Castries, Saint Lucia: For the fourth consecutive year, the Great Shape! Inc. and Sandals Foundation 1000 Smiles Dental Clinic touched down in St. Lucia, this time offering comprehensive free dental care to over 1000 St. Lucians, the most residents they have seen to date. The programme operated two clinics simultaneously at the Marchand School in Castries and at the Boguis Combined School in the community of Boguis treating 457 patients during the first week and another 629 during the second week.
Team Leader and Founder of Great Shape! Inc., Joseph Wright, is heartened by the response from those who came to the various centres for treatment. “Since we started coming here, we have treated about 4000 people. The response to this initiative continues to be positive and, as a result, the number of people who have benefited has grown exponentially. In 2015, over 800 people attended the clinics. In 2016, just over 1000 people received treatment and in 2017, just under 1300 people benefited from the dental clinics.”
For its part, Executive Director of the Sandals Foundation, Heidi Clarke said, “We are proud to continue our partnership with Great Shape! Inc. to offer health care to residents across the region. Access to healthcare is a necessity for all and we are very happy to be able to support in this regard. We also truly appreciate the work of the hundreds of volunteers who make this project the success that it has become over time.”
While the programme has come to Saint Lucia previously, this year has been momentous as a number of firsts have been recorded. This is the first partnership with the dental hygienist school, Mount Hood Community College, which resulted in the participation of 7 students and 2 supervisors, all Dental Hygienists and at varying levels of study at the College.
Wright said, through the collaboration with the Medical and Dental Association, the programme has gone beyond providing a service to Saint Lucians. For the first time since the inception of the programme in Saint Lucia, Minister for Health, The Honorable Mary Isaac toured the Bordelais Correctional Facility during one of the scheduled clinics held for the inmates.
“We are now seen as a health staple on the island with The Minister’s visit coming at the end of the three day clinic where we treated 30 inmates. An additional 75 received oral health education and 1000 toothbrushes and toothpaste packs were distributed. We have now built very positive relations with the Health Minister and the Medical and Dental Association through Dr. Ephraim, who look forward to continuing the programme with us,” Wright said.
Wright added that, thanks to partnership between the Sandals Foundation and Great Shape! Inc., there is also a complete system at Bordelais which will facilitate the work of local dentists year round who will visit and treat inmates. In 2017, the organizations provided a Sterilizer, Dental Chair and a Compressor to the facility, this year, adding the Dental Operatory Unit, which now completes the service. This equipment is valued at US$10,000.00.
“Great Shape! and Sandals Foundation continue to positively change people’s lives forever through our ‘Extraordinary Partnership For Good’ There is no amount of money that can buy the feeling you get when you know you have saved someone’s smile forever. Thank you Sandals Foundation for making all of this possible for the people of St Lucia and all over the Caribbean,” Wright said.
According to Wright, a key element of the 1000 Smiles Dental Project is the education component. Dentists and Dental Hygienists alike spent time giving the patients they treat information about the best ways to care for their teeth to get the best smiles.
Dr. Alison St. Paul, a returning Saint Lucian Dentist from the USA joined the programme, one of three Saint Lucians who has participated in the programme over the last three years. “My family is from here and when I heard that the programme was coming to Saint Lucia it was a no-brainer. I saw this as my perfect opportunity to give back.”
Wright said that in addition to providing quality dental care, one of the highlights of this year’s clinics was the added economic benefit through the paying of stipends to the local volunteers. “These dedicated volunteers have been with us from the beginning and we felt that we needed to thank them in a more meaningful way.”
This collaboration with Great Shape! 1000 Smiles forms part of a continued investment by the Sandals Foundation in the health of the people in the region, and to date, over US$3M has been invested in room stays for the participating teams since the onset of the program. Sandals Resorts and the Sandals Foundation provide accommodation, local transportation and logistical support for the clinics.