"You must be the change you want to see in the world." Gandhi
Change the World---Smiles Forever is doing their part
Ordinary people—from all walks of life---have long risen to the challenge, seeking answers and solutions for social problems. They start organization or foundations or dedicate themselves to participating in projects as part of a larger group or by themselves.
Coming on ten years, Sandy Kemper has dedicated her life to her passion, Smiles Forever. The Foundation has trained young indigenous women living at the “Madre de Dios” homeless shelter in Cochabamba, Bolivia. And provided free preventive and restorative dental care to roughly 5000 homeless per year.
Smile Forever provides an opportunity through a Dental Hygiene program that focuses on preventative care, a service that is rarely provided in South America. Training young indigenous women of Cochabamba, Bolivia to become dental hygiene practitioners gives them an opportunity that builds self-esteem, leadership skills and skill that will afford the students the opportunity to help themselves as well as helping others. Smiles Forever plans to take the program model to other Third World countries so this opportunity and spirit of compassion can be experienced elsewhere.
Developing Smiles Forever Foundation has come at a tremendous personal cost to Sandy. To raise money for Smiles Forever two-year dental hygiene training program, Sandy had worked extra hours, as a dental hygienist and endured many hours organizing fundraising events to raise money every year to expand and enhance Smiles Forever.
In June of 2000 Smiles Forever was incorporated as a non-profit organization and received its 501 C (3) status September 13, 2001. Smiles Forever became a non profit foundation in Bolivia in 2004 and is now recognized worldwide
Smiles Forever opened its doors in 2002, accepting six students. Three years later, four dental hygienists completed their training and are currently employed part-time while completing their general education; two of the graduates are now attending University to become dentists. These students will be recognized as the first dental hygienists in Bolivia. Currently they work in dental offices near their homes.
A team of two Bolivian dentists, translators, and other Bolivian professionals teach and run the program year round. Volunteer Dental Hygienists from the U.S. and Canada designed the program and continue to teach on an ongoing basis. The Smiles Forever dental hygiene program was accredited in 2004 by the Dental Society of Cochabamba, Bolivia. In 2008 this clinic provided free preventive and restorative dental care to over 5000 homeless individuals in the area.
Sandy provides a Transitional house where the graduates can live for a contracted period of one to two years while completing their general education and working part-time in local dental offices. This allows students to be coached through this difficult period of adjustment and shown how to eventually live on their own.
Smiles Forever Foundation has built a new dental clinic (funded by an International Rotary grant and private donations) at the transitional center in Cochabamba. This new clinic contains three dental chairs in which Bolivian dentist provide dental services to the general Bolivian population. Senior Smiles Forever dental hygiene students provide preventive services. The clinic is slowly building a patient base. Patients are encouraged in prevention over restoration. The clinic provides all specialties in dentistry. Bolivians are able to experience first hand how the program works and donate to the sustainability of the clinic and training center. After six months in existence, the clinic is able to pay for its own maintenance and supplies. All proceeds fund the existing Smiles Forever Dental Hygiene Training Program.
Smiles Forever is immensely grateful to the efforts of so many to be able to sustain an opportunity to provide young women a chance to learn a skill which will allow them to provide for their families and enhance their lives. We hope to be able to take this educational model to other Third World Countries where opportunities for young women are scarce and the need for oral hygiene is great.