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This article was originally published in Dentaltown on March 01, 2016. You can access the original article here: bit.ly/22mzwrK.

The young woman* had been plagued by tooth pain for years, but she pushed the pain away, day after day—because her main concern was survival.

She’d been born into an oppressive household, and suffered severe abuse at the hands of her family since she was a little girl. When she was just 7 years old, she was subjected to the life-threatening practice of female genital mutilation. Yet, despite growing up in a community that treated women as the property of men, she dreamed of a better life — of receiving an education — of having freedom.

Years later, against great odds, she managed to complete a 5-year degree abroad. Her dreams were soon in jeopardy, however, as she faced a forced marriage to a man 40 years her senior. With her brother’s help, she obtained a student visa and escaped to the United States.

Once she was safely in the U.S., she turned to Tahirih Justice Center — a national nonprofit organization that protects courageous immigrant women and girls who are fleeing gender-based violence. Tahirih provides free legal and social services, policy advocacy, training and education: a holistic-care approach centered in the organization’s philosophy.

The road to freedom

Years later, against great odds, she managed to complete a 5-year degree abroad. Her dreams were soon in jeopardy, however, as she faced a forced marriage to a man 40 years her senior. With her brother’s help, she obtained a student visa and escaped to the United States.

Once she was safely in the U.S., she turned to Tahirih Justice Center—a national nonprofit organization that protects courageous immigrant women and girls who are fleeing gender-based violence. Tahirih provides free legal and social services, policy advocacy, training and education: a holistic-care approach centered in the organization’s philosophy.

When the staff at Tahirih learned about the chronic tooth pain that the young woman had lived with for years, they searched for a dentist who could help.

They found Dr. Helen Jafari, who provided dental care to the survivor of violence at no cost. Jafari is one of thousands of pro-bono professionals who make up the nonprofit Pro Bono Network.

“For me it’s a way to give back to the community, and because I’m a female dentist, it’s important to me to promote the well-being, equality and education of women,” Jafari said.

Working to pave that road

Tahirih opened its Houston office in 2009 in response to the urgent needs of vulnerable immigrant women and girls in Texas. In 2014 alone, Tahirih Houston protected more than 700 women and children through free legal services in the Houston-Galveston area.

In addition to the physicians and mental-health professionals who are devoted to serving Tahirih clients for free, dentists are essential to Tahirih Houston’s Pro Bono Network. They have become an integral part of allowing courageous women and girls access to justice, not only by providing free or low-cost preventative and emergency care, but also by giving expert testimony in court on behalf of clients.

Read the full story here.

*Photo does not depict actual client to protect her safety and confidentiality.