Smiles Forever

The Smiles Forever mission is to break the cycle of poverty by vocationally training young indigenous women to be dental hygienists in Cochabamba, Bolivia. We recognize women as the first socialization factor in the family. Enabling them to become financially self-sufficient, we are both creating female community leaders and bettering the lives of their children. Students give back to their community by providing free dental care at the school, burn center and rural communities.
Aug 18, 2016

Our Inspiring Mothers

Sandy
Sandy's mother Eddie with Bolivian child

Smiles Forever Believes in the Power of Women to Inspire Change

Our Philosophy in part states:

By giving indigenous women the life-changing opportunity to earn a two-year dental hygienist degree, Smiles Forever believes we are helping break the cycle of abuse and poverty. Both our students and our graduates model what positive changes women can make for themselves, their children, their families, their community, and yes even for their country.

We learn from our mothers:  our Founder Sandy Kemper learned so much about the spirit of giving and service from her mother Edwardine (Eddie) Robison.  None surpassed Eddie's work ethic.  Eddie showed Sandy how to be compassionate and generous in all ways with her time and Eddie constantly demonstrated showing kindness to others.  It was said of Eddie,  Your friend was her friend, and what she had she would gladly share.  How much Eddie's quiet passion to serve and improve the lives of everyone she touched is reflected in her daughter's mission.

Not surprisingly, this lively and tireless and caring woman loved traveling to Bolivia to see for herself.  She and her husband Sam would notice that the school or clinic needed expanding, and they would make it happen.  Sandy's parents would donate to purchase much needed equipment or even help buy a building to renovate into an ideal place for the at-cost public clinic.  What a wonderful legacy is passed on to everyone in the Smiles Forever family!

Vania Describes the Joys & Challenges of Treating Blind Patients--Our Clinic's Newest Clients

Hello My Friends:

Thanks to all the Smiles Forever supporters, now I’m starting a new stage in my training to become a dental hygienist. Finally the wait is over as I’m starting to do procedures and protocols on real patients…..it is more complicated than using the dental models, specially if they are kids and they move a lot …….I know that with my instructors help and guidance I will be able to overcome this difficult, but beautiful task. Also, I want to use these lines to thank anyone who has supported Smiles Forever.  It’s not only about one little project.  It's a bigger picture with so many things involved, like training us, giving us guidance about things like how to make a monthly budget to organize our private lives, helping children and adults in need and way much more. Since our clinic has a new group coming, it’s going to be my first time helping blind people. The new group Asociacion Vidas is composed of blind people and their families. Their ages vary from 10 to 60 years old which will be awesome for my training, but I am still a little nervous because the fact of working with blind people is different.  Even from helping them to walk into the clinic to making sure they leave or take the correct bus or help them to get other transportation requires planning and extra effort, but I am happy to do this for them.  I have to think how I’m going to explain home care techniques that are probably 80% visual to someone who cannot see, but we will make it together.

In my personal life I’m stable and my family situation it’s getting a little better and more stable. My boy, Mario, is now 4, and he is growing so fast and learning many things.  I know there is long way still,  but I am not afraid anymore.

Love, Vania

Our students who are mothers are so like Eddie:  ambitious on behalf of their children, benevolent towards others in their community sharing gladly their newly learned dental hygiene skills, and using that tireless work ethic to study hard so that they may continue to distance themselves from fear and lift themselves from the depths of poverty.

In recent reports you have met Geovanna who has two children, Paola with three children, and Laura with one. These women continue to amaze us with their desire to succeed in a male-dominated society which is Bolivia.  They are achieving advancements in education once believed impossible in a country which suffers from a 75% illiteracy rate.  These women are part of the wave of women who will be educating not only the boys, but also the girls in their families.  Smiles Forever is excited about the changes we have seen in Cochabamba and the surrounding areas in our 16 years of allowing young women and mothers to believe in themselves.

30% Bonus on Global Giving on September 21st.  Funds will be released twice, including at 9:00 a.m. Seattle time.  Join us with a generous contribution to honor Eddie's legacy and all of the mothers who inspire a better world!

