Project #7925

Help Dental Hygiene Students Make Bolivia Smile!

by Smiles Forever
Bolivian Children Learning basic Dental Hygiene
Bolivian Children Learning basic Dental Hygiene

Smiles Forever Joins Global Giving in Sharing Gifts of Love in Our Corner of the World

Valentine's Day Greetings from all of us here in Bolivia.  Today gives testimony to the power of love and how even small gifts and acts of kindness can be potent medicine.  We have chosen today to invite you to join our community as a recurring giver at any level.  Here's news about how valuable your donations will be as we announce plans to run a 3-year dental treatment study with the children of Villa Tunari, a stable indigenous community in the Bolivian jungle.

Launching Recurring Giver Recruitment Campaign as we actively fundraise for Villa Tunari Project

If you have been on the fence about joining the Smiles Forever recurring donor campaign, decide today.  Or in other words, make the leap before February 29th Leap Day if possible.  We are off to a modest start, and if you could be one of the 3 additional recurring donors needed, we'd make the next platform & win Global Giving points.  Doesn't that sound fun and easy?  Our goal for between now and the end of March is 50 new donors.  We would love to have a consistent funded base to make planning a trip to Villa Tunari every 6 months for the next three years less nerve-wracking.  Smiles Forever has already begun the treatment of 400 school children.  We took our staff and a team of volunteers last fall and stayed a full week, working out of a 2-chair clinic in 100 degree heat.  We held seminars for educators and families.  In order to be accepted into our ambitious project, students had to bring back signed parental permission slips.

Learning More with Global Giving's Storytelling Tool

Admittedly, we weren't the first ones in the pack to adapt our feedback model to Global Gving's storytelling tool.  We have been stuck in the planning mode for far too long--now we have a winning idea for collecting pictures & insight & seeing how our "clients" see us.  This understanding will be priceless and even more so because it will be in a form we can share with the world.  We love you, "te amo," Global Giving & Global Giving UK for providing the method and the nudge needed to get out there in the heat & humidy with our smartphones and take pictures as we collect stories.  

Adopting individual children, families or the whole village--your choice

Smiles Forever pledges to keep you all updated with personal profiles.  What makes this indigenous tropical community unique in part is their welcoming attitude and lack of fear of modern inventions.  These children and even their parents enjoy having their pictures taken and do not balk at having them shared--quite the reverse--they are eager and proud.  Our team's departure back to serve Villa Tunari with some of the latest in dental technology is coming soon, either late March or early April.  The logistics of transportation and housing, not to mention purchasing supplies to last a week, are daunting.  That's why your help is so critical.  

Volunteer Opportunity

I should mention since this project will extend for three years to collect statistically valuable information, if you are a dental professional and wish to put together a team, or if you belong to a service group, please consider coming to Bolivia.  You are more than welcome to contact me directly.

Children of all ages will be served
Children of all ages will be served
Shirley 2nd from left pictured with Dr. Quinteros
Shirley 2nd from left pictured with Dr. Quinteros

Shirley was awarded a Smiles Forever scholarship when she was just 17.  It has been our honor and joy to watch her turn into a beautiful and studious woman of 18. Because Shirley is so eloquent, I want to include both her opening impression and her updated story.   Sandy Kemper, Founder of Smiles Forever

Here's Shirley's Story when she first came to us:

Hello my name is Shirley and I’m 17 years old.

I just started the dental hygiene program at Smiles Forever. Dental hygiene is a beautiful career, and I’ve learned a lot already and I’m going through the program so I can become a dental hygienist. Also, one of my dreams in life is to become a dentist, but my family has a lot of economic problems and also social problems. Sometimes my parents don’t get along and fight a lot and that makes me really sad and also makes my little brothers sad. Most of the discussions my parents have are because of money. I always talk to my little brothers about positive things in life and that we have to have faith in God and I know that everything will change in our family, especially when I can work as a hygienist and help to provide.

I want to thank to all the Smiles Forever donors since they are changing my life and many other girls’ lives with this program and to accomplish one of my dreams, and I promise that I will not let you down.

Love and blessings,


 Here's Shirley's Holiday Letter Expressing Thankfulness:

My name is Shirley.  I have 18 years. I am from Cochabamba, Bolivia.

I have 5 younger brothers who I love. They are under my responsibility when my parents go out to work. I'm from a family of limited financial resources; all the money my parents earn is just enough to eat and basic expenses.

My parents are heavily indebted to the bank and make every effort to pay. So I'm now starting to work to pay for my transportation to go to Smiles Forever. For me it is a great help they opened the doors and give me this scholarship. Thanks to Smiles Forever and a dental hygienist career, I will be able to move forward with my family.

