Hundreds of Belongers have been excitingly lining the streets of Five Keys Road eager to meet with and be treated by an incredible team of dentists and other medical professionals at the island’s first ever 1000 Smiles Dental Clinic.
The programme, which provides access to free first-class dental care and education, is operated by the United States-based non-profit, Great Shape! Inc. and is being facilitated by the philanthropic arm of Sandals Resorts International (SRI) which operates Beaches Resorts - the Sandals Foundation.
Since its opening day on Monday, October 15, approximately 700 people have benefitted from fillings, cleanings, extractions, root canals, sealants, dentures and more from a team of 60 Great Shape! Inc. volunteers.
Joseph Wright, Founding Executive Director of Great Shape! Inc. says, “We are thrilled to launch the 1000 Smiles Project in Turks and Caicos Islands, 18 years after our first project in Negril, Jamaica! The Covid-19 pandemic has severely disabled the governments’ ability to provide routine dental care in the countries we work in. So we are finding that after nearly 2 years, the need for dental care is acute.”
In Turks and Caicos,” Wright continued, “The story is the same. The lines are long and the people are so incredibly grateful. With the help of Sandals Foundation, the 1000 Smiles Project launch in Turks and Caicos has been remarkably smooth and successful despite the many challenges we’ve face in these unique times.”
Clinics are open daily 8:30 to 4:30 with its operations carefully following Covid-19 safety protocols and guidelines.
To date, the teams have enjoyed the notable visits from members of the local communities including the Minister of Education and elected representative for the Five Cays District, Hon. Rachel Taylor. Hon Taylor was able to meet with the volunteer team and discuss the potential of future programs in partnership with Great Shape! Inc. and Sandals Foundation.
Heidi Clarke, Executive Director at Sandals Foundation was elated to see the turnout of families, noting that increasing access to healthcare services is a key component of the philanthropic organization’s work in improving the lives of the region’s people.
“We are beyond pleased to see the expansion of the 1000 Smiles dental programme into the beautiful Turks and Caicos Islands. Healthy people make healthy communities and as a Caribbean organization, we are fully committed to doing what we can to invest in the long term development of the region’s health sector and services”.
“These past eighteen months have been tough for families across the world,” continued Clarke, “We are very conscious of the toll this pandemic has had on families being able to meet some of their very basic needs. Good oral health reduces the risk of developing other serious diseases and so through these clinics, we just really want to help as many people as possible take care of one of the most important health investments they could make,” Heidi Clarke, Executive Director at the Sandals Foundation.
The Sandals Foundation Great Shape! Inc. dental programme has been a staple across the Caribbean since 2003, operating in the islands of Jamaica, St. Lucia and Grenada.
Here in Turks and Caicos Islands, mission volunteers are all being hosted at the Beaches Resorts with logistical, infrastructural and staff support covered by the hotel’s philanthropic arm.