Sep 10, 2018

Archiving Our Smiles & Stories

Eager Student for University dental demonstration
Eager Student for University dental demonstration

Saving our Smiles Forever's Smiles--Oh, so many smiles & memorable stories!

Thanks to Smiles Forever's Director Alejandro's impetus, an in-house staff of those who possess more computer genius than the average bears have been assembled.  Their mission is to begin an arduous task of chronicling and saving smiles from the Chapare Villa Tunari school  field project in Bolivia's tropical zone.  Priceless smiles and even video records are being made of the 3-year project with around 400 villagers.  

We can be sure the effort will not only go forward to record key moments and accounts of the early months of the university partner instruction curriculum with UPAL, but also the computer archiving team will work backwards to year 2000.  It is not easy to catalog and be able to pull up memorable moments, but this effort can be applauded as a first critical step.  Organizations like GlobalGiving value the connection between an individual and their community and where this all fits in the story of positive change in Bolivia.

Unforgetable People at Smiles Forever--Let's start by remembering our own-Marta

In Sandy's words from November 28th, 2017

Today is a very sad day for us at Smiles Forever. We have lost one of our team members, Martha Ruth Villaroel Suárez. Marta pictured at the far left has held a variety of positions over the last 11 years. House mother to our first students, guidance counselor, friend to all, and administrator for Smiles Forever. Marta performed every duty with professionalism, and a great love and pride for Smiles. Personally for me, she was a great friend, the god-mother of my son, Andre, and a protector of all my children. Rest In Peace Martita , we will miss you and love you forever, but you will never be forgotten 

 So many to honor and remember as part of Smiles Forever's Forever Family!

Thanks to all of you who have made this mission and journey together possible!  Sandy 

Lovely Bolivian girl volunteer patient
Lovely Bolivian girl volunteer patient
Giant "Smile" for demo day
Giant "Smile" for demo day
Everyone learning from day at UPAL
Everyone learning from day at UPAL
Smiles Forever Founder Sandy as golden tooth fairy
Smiles Forever Founder Sandy as golden tooth fairy
Marta (left) with Smiles Forever at the beginning
Marta (left) with Smiles Forever at the beginning
Sep 10, 2018

Bolivia Welcomes Shoreline CC Hygienist Students

Tooth Fairy Adela with Kellie
Tooth Fairy Adela with Kellie
Smiles Forever Bolivia welcomes Shoreline, Washington community college dental hygienist students:
This longterm early fall 3rd-World opportunity for students entering the 2nd year of dental training has been a great success over the years.  It is something students and sponsoring SCC and accompanying dental instructor look forward to from day one.  The rewards are so great as enthusiasm fuels learning both in Bolivia and back home.  Many students come away with inspiration to last a lifetime. 
Lucky Shoreline Students take part in UPAL first ever joint demonstration:
This group of aspiring dental hygienists will have so much to remember!  They are part of the history-making cooperation between Smiles Forever's dental training in Bolivia and the university level program in what we would call a technial community college.  Sharon Golightly who has been instrumental in writing curriculm for Smiles Forever, demonstrates scaling procedure. 
The rest of the tooth fairy story:
For those of you who have been following along with prior stories, Kellie had traveled to Bolivia last spring as a tooth fairy ambassador.  She is currently one of our newest and most active Smiles Forever Board members.  This past month, she helped with music & dance planning for what promises to be our most fun auction coming Oct. 20th--Noche del Gaucho.  Our donors are encouraged to wear boots & pampas-inspired neck scarves.  Therefore, Kellie will not be wearing her usual princess dress and tooth fairy tiara.
The Tooth Fairy in Bolivia...continued:
My time with Smiles in the Chapare further convinced me that silver diamine fluoride works. While working at the school, Dr. Steven Duffin shared with us the history of SDF, research related to its use, and his clinical experience with it. Dr. Duffin’s mentoring was invaluable. I use SDF in my independent senior focused practice so I have seen for myself how this antibiotic liquid turns soft, active decay into hard, arrested lesions. However, my senior patients are at the end of their lives, so I rarely get to monitor these areas for more than a year. This is where Smiles Forever helped me to see the longer term effects of the application of SDF on a carious lesion.
Smiles has been providing assessments and SDF with fluoride varnish every six months for the last 18 months at the time I was there. Chart after chart showed rampant, active decay written in red pencil at initial visits. These areas were treated with SDF and fluoride varnish. Six and 12 months later, these areas were charted in blue pencil as hard, arrested lesions. If this wasn’t amazing enough to witness documented over and over again, there were very few new active areas of decay noted in the hundreds of children we saw. How is it that there was almost no new decay in a population where sugary snacks and soda pop are less expensive than bottled water and there has been very little dietary or oral hygiene behavior modification efforts? If I hadn’t seen the rampant amount of caries in a state of arrest for myself, I would have thought the data to be exaggerated. I will never forget how such a small drop of an inexpensive liquid made such a massive positive impact. And without local anesthetic, a drill, or sedation, I might add.
I have mentioned that registered dental hygienists are prevention specialists. Our training has also made us critical thinking experts. I have seen first-hand the epidemic of early childhood caries, in the jungle of Bolivia and in my own and neighboring counties. For the children who suffer from its pain, days missed in school, and for some, death, I am left with the uncomfortable question to ask: are we doing our job well enough? There is no better time than the present to return to our roots of caries prevention, especially while having SDF at our fingertips. The Smiles Forever community outreach program is an excellent model of how caries can be arrested in oral health related programs, right here where we live.
The Tooth Fairies aim to do just that. Even prior to my own experience with Smiles Forever, Elise had inquired about implementing SDF applications within our ECEAP sites. Although we have been met with firm opposition, we will continue to advocate for its use in our school based program. In the meantime, I created an informational brochure about SDF for the families of the children we serve. By bringing awareness to this treatment option, our hope is that parents will begin to ask their dentists for it. We have also compiled a list of dental offices in our region that offer SDF as a treatment option and we provide this resource to all of the student’s families we see.
This last Fall, dressed as a Tooth Fairy in a local ECEAP site, I saw my first official baby tooth that had been treated with silver diamine fluoride. There have been a handful of other children that have been treated with SDF to follow, and I anticipate seeing more with each classroom visit. I view these small beginnings as a tell-tale sign that dentistry is changing, and I am once again humbled to not only witness it, but be a part of it.

