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.
Oct 17, 2016

Adela is Proud to be Helping so Many Children

Adela now working for Smiles Forever clinic
Adela now working for Smiles Forever clinic

Adela Cannot Imagine a Life without Giving Dental Care to Needy Children:  Adela's Story of 4 Years of Learning from & Serving the Smiles Forever School and Clinic

I was born in the Province of Independencia, Bolivia 31 years ago.  My life took on a new turn over 4 years ago when I went to the  Smiles Forever school. 

Now for last 2 years I have worked as a staff Hygienist and instructor in the community service clinic.

I had heard of  Smiles Forever from my friend Victoria who was a former Smiles Forever student.  At that time I was going to night school to obtain my high school diploma. I moved from the countryside years ago and I was living at my Godmother's house helping there as a maid.  My mother couldn’t support me since we were really poor.

I wanted something different than just being a maid for someone with money.  I wanted a future! It was difficult to convince my Godmother, but finally she accepted the idea to let me try to become a dental hygienist. I had an interview and psychologist evaluation and they mentioned they will call me.  Days passed and they called me mentioning that I wasn’t a perfect fit for the program, but I insisted every day --because no matter how difficult it will be I was mentalized to be the best. I was sure that no other chances will show up for me in the future.

I kept asking until one day they gave the chance to try it for a couple of days and to see if I liked it. It was different and it was hard, but I gave my 110% and I graduated with honors. Let me be honest at first I just wanted something to help me move on, but after a while I've realized what we do here at Smiles Forever is so important.  It is not only about individuals and getting free education and opportunities, it is also more about so many things like helping children.  I can help people in need, people who never visited a dentist before. In between Smiles Forever's purpose is to give opportunities and to change the lives of women through education. After I had graduated, a position as a staff hygienist and instructor for Smiles Forever was offered to me and I took it no questions asked.

My Dreams are not just Dust in the Wind!

After 2 years working for Smiles Forever and being part of this amazing team, I’ve realized that this organization has a lot of potential for the future. I love being a hygienist and I know we have many obstacles and diverse difficulties to overcome, but we will make it as a team. Also, I cannot imagine what will happen to so many children who without us will not have any dental treatment. My mom is now super proud of me and I’m helping her economically which gives both of us a lot of happiness. I’m still living with my Godmother; the difference is now she realizes my dreams are not just dust in the wind.  She is way much more supportive since I’m no longer her part-time maid. I still help her, but as a family member. Soon I will reach one of my other goals to become 100% independent through hard work and saving money and projecting and planning as they taught me in  Smiles Forever.

I wish to thank all of you who gave me help to make my dreams come true.  Sincerely,  Adela RDH

Current Happenings
Sandy is currently in the Maria del Rosario in the Chapare province, about 3 hours from Cochabamba, Bolivia. She and her team will be spending 5 days there covering oral hygiene topics including tooth brushing and flossing as well as broader issues that encompass oral health such as nutrition and diet.

Help Save the teeth of the children in this entire village.  Smiles Forever is beginning an ambitious 3-year program to use a tooth decay preventative coating during the critical teeth formation & enamel building time of childhood.  

The British Global Giving UK branch is launching a week-long 50% matching campaign called Little by Little where individuals may give up to 50 pounds (approximately $75) to any project.  Please donate on Oct. 25th - Nov. 1st to any or all of our 3 active "Smiles Forever" projects.  See http://www.globalgiving.co.uk/leaderboards/little-by-little-by-little-2016/?showAll=true

Watch the countdown & the Leaderboard to see if matching money is still available.  Only donations on this UK site in British pounds count towards matching & prizes.  We thank you for your support & thank our British friends for helping so many worldwide projects.

Adela helping patient with worn shoes
Adela helping patient with worn shoes
Chapare cuties
Chapare cuties
Chapare another trio of girls
Chapare another trio of girls
Chapare child lucky to receive dental care
Chapare child lucky to receive dental care
Chapare children with toothbrushes
Chapare children with toothbrushes
Oct 11, 2016

Re-crafting Our Mission: Failing Forward Discovery

Learning tooth brushing
Learning tooth brushing

Re-crafting our Smiles Forever Mission:  Failing Forward Discovery

In 16 years we have failed to certify hundreds of indigenous women as dental hygienists, but we have succeeded in bringing thousands of native Bolivian children critically needed dental care and education!

Have you heard the story of the old farmer with ponds who decided to raise frogs?  Try as he might the old farmer just couldn’t get a frog population to take hold & time and again he was losing money and patience.  The trouble was, he had turtles choking out the frogs.  One day his grandchild walked out to look at the ponds with him and asked, “Why don’t you grow turtles?”

Eureka, that’s the answer which had been eluding us.  Why not concentrate our main thrust of Smiles Forever on serving the children in shelters or the Bolivian children and their families who so much need dental care—the turtles who multiply virtually on their own?  Why not step back from some of the costly foibles of recruiting and putting the indigenous young women through the lengthy dental hygienist education schooling as our main focus—the vulnerable frogs of our story?

While we will never abandon the idea that educating a woman brings stability and change for the better, there has to be an easier way.  This year our project model for educating and then serving a broader population won the Sunstar International Dental Hygienist top project award!  Now our ground-breaking work is recognized world-wide as the way to beat the odds in a 3rd World country—others will copy our success.

However, let’s move to allowing those turtles to multiply freely and move beyond the focus of a few select frogs.  Here’s how.

