The Smiles Forever Dental Hygiene School in Cochabamba, Bolivia provides vocational training for indigenous mothers. We afford them a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change their lives and the future for their children. These women are enrolled in a fully accredited 2-year program, requiring a huge commitment. The challenges and rewards are great for these mothers. They love giving back to their community at free clinics. While they accrue internship hours they assist dental professionals.
Young indigenous mothers subsist as 2nd-class citizens and bear the heavy burden of poverty. Their children give them motivation to escape a world of social problems like lack of food and unavailable medical care. Finding housing is a challenge. Often they are unwelcome at their parents homes. Even personal safety issues can stand in the way of attaining an education. Because these young mothers are forced to live in survival mode, there is no way to save money or plan for an education.
Smiles Forever has for 16 years been breaking the pattern of hopelessness for young indigenous women by giving free or subsidized vocational training. Smiles Forever recognizes the special challenges and the high vulnerability of young mothers. So in addition to the dental hygienist training, the students receive counseling. Tutoring and mentoring is part of the school's highly successful program with an admirable graduation rate. Some students find work at the school after graduation.
These young indigenous mothers' lives are already woven into the fabric of their homes, neighborhoods, and larger communities. Their training and placement in employment will have a ripple effect on their surroundings. The mothers will instill high values into their children, and will advocate for their daughters to receive an education. Educated women are not invisible and silent. Rather, these women will have a conscience and a voice to speak out against social ills.