Sandy
Sandy's parents Eddie & Sam enjoying Bolivia
Vania who has advanced to working on real patients
Vania who has advanced to working on real patients
Vania treating a child age 8 with Dr. Ricci
Vania treating a child age 8 with Dr. Ricci
Jul 27, 2016

Showing the Quechan Values of Truth & Hard Work!

Quechan children with their new toothbrushes
Quechan children with their new toothbrushes

 

The Quechan Values of Truth & Hard Work:  Quechan Traditions Honored

Our dental hygienist trainees help provide dental care in our service clinic, depending upon where they are in their 2-years of schooling and practical hours.  These young women are the lifeblood of our organization and make possible reaching thousands of children yearly to provide dental screenings and care.

Young Indigenous Women Gaining Skills for Life:  Believing, Learning, Hoping, and Sharing

  • Believing:  Our Smiles Forever Young Women understand believing in a better Bolivia can be a reality.  No woman should have to endure a second class status, where she is relegated to having many children, accepting domestic abuse, in this poorest country in South America with a 75% illiteracy rate.
  • Learning:  Our Smiles Forever Young Women understand that education for themselves and their children, both girls and boys, is the key to raising social consicousness and escaping a life of oppressive poverty.

One of our students who speaks Quechan helped look after a woman who was living in the median of a nearby street.  She would daily bring her food and hope.  We are so proud of the spirit of our indigenous students!

  • Hoping:  Our Smiles Forever Young Women understand that the broad spectrum of personal health and health for their families is critical for their well-being.  We encourage our students to buy and prepare their own food.  We provide a monthly stipend so that they may purchase shampoo and suitable clothing to not only improve their personal hygiene, but also to enhance their self-esteem.
  • Sharing:  Our Smiles Forever Young Women understand the two-year commitment they have made to become a skilled dental hygienist will change their lives and those of their loved ones, and it will have the broadening effect of improving their community.  Our graduates continue to serve their local society by giving dental care to those without.

The Public (fee for service) Clinic: 

This clinic has a two-fold purpose. First to provide professional dental cleanings, as well as top quality restorative dental care to the people of Cochabamba. This gives us an opportunity to spread the word about prevention. All patients receive dental cleanings (just like the U.S.) and are advised to return on a 3 to 6 month basis for exam and cleaning as needed. Patients pay for the dental services and all monies return to support the community service clinic and the dental hygiene school. Secondly senior students have the opportunity to work with the general public before they graduate. We offer all dental service services to the general public.

Ninos con Valor, children that have been affected by aids, is one of our shelters we serve.  I would translate this as Children with Courage, and they certainly are.  No one knows if Bolivia, a totally land-locked country, will escape Zika carrying mosquitos, but unfortunately the poor in Bolivia have not been spared AIDS.

Our donors care about the least of these, our brothers and sistersThank you everyone!

Let's all get together September 8th for a Meet & Greet appreciation night for our donors both longtime and new.  Details will follow in our August newsletter.

Also in September, on Wednesday the 21st, Global Giving will be hosting a time-release bonus day.  This means that for the Seattle time zone, funds will be added at the 6:00 a.m. opening, and also at noon.  This is a great opportunity for our friends and family to put in their donations at lunchtime.

 

Smiling Bolivian Children
Smiling Bolivian Children
Students with dentist outside service clinic
Students with dentist outside service clinic
Smiles Forever students studying with elder
Smiles Forever students studying with elder
Smiles Forever Founder Sandy with lucky children
Smiles Forever Founder Sandy with lucky children
Jul 13, 2016

Sharing the Thrill of Victory with our Donors!

Sandy accepting world dental hygiene award
Sandy accepting world dental hygiene award

Smiles Forever, doing our charity work in Bolivia, has already experienced the thrill of victory this summer.  Winning the international Sunstar award for best dental hygiene project is the equivalent of achieving an Olympic Gold Medal!

Our Home Support Team:  Thanking You!

Building our support team over the past 16 years has been the secret to success.  Many of you have been with Smiles Forever from the beginning days in 2000.  We had just linked with the Madre de Dios womens shelter to bring them dental care.  It was then that we noticed how attentive some of the young women were to dental care methods.  We opened the door to give them a full education in the dental hygiene profession.