 

September Opportunity with GlobalGiving Offers 33 hours of percentage matching to Smiles Forever donors beginning midnight  Sept. 12th Washington, D.C. time--this means this campaign would end at 6:00 p.m. the next evening Seattle time.
Help Bolivia with Smiles Forever or Choose to Help the World:  Pictured India
Check out the latest news from the GlobalGiving community in this month's newsl
September is full of opportunities for GlobalGiving partners! We’re launching a Global Bonus Day, accepting applications for the Online Fundraising Academy, selecting organizations for the Top 10 Nonprofits Committed to Impact list, and introducing a brand-new way to earn GRewards points. 
Experience a Global Bonus Day

Starting at midnight ET on Wednesday, Sept. 12, GlobalGiving partners will have 33 hours to boost all donations with a $50,000 incentive fund. The hours of the September Bonus Day have been optimized for multiple time zones and all participants will share in the prize winnings!
Bolivian girl treated at Bolivian University
Bolivian girl treated at Bolivian University
Dr. Duffin teaching moment with Bolivian youth
Dr. Duffin teaching moment with Bolivian youth
Speaker at Bolivian Univ. ceremony with S. Kemper
Speaker at Bolivian Univ. ceremony with S. Kemper
Jun 13, 2018

"Tooth Fairy" Princess wins over Bolivian Children

"Tooth Fairy" Ambassador Kellie Brings America's Belief in Kind & Generous Tooth Fairy to Bolivian School Children:

The Tooth Fairy in Bolivia:  A Dental Hygienist’s Reflection

by Kellie Whitcomb RDH, MSDH(c)

Co-Director of the Tooth Fairies School-Based Oral Health Program



Almost 20 years ago Elise Tanner and Nancy Alleman created and developed The Tooth Fairies, a school-based oral health program. Elise then became the sole director and provider for what had become a sustainable community outreach program all across Puget Sound serving elementary schools and more than thirty Early Childhood Education and Assistance Programs (ECEAP). The Tooth Fairies provide dental assessments, fluoride varnish applications, and most importantly, oral health education delivered in the ultimate kid-friendly way: dressed as a Tooth Fairy using an oversized tooth and fuzzy bacteria puppets. Fast forward fifteen years to a fortuitous meeting between Elise and myself at an Alliance of Dental Hygiene Practitioners forum, and a new chapter for the Tooth Fairies and me began.

A few years ago I decided to pursue what I am most passionate about, connecting access to care with those who are most vulnerable. My initial focus was on the Silver Tsunami, senior citizens that comprise the largest growing population group with many access to oral health care issues.  Sitting next to Elise at the forum, she turned to me and asked a simple question: “But what about the kids?”. Having two small children of my own, this question hit me. She invited me to join her Tooth Fairies for a day, just to see if it was something that I would want to be a part of. A day at Daffodil Valley Elementary had me convinced. I had to be a part of this program that was doing so much good. The children emphatically welcomed Tooth Fairy Elise and her team, but what struck me most was how they had retained her oral health message about the etiology, transmission, and prevention of decay she had delivered six months prior in their classrooms. Her unique approach dressed as a childhood icon related to teeth really captured the attention and interest of the children. I have been working with Elise and her team of registered dental hygienists for over two years now and proudly wear my Tooth Fairy dress and tiara as I advocate for children’s oral health.