To the Smiles Forever supporters, thank you for helping me fulfill my dreams.  Blessings, Shirley

Send a Homeless Bolivian Woman to School for a Year will be featured by Global Giving on Dec. 26th!

This is a wonderful holiday gift to us from Global Giving for being faithful about giving feedback & for being lucky.  We're thankful to be featured on what traditionally is a prime day for giving.  Share the news & don't forget to personally view the front page of Global Giving.   Simply go to  

Happy Holidays from us here at Smiles Forever to you & your loved ones!

Shirley on the left age 18
Shirley on the left age 18
Shirley 17 in school
Shirley 17 in school's dramatic hallway
Youth clowning to welcome dental hygienists
Youth clowning to welcome dental hygienists

"Our Smiles Forever school's initial failure to retain students was rocking the foundation of our very mission to help these young indigenous women train for a career.  Thank heaven we totally changed our approach to recruiting and  drastically switched how we interacted with these special, dedicated women.  A story of doom was reversed to a story of success.  This extraordinary project report is at the invitation of Global Giving to share how our organization learned from failure.  We're taking part in the Global Giving Falling Forward story contest. I know you'll find our journey of learning especially meaningful."  Sandy Kemper, Founder & Executive Director

Smiles Forever Falling Forward:  Loosing Many Battles before Winning the Victory of Retaining Our Students & Earning the Prize of Accreditation

Smiles Forever’s Bolivian School, with our predominantly homeless young women students, has had to make many personal and professional adjustments on our long, often twisting path to graduate young women as dental hygienists.

We wanted to help everyone & for years we tried mightily, but our school with its two-year program was too demanding, too demoralizing, and too difficult as a lifestyle adjustment.  We were losing students.  Way too many of our brightest prospects were giving up and we had to ask why.  We ultimately came to the realization that Smiles Forever needed to abandon our altruistic aspirations to help everyone who came to us.  We had to refuse entry to several based on academic predictions;  we had to toughen our approach to instill a desire for achievement.  We had to stop imposing our desires and deal with our denial that this program could help everyone find a new life.  In a nutshell, we had to diverge from the idea that these charity students needed what we could offer to change their futures and reverse our thinking.  We flipped our thinking around:  now we have a model where the instructors can listen to our clientele!

What were our problems?  Why weren’t more students staying with their studies?

Too Demanding:  Initially, our school model was to turn away virtually no one.  This was causing our students grief because they were not prepared academically to pursue so rigorous a program.  The students would begin in high spirits, only to have their hopes and dreams dashed.  Sometimes, they would just walk out the door, especially between academic years, and they silently fell by the wayside.  It was heart-breaking to see the ones we had wished so sincerely to help being crushed under the overwhelming burden.  We saw that our screening practices were not sufficient; we were going to have to tighten our admission standards.  We were going to have to turn away willing, eager, students who were desperate to change their lives.  Our pre-testing had to be radically adjusted.

Too Demoralizing:  We had to realize that a world of being repeatedly tested was foreign to our students.  Every failed exam was humiliating, thus totally demoralizing for our students.  These young women had survived on the streets, risen above abusive home situations, or had sprung back from the abandonment of their families and an uncaring society.  These young women had been fighting so many battles and winning.  They were the survivors and were entitled to feel proud.  Now they found themselves in a setting where the path was daily getting more difficult and their anxiety regarding testing was hurting their chances to do well.  Some drastic changes had to be made.  We saw we had to intervene sooner.  We needed to provide tutoring before each roadblock exam.  We had to build stepping stones of small learning achievements and reinforce bridges to ensure more did well during critical exams.  We had to introduce counseling both academic and personal into every level of their schooling!

Too Difficult as a Lifestyle Adjustment:  Our school had to admit that our initial approach with thinking we could offer protection from their lives in the real world, or a “nice vacation” from the worry of survival, was not realistic, nor was it respectful.  We had to turn the tables and totally listen to the concerns of our students.  We could not smooth over legitimate fears of survival which these indigenous women had.  Bolivia is one of the poorest countries in South America, and the prospects for a woman to do well and have an easier time remained especially remote.  Once we allowed these vulnerable young women to be our teachers, everyone in the school had stronger bonds of understanding!

The Simple Answer to the Big Problem was a Surprise:  One day there was an uprising of sorts.  Our young, wonderful students were learning at a faster rate and staying with the program.  Our little steps of being more aware of their perspective had changed the tide---fewer and fewer were dropping out.  We had offered some of them part-time jobs within the school where they could have their dignity enhanced.  We no longer gave them everything.  Our students were actually pleased with themselves for contributing, even if it was something   simple like buying their own uniforms.  They had become responsible.  Then a surprising thing happened.  These students, along with some past students, formed their own Dental Hygienist Society, and they took part on a volunteer basis of giving back to their communities.  The victory of coming from nothing and having nothing, to gaining education and having something to give made an enormous difference.  They were rightly proud of themselves!  Smiles Forever is so proud of all our young women students, for they do have a social conscience!