As the years went by our mission expanded to serving other shelters, now 27 off-site clients.  You were helping us add to the support team by spreading the word of the Smiles Forever work with indigenous people in Cochabamba and the surrounding area.  You have encouraged us by participating in our events, sustained us with your generous gifts, and uplifted our students when we shared their stories of victory over neglect and poverty.

Our Home Team Backed Theodora & 7-Year Old Lydia who has a "Sweet Tooth" to get "Tooth Holes" Fixed

Theodora outside cliniic
Theodora outside cliniic

Story with a Happy Ending:  Sweet 7-year-old Girl gets her "Tooth Holes" Fixed:

      Lydia is a sweet little girl with a "sweet tooth."  Lydia especially loves chocolate and would find a way to get candy at school. 

Background:  Theadora (age 59) and her daughter Lydia (age 7) live in a rural village called Montesillo outside Cochabamba, Bolivia.  They receive social services and after school daycare through a project called Warmi.

Here is their story with a happy ending, told by Theadora, Lydia's mother:

"This is the first time I have taken my daughter to a dentist because I am a single mother and only make my living by selling Chicha (homemade liquor) to local bars.  My daughter would cry about her teeth hurting, but I could only buy some medication at the store for her.

I am very excited for my daughter to see the dentist to fill all the holes in her teeth.  Before my daughter would buy chocolate and candy at school.  The bugs (bacteria) in her mouth were living off of the candy.  Now she cannot buy candy and I make her brush her teeth.

I want to get my teeth worked on, too!

Update from Smiles Forever's Bolivian Dental Hygienist School's Outreach Program:

          Currently, our Smiles Forever supported Bolivian Dental Hygienist school continues to strengthen and build upon our community clinic and rural outreach work.  There are now 27 organizations, like the Warmi project which helped Lydia, that  we visit both in Cochabamba and in surrounding rural areas.  All these dental services can be provided free, thanks to the support from our GlobalGiving friends like you.

Since our beginnings in 2000, we have been looking for ways to help the under-served in an ever-widening area around our dental hygienist school for young indigenous woman.  Many of our students, past and present, have come from the very shelters which we now go back and serve.  To date Smiles Forever estimates we have given 30,000 free treatments in the local area.  Our goal is to reach out to 10,000 more soon, particularly the vulnerable children, some who are crying from tooth decay pain like one of our newest patients, Lydia.  She's promising us and her mother to avoid candy and to brush her teeth, because Lydia doesn't want to live with constant pain again.

Theodora with daughter Lydia receiving treatments
Theodora with daughter Lydia receiving treatments

Adele Helps a Teen-aged Girl at the Burn Clinic

Adela at Burn Center

As you can tell from the picture of Adele and her patient, there is a caring bond between them.  This teenaged girl was severely burned--this happens way too often in a country where much of the population cooks on open fires.  Someday there may be a next chapter in this girl's life.  If things work out, and if there is financial backing for her, this burn survivor could come to our hygienist school.  What a difference that educational opportunity would make--particularly because it may be hard for her to find a husband because of her scars. 

Stories from Our Patients

We are now beginning the process of collecting stories from some of those thousands we see.  Children like to share how excited they are to see us.  Sometimes these children marvel at even handling a toothbrush.  These are children who are not watching TV with commercials about every possible thing available in the modern world.

They take our little plastic mirrors and their toy animals and try to brush the teeth of the stuffed animals--emulating our treatment.  These children are practicing what we preach!  "What about me!" Everyone says because they all want to take part.  Afterwards, they take their little mirrors and smile and look handsome or glamourous and exclaim, "Don't I look pretty (bonita)!"

Thank you for believing in the vision of Smiles Forever.  We truly can all make a difference.  Invite your friends or corporate sponsors to join our Bolivian gold medal team.

Newest clinic visitor checking her teeth
Newest clinic visitor checking her teeth
Sandy in blue at makeshift classroom exam table
Sandy in blue at makeshift classroom exam table
Poncho-clad mother brings in daughter to fix holes
Poncho-clad mother brings in daughter to fix holes
 
   

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