Northern Rivers residents John and Helen Niven with calendars of Nepal that they produce to support their volunteer dental work in the Himalayan country.

Retired dentist John Niven and his ‘practice manager’ wife Helen, a former staff member of then-North Coast Area Health Service are back in action, producing a new calendar about the fabled yet desperately poor nation of Nepal and preparing to take another trip there.

Unlike most foreign visitors, the Nivens will not be joy-walking in the Himalayan mountains, let alone tackling its snow-capped peaks. Nor is it their aim to savour the fascinating mix of Buddhist, Hindu and Tibetan cultures, although their cameras will be kept at the ready.

Instead they will return with suitcases stuffed with dental supplies on a self-appointed mission to bring oral health care to rural dwellers seldom able to access treatment.

This time around they will be accompanied by a second dentist, based in Canberra, who has been inspired by their dedication, which began in 2012 after a holiday trip to Tibet the year before.

Although their recruit has undertaken aid work in Vietnam, Nepal is likely to be a real eye-opener for her, according to John and Helen whose stories about walking to remote villages, riding in small aircraft and setting up local clinics are simply extraordinary (look for the Nivens’ first-hand account of their dental adventures in Nepal in the first GP Speak for 2015).

This next trip, their fifth, will no doubt result in more wonderful images of the mountains, monks, villages, and the capital, Kathmandu, which can be used in the following year’s calendar.

Meanwhile, the 2015 run has sold out, bad luck for readers but good news for the distant patients who will flock to clinics where no appointment is necessary. All calendar profits go into the project, which also receives support from the Australian Dental Association Far North NSW Division, Ballina Rotary, businesses including Plateau Dental Care, and various friends and acquaintances.

Donations will be willingly accepted, and you can be confident that all money is used wisely and well. For information contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.