Dr Darren Weiss, President of the Humble Smile Foundation, talks about its Sunshine & Smiles mission in Mozambique
This is the story of the Sunshine & Smiles project in Mozambique. It is about the people doing the work as well as those touched by that work, the project itself, and the partner that makes it possible. To watch a short film about the project click here.
Terri Larson is Executive Director and President of the Sunshine Approach Foundation, a non-profit organisation that cares for orphans and vulnerable children in Mozambique. On Sunshine & Smiles, she was responsible for the local organization of the program – from aligning with government authorities and dealing with import of oral care products, to scheduling with school directors.
Terri also took care of us, hosting the team in her home, accompanying us everywhere for the entire three weeks, and providing for all our professional and personal needs – no small job.
While completely involved in every aspect of the Sunshine & Smiles project, Terri still found time to do her regular daily work of dressing wounds for shoe-less kids, providing meals for hungry ones, and giving support, warmth and love wherever she went. Without a doubt, a major benefit of doing outreach work is the privilege and wonderful learning experience provided by working with inspirational people such as Terri.
Sunshine & Smiles: Child Oral Health Promotion Project, Matola, in Mozambique. For the children of Mozambique, one of the world's poorest and most underdeveloped countries, life is tough. Many have to deal with malnutrition and disease due to poor access to clean water and sanitation, as well as family breakdown due to the high prevalence of HIV. Most of the kids suffer from tooth decay because sugary foods are cheap and sweetened beverages are often a safer alternative to drinking the available water.
Humble Smile, the International Association of Dental Students (IADS) and Sunshine Approach joined forces to form a voluntary team made up of dental students from around the world − together with local outreach workers − who underwent training to become oral health educators.
Two primary schools, an orphanage and a shelter for child victims of human trafficking were targeted for the preventive program, which focused on habit change. We added an introduction to tooth brushing and hand washing to the daily school routine, and education about healthy nutritional choices.
All of the 1274 children reached were screened for oral disease, and hundreds of cavities were treated with Silver Diamine Fluoride. The team shared ideas for preventive upstream strategies with policymakers. Representatives from the Ministry of Health and the ISCTEM Dental School visited and helped out at the project sites. Together with the Ministry of Education, these partners will all be part of a scaled-up Sunshine & Smiles initiative in 2017.
The smile on their faces
IADS volunteer, Ljubomir Micíc ́ from Serbia, said, “The experience in the project will help me a lot with professional skills and my future career − and of course to be a better person. Many of the kids have never seen a dentist in their lives, so the smile on their faces is so important to me and my colleagues on the team.”
The bad news is that our survey showed that: 33% of the kids felt discomfort with their teeth in the last 12 months; 26% had difficulties with biting hard foods; 18% avoided smiling because of their teeth, and; 9% missed school because of problems with their teeth.
The good news is that they get a second chance at prevention with the eruption of their permanent teeth, thanks to our sponsors: Humble Brush; Plaque HD; Premier; Elevate Oral Care; Soapbox, and Sunshine Nut Company.
Humble Partner: Sunshine Nut Co.
Sunshine Nut Company is a cashew roasting company that employs adult orphans and has committed 90% of its profits to supporting agricultural development, and care for orphans and vulnerable children through The Sunshine Approach Foundation. Don Larson is the CEO and Founder of the company, who, in 2011 left a thriving career in the USA to sustainably improve the lives of people in Mozambique.
Throughout the Sunshine & Smiles project, employees took time off work to be our Portuguese speaking Oral Health Educators in the field. Thanks so much Prescila, Tarryn, Sebi, Aida, Gito and Binario.