Full Circle:  Broadening our Recruiting to Include Young Mothers

For nearly all of our 15 years of serving the indigenous women of the Cochabamba, Bolivia area, we have inadvertently excluded young mothers.  Last year, we listened when young mothers knocked on our doors.  They wanted a better future for themselves, so that in turn their children’s lives would benefit.  These mothers had extra incentive to succeed in a career.  We no longer turn away women who have children.  We have discovered another calling in educating these women who already understand responsibility.  Our students who are mothers act as role models!

Countless Setbacks on the Road to Recognition from the Bolivian Government:

Many times our founder, our administrator, and teaching staff have been discouraged by governmental hoops to gain full accreditation for our Smiles Forever Dental Hygiene School.  The intense requirements, added tests, arbitrary deadlines, and many other factors have made receiving this goal illusive.  Becoming fully accredited in the eyes of the Bolivian academic board has been often too demanding, too demoralizing, and too difficult an adjustment to make.  We knew we could not accept failure; we could not quit as each obstacle was thrown in our path.  Yes, we even experienced anxiety as this prize kept eluding us.  Finally—Victory!

 We’d like to tell all of you who have believed in our mission for a decade and a half:  the school has earned full accreditation & our graduates now can be totally recognized by their chosen profession.   THANK YOU!

Youthspark miniproject link for Wednesday October 7th Bonus Day

All donations matched all day on a pro-rated scale.  This is Microsoft's last bonus day, so do participate.

Dental University student Sonja receiving supplies
Dental University student Sonja receiving supplies
Dr. Apata in blue with Dental Hygienists
Dr. Apata in blue with Dental Hygienists

    Sandy's Story--                A Saga of Social Impact in Bolivia--                        15 Years of Smiles Forever Making a Difference

When Sandy Kemper came to visit Bolivia over 15 years ago, little did she know how hers and so many other lives would change.  She saw the beauty Boliva has to offer, but she also was struck with the surrounding poverty & hopelessness of the indigenous people.  She couldn't walk away.  She stopped and asked herself what she could do, and then she thought she could start with what she knows:  the registered dental hygienist profession.  Sandy found a way to begin the Smiles Forever Foundation and school for homeless Bolivian women.  Countless lives have since been touched with this initial heartfelt gesture and her unswerving dedication.

This update is all about measuring social impact one life at a time:     Dr. Apata tells her own story.

Let me preface Dr. Apata's compelling story, with why I happened to ask her to share.  As a longtime Project Leader for Smiles Forever, I have been involved in many Global Giving Webinars.  I just listened to Mari Kuraishi, the Co-founder and President of Global Giving who was the opening speaker for the brand new Social Impact class.  She posed the question, "How do our organizations measure social impact without incurring any additonal cost?" The answer we found is to ask our dental hygienist graduates about how their lives have been affected, both individually and as a group.  In June 2013, we are so proud that they formed the Dental Hygiene Society to focus on community service projects.

Dr. Apata Shares How Smiles Forever Impacted her Life

The Smiles Forever Dental Hygiene Training Program changed my life dramatically.  I'm the 4th of a family of 7 brothers and sisters.  My father and mother worked really heard to try to provide, but money was always a problem, even if we are a really united family.  Smiles Forever gave the opportunity to have a superior education.  At first, I only pictured education as my way out of poverty, now it is different.

After finishing my dental hygiene training, I worked for Dr. Salazar who was my teacher, and seeing how she worked encouraged me to take my education one step forward.  I decided to put myself through dental school.  Without my training in dental hygienist work, I would never have been able to complete my goals.  It was really difficult, but I completed my degree to become a dentist -- the first Smiles Forever School graduate to do so.

Then I returned to Smiles Forever since opportunities for a dentist fresh out of college are so limited, and knocked on their doors again.  They opened their doors happily and gave me my first paid job as a dentist.  I was able to teach young women like me.  Now I can proudly say that I support my parents economically and help my brothers, and I made a major decision in my life.  I want to return something to the organization which opened the doors for me at various times.  With part of my salary, I enrolled myself into a PHD program.  I will continue to receive a superior education in applied dentistry, since the one thing I love the most is to teach.  I love giving the opportunity to other women who are going through the same issues that I faced in the past or worse!  I understand that teaching is not simply telling what I know--rather it is a transfer of my knowledge. 

That is why I have so much to thank Sandy Kemper for and the Smiles Forever FoundationI have heard the saying of the gift that keeps on giving-- perhaps I can be that gift for many years.

