and a massive amount of supplies, the couple traveled to dozens of remote villages in Kenya and other parts of Africa twice a year. They were allowed to stay and set up their mobile clinic at multiple tourist lodges throughout eastern and southern Africa. From there they provided free dental care and education to thousands of people in need.
Recognizing the extreme need for a more permanent facility to serve the Maasai people they had grown to respect and love, the couple designed and built the Maasai Dental Clinic at Siana Springs. In 2008 they acquired a 33-year lease for $1 per year on a plot of land provided by the Maasai people adjacent to the Siana Springs Safari Lodge. The Rotary International clubs from Washington and Nairobi contributed $53,000 to help equip the three treatment rooms in the clinic. With a population of almost 100,000 people, and the nearest dentist 87 kilometers away, the clinic was in a truly underserved community. The permanent clinic was built and opened in 2008 with an opening ceremony and a blessing by the chief in January 2009. As of 2015 more than 10,000 people have been provided quality dental care free of charge at the Maasai Dental Clinic.
Dr. Damazo’s vision of service continues with the ongoing dental care provided by the over 80 volunteer dentists who have worked at The Maasai Dental Clinic during the past 6 years. These volunteer dentists have donated their services to the Maasai people in order to ensure that the clinic and the people it serves continues to prosper.