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Volunteers needed for 1000 Smiles Dental project expansion into St. Lucia

April 24, 2015

Beaming: Dr. John Swearingen, left, spends a moment in November 2014 with a denture recipient at the 1000 Smiles temporary rural clinic in Montego Bay, Jamaica. The program needs volunteers for expansion to St. Lucia.
St. Lucia is next in line to benefit from the Great Shape! Inc. 1000 Smiles Dental Project with a planned expansion into the island nation.

According to Great Shape! Inc., 1000 Smiles has provided dental care to 140,000 rural Jamaicans over the past 12 years. The addition of the St. Lucia pilot program means 1000 Smiles is one step closer to its goal of expanding globally.

Dr. Peter Tawil, endodontic graduate program director at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is a committed 1000 Smiles volunteer. After serving the program for five years in Jamaica, Dr. Tawil so looked forward to the new opportunity to serve St. Lucia that he also engaged the residents he teaches at UNC to participate.

"An experience like this is priceless as it will mold their characters for the better, help them appreciate the luxuries that we so often take for granted at home and encourage them to extend a hand to help the ones in need throughout their life," Dr. Tawil said in a Great Shape! Inc. news release. "From an academic standpoint, this trip will expose them to the management of endodontic treatment of medically compromised patients and will give them an exposure to extractions and a unique set of emergency treatments for endodontic conditions."

Jamaica teamwork: From left, Sonja Irlbeck; Dr. Irving McKenzie, chief dental officer for Jamaica and dean of the College of Oral Health Sciences at University of Technology, Kingston, Jamaica; and Robert Irlbeck, a retired dental technician who is married to Sonja, worked together in November 2014 for 1000 Smiles in Kingston, Jamaica. The program needs volunteers for expansion to St. Lucia.
The project needs volunteers for Jamaica as well as to pioneer the development of 1000 Smiles in St. Lucia. "Helping this organization on a new start is helping them when they are the most in need. By breaking grounds on this new location, we will be opening a new door to new communities in desperate need of dental care," Dr. Tawil said.

Dr. Sherwin Shinn, who earned the ADA Humanitarian of the Year Award in 2013, co-founded 1000 Smiles. Said Dr. Shinn, "Sixteen years ago when I first went to Jamaica I was dismayed at the lack of dental services available to the general public," Dr. Shinn said in the news release. "Their public health system was overwhelmed just treating emergencies, there were no dental disease prevention education programs, and I witnessed the worst dental pathology in patients than anywhere else in the world that I've worked.  All this was happening in a country that is one of our closest neighbors.

"We put the word out for volunteers and established the 1000 Smiles Dental Project.  A year later, 30 volunteer dental professionals showed up, and with some portable dental field equipment and donated generators, instruments and supplies we did what we could to treat and educate the hundreds of patients who stood in line for our services. The fulfillment and appreciation we received was incredibly positive and life-changing. When word of our experience came back to our friends and colleagues more people wanted to get involved and the program grew."

This is the way: Lois Langlois, longtime returning volunteer, teaches children how to brush their teeth in November 2014 at Parry Town Primary School in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. The program needs volunteers for expansion to St. Lucia.
Volunteers pay a tax-deductible program fee of $800-$900 and their airfare to Jamaica or St. Lucia. They receive free housing, food and ground transport from sponsor Sandals Resorts International and Sandals Foundation. One-week missions are available. Volunteers are also asked to buy or solicit donations for all supplies needed to serve 75 patients per week.

This summer the project will serve the island of St. Lucia in Castries and a rural community to be determined. In the fall, the project will serve the following areas in Jamaica: Negril, Ocho Rios, Montego Bay and Whitehouse.

For more information, visit www.gsjamaica.org or call 1-510-893-1751.

To learn more about international volunteer opportunities, email adaf@ada.org or visit the ADA Foundation International Volunteer website at internationalvolunteer.ada.org.