The Social Impact of Educating a Woman Goes beyond into the sphere of her family & children & community. 

15 years of Smiles Forever working in Bolivia hasn't been easy, and at first it was hard to measure how individual lives and the surrounding community could be changed.  Even though the need sometimes seems insurmountable, nevertheless the picture is getting clearer-- we are making an impact.  Literally, thousands have received dental care.  With your help Smiles Forever will be serving for another 15 years. 

     Superstar 50% Bonus Day July 15th   Starting at 9:00 a.m. Washington D.C. & Bolivian time--  6:00 a.m. Seattle time

All of us at Smiles Forever invite you to join us July 15th as Global Giving helps us raise money for the 2015/ 2016 school year.

Dr. Apata in orange with dental hygienists
Dr. Apata in orange with dental hygienists
Rosie Bellert RDH BS bestowing award at school
Rosie Bellert RDH BS bestowing award at school

Smiles Forever Dental School Welcomes Dental Professionals

It's been an exciting time here in Cochabama as Rosie Bellert, RDH BS, Dr. Tracey Wayman, Dr. Michael le Clair, Deborah McGlynn, RDH BS, and Becki Delaney, RDH, and Kristin Labeck RDH, came to teach for two weeks, sponsored by Rotarians and a generous grant.

This is the 3rd visit for Rosie who leads the Shoreline Community College Dental Hygienist school, and in many ways the most rewarding.  Our students here were excited to be learning so much.   Besides seeing demonstrations about the newest cleaning techniques, and learning about root canal therapy, they also were hearing cutting-edge information about oral cancers--one caused by a HPV virus.

Fame, Fanfare, Food, and Fun

These dental professionals took their show on the road and did teaching demonstrations at the nearby Universidad de Valle dental school.  They received recognition from the University President and were given a book his poetry. Then they were interviewed on TV.  In between, they were discovering the adventurous foods of Bolivia:  quinoa tabouli, barbecued heart, potatoes with peanut sauce, Bolivian style chocolate with the natural salts from the Salar de Unari salt flats, and all washed down with robust Bolivian coffee.  The group had excursions, including to the colorful market.  What wonderful relationships were forged between the professionals and the eager students.  Rosie shares, "Each time is a new experience.  I am so proud of the strong women who are the pioneers of the dental hygiene profession."  We wish you all could have been here!

April Highlights:  A Visit from Global Giving's Natalie, and a Microsoft Youthspark Fundraiser April 14th

We're delighted here at our Smiles Forever school to have the opportunity to entertain Natalie from the Global Giving home office.  She'll be joining us April 13th to meet and greet our new students & to get a first-hand update in all we are accomplishing.  Also, now that we have been active on Global Giving for 5 years, Natalie will use our knowledge to help recruit other organizations and projects.  This effort should raise worldwide awareness for Bolivia and help many more deserving indigenous communities.

Join us on 50% Match Youthspark Day April 14th, beginning at 6:00 A.M. Seattle Time!

Help Geovanna, and our other young mothers.  Donate to our two newest projects:  "Geovanna's Genuine Goal: Career and Safety for her Baby", and our new permanent project "Send a Young Bolivian Mother to School for a Year." Our original project "Send a Homeless Bolivian Woman to School for a Year" is also Youthspark eligible.

Just a few times per year, we are eligible for 50% matching.  Join us for this opportunity to increase your gift!

The donation window closed 9:00 P.M. Seattle time.  Each gifts helps these women & all they will do to give back.

Dish of quinoa, barbecued heart & peanut potatoes
Dish of quinoa, barbecued heart & peanut potatoes

About Project Reports

Project Reports on GlobalGiving are posted directly to by Project Leaders as they are completed, generally every 3-4 months. To protect the integrity of these documents, GlobalGiving does not alter them; therefore you may find some language or formatting issues.

If you donate to this project or have donated to this project, you will get an e-mail when this project posts a report. You can also subscribe for reports via e-mail without donating.

Get Reports via Email

We'll only email you new reports and updates about this project.

Organization Information

Smiles Forever

Location: Renton, WA - USA
Website: https:/​/​
Project Leader:
Sandy Kemper
Renton, WA United States
$80,085 raised of $99,000 goal
449 donations
$18,915 to go
Donate Now
Donating through GlobalGiving is safe, secure, and easy with many payment options to choose from. Learn more.
Add Project to Favorites

Help raise money for this important cause by creating a personalized fundraising page for this project.

Start a Fundraiser

Learn more about GlobalGiving

Teenage Science Students
Vetting +
Due Diligence


Woman Holding a Gift Card
Gift Cards

Young Girl with a Bicycle

Sign up for the GlobalGiving Newsletter

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.