Because of the recognition of our Smiles Forever commitment to dental care in Bolivia, we have achieved a level of governmental approval.  Our Founder & Director, Sandy Kemper, has a vision of preserving her pioneering educational work by allowing the program to be woven into the fabric of the Bolivian university structure.  This is possible because the very perception of the value of a dental hygienist in a professional dental office has changed.  A dozen years ago it was unheard of to use a woman in a practice to assist a dentist.  How times have changed!  One of our dental hygienists has become a full-fledged dentist and what is part of a beautiful story—returned to Smiles Forever as an instructor and clinician.

The numbers speak—less than 50 indigenous women have completed their dental hygienist training, but over 30,000 indigenous children and their communities have received dental care.  Now that we recognize our primary mission should be to grow turtles, the sky is the limit.  There is no reason we can’t bring dental care to 50,000 in the future.  We could let that be the thrust of our mission & have the goal of adding 20,000 more by 2020!  You have been there to help us, and we know you will enthusiastically be with us in our continuing humanitarian endeavors as we morph from frogs to turtles! 

Choose any of our 3 active projects if you wish to give through the ease of the Global Giving secure format.             We invite you to step up to the Sandy's Club family of recurring givers!  Muchas Gracias!

Young mothers Nancy & Vania
Young mothers Nancy & Vania
Smiles Forever school with director Alejandro
Smiles Forever school with director Alejandro
Dr. Quineros with mothers Nancy & Vania
Dr. Quineros with mothers Nancy & Vania
Bolivian community service children
Bolivian community service children
Sep 17, 2016

Smiles Forever Sees a Way to Help the Sightless

Vania treating a child age 8 with Dr. Ricci
Vania treating a child age 8 with Dr. Ricci
Your Donations Give Dental Care to the Sightless!
Alejandro, our Smiles Forever clinic director in Cochabamba, Bolivia sends good news about our addition of treating the sightless:
We just started with the blind group and ages vary really widely from 9 to 62.   I know we have more focus on children for Global Giving, but here are two important points:
1.- We will help anyone in need no matter the age, but of course we are more focused on children.
2.- Special needs patients and adult patients are perfect for the students' training. 
Here is the story behind how we began to give dental services to the blind:
They contacted us through a person who helped Smiles Forever in the past. After several meetings and the exchange of documents, we signed the agreement in August in the Smiles Forever offices. I signed for Smiles Forever and the president of their organization, Javier Alarcon Condori signed as their president. It is important in Bolivia to conduct business, even our charity, with formal agreements.  Then we coordinated subjects like how we can offer adequate service for them. The first thing discussed is that they don't want to be treated differently from the rest which is awesome. Indeed equality is one of our values as an organization, but we agreed that in order for them to get used to the physical space of the clinic the first time special considerations and accommodations could be made.
How we introduce blind patients to our clinic:
Any patient who comes (with previous scheduling) we will watch for them at the door and conduct them until they sit on the chair in the treatment room.  After the dental service we will walk with them to the bus stop or call a cab or whatever is needed to make sure they get home safely or to their center properly. I introduced Javier to the the staff and he visited our facilities and talked to some patients; he is a sweet man in his mid-40's. I saw a gesture of tenderness from our Dr. Ricci as she walked Javier to the bus stop. She waited and made sure he was on the right bus to go back home.
We began with the initial group of 18 beneficiaries, and will expand to treat their families:
The initial group is composed of 18 beneficiaries, and after their cycle of treatments, we will include their familes. Also, a highlight of the group is that it is composed of people whose economic situation is not the best. But as with anyone in need, it is Smiles Forever's mission to try and give as much as we can.
It is because of You--Our Friends from Global Giving around the world who care so deeply about those economically or physically handicapped that we can continue to give care to so many.
It is because of Your Generosity that we can in turn bring the happiness of being valued and of being free from dental pain.  Muchas Gracias, Alejandro

 About the number of organizations: we have reached 23 so far with signed agreements. Besides that we eventually have referral patients and people who work at the shelters to give dental care to those out-patients, too.

Here is the story of Vania, one of our more advanced students, who is learning so much more by being able to help those who have limited vision or who are blind:

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 and I’m starting to do procedures and protocols on real patients. It is more complicated than using the dental models, especially 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 more! It’s a bigger picture and so many things involved, like training us, giving us guidance about things like how to make a monthly budget to organize our private lives.  Smiles Forever is helping children and adults in need and way much more, and now they have 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 and their ages vary from 10 to 60 years old. This will be awesome for my training, but I am still a little nervous because of the fact that working with blind people is different. From helping them to walk into the clinic to making sure they leave or take the correct bus will be a new experience for us all.  I am thinking how I’m going to explain home care techniques that are probably 80% visual to someone who cannot see, but we will make it.  I look forward to seeing each of them again and I understand how proud they are to learn independence as they become accustomed to the layout of our clinic.  Love, Vania

Global Giving hosts time-release 30% Bonus Day Wed. Sept. 21st:  Best time for Seattle time zone donations is 9:01 a.m.  Renew your valued support or even consider joining our Recurring Giver family! 

Pyramids of market produce
Pyramids of market produce
Old Bolivian lady with modern pen
Old Bolivian lady with modern pen
Smiles Forever group & clinic director Alejandro
Smiles Forever group & clinic director Alejandro
 
   

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