Elise has imparted her knowledge related to independent practice as a hygienist within an educational setting to me and I am so grateful to her as a mentor and friend. Her passion for eliminating the experience of early childhood caries is contagious. The lofty vision of eradicating decay should be at the top of every registered dental hygienist’s list, for we are prevention specialists, after all.

During our time together, Elise told me about a friend and fellow hygienist, Sandy Kemper and her non-profit foundation, Smiles Forever. ‘Smiles’, as it is casually referred to, trains indigenous women to be dental hygienists and provides dental care for those living in Cochabamba, Bolivia. In addition, the Smiles dental hygiene training program has been providing oral health education, dental assessments, dental cleanings, and silver diamine fluoride treatments for an elementary school in Villa Tunari as a community outreach.  Elise joined Sandy and Smiles for one of their school visits and was indelibly convinced that Smiles Forever’s use of silver diamine fluoride was making a huge impact on the children’s experience of decay. Imagine my surprise and excitement when Elise asked me if I would return to Bolivia in her place and represent the Tooth Fairies for Smile’s next school visit.

Unfamiliar Tooth Fairy Wins Over Children Only Familiar with the Tooth Rat Myth

I learned many things from my trip to Cochabamba and to Villa Tunari in the Chapare. After delivering the oral health presentation as the Tooth Fairy with the help of a translator to several classrooms, I discovered that the cultural mythology of the Tooth Fairy does not exist in Bolivia. I felt embarrassed for not knowing this prior to donning my winged dress and tiara. I have learned through advancing my education that cultural sensitivity is imperative when approaching any type of outreach. The children in Bolivia believe in the Tooth Rat, a different myth related to the loss of a baby tooth. The Tooth Fairies intended to leave Smiles Forever with all the tools of our school-based program with the hope that our success in educating children about oral health in the states could be duplicated in Bolivia. Had the Tooth Fairies already missed the mark?

To add to this cultural oversight, another concern arose. I noticed a hesitancy from Smile’s dental hygiene students to be the Tooth Fairy in front of the elementary students. After inquiring about it, I was told that to wear a professional uniform was a symbol of esteem and sought after for any person in Bolivia. Wearing a costume while trying to engage in their work would be making a mockery of themselves. Now I had two hurdles to overcome!

Bolivian Hygenist Adela becomes a "Tooth Fairy" donning the Sequined Dress & Glittering Tiara:

For several class presentations, I modeled the oral health education portion of our program in front of eager and smiling students who clamored around me to fluff my dress, touch my wings, and hug me with outstretched arms. The students’ response to the Tooth Fairy put to rest my worry of our cultural differences. I learned that children have similarities no matter where they come from or what language they speak. Eye contact and a genuine smile can make a strong connection in the absence of a common cultural belief or even a common language. Glitter and sequins help, too. The hesitancy of Smile’s dental hygiene student, Adela, melted away as she saw how adored the Tooth Fairy was. That afternoon, this brave future prevention specialist put my dress on and replicated what I had demonstrated earlier in the classrooms. I was so proud to see her put aside her fear, knowing what a difference she will make by educating children in such a child-friendly way.

Kellie takes part in commemorating the signing of an agreement between a private university in Cochabamba and the Smiles Forever Foundation to assure a bright future for dental hygienist training in Bolivia:

I also learned that the profession of dental hygiene does not exist in Latin America.  Smiles Forever has been actively pursuing accreditation for their curriculum and licensure for their graduates, but has been met with opposition because it had never been done before. Leading up to the time of my visit, Smiles Forever had had a series of meetings with Universidad de Privada Abierta Latinoamericana (UPAL), a private university in Cochabamba, to discuss a possible partnership or adoption of the Smiles Forever dental hygiene program. An agreement has been made, and the future for a dental hygiene profession in Bolivia is bright.  

When I first heard about Sandy, I recall thinking what a change agent and difference maker a person with a passion could be. She and her team have not only provided dental care for tens of thousands of Bolivians, but also brought the profession of dental hygiene to Latin America for the first time. I am awed and humbled to have been in Cochabamba the day the agreement between UPAL and Smiles Forever was signed. For someone whose childhood dream it was to be a dental hygienist, I cannot express how meaningful it was to me to see my profession advance in such a major way right before my eyes. Because of Sandy Kemper and Smiles Forever, there will be future five-year-olds dreaming of making a difference for people as a dental hygienist, just like I did.

 Good-bye to these wonderful Bolivian children, until God-willing I can make the trip again!  Kellie

 
WARNING: Javascript is currently disabled or is not available in your browser. GlobalGiving makes extensive use of Javascript and will not function properly with Javascript disabled. Please enable Javascript and refresh this page.