OCHO RIOS, Jamaica. Some 340 students and 25 adults in communities in and around the tourism mecca of Ocho Rios were recently treated to world class dental care from members of the United States volunteer team Great Shape! Inc. at the Eltham Community Centre in the parish.
The services provided at the Spring Sealant Project, were made possible by the Sandals Foundation free of charge by a contingent of 27 practicing professionals from USA, Canada and Jamaica who volunteered their services to support the dental and overall welfare needs of families in the island that need it most.
The 4-day preventative oral health care clinic targeted children from the 5 primary schools of Parry Town, Boscobel, Priory, Exchange and Ocho Rios. Each patient received dental sealants, topical fluoride varnish, a toothbrush, floss, toothpaste, and oral health education in addition to emergency fillings and extractions.
“When decay is prevented on the chewing surfaces of the molars, says Joseph Wright, Founding Executive Director of Great Shape! Inc., “The teeth are protected for years to come. This becomes especially important to families who are not able to make regular visits to the dentist. Preventing excess decay reduces the risk of rampant bacteria formation in the mouth thereby reducing risks of other health complications, including a stressed immune system.”
Dental Hygienist and 30-time repeat Great Shape! volunteer, Leanne Rodine got teary eyed when asked what makes her continue to return “To be able to see these children smile after providing for them well needed dental care makes our visit meaningful. Many of these children have not had the chance to get optimal dental care and for us to help them protect their teeth by applying sealant to shield them from decay is our primary mission.”
“Being able to empower these children and parents to have their teeth be healthy, Rodine continued, “Gives us added joy. As dental professionals, we rather preventing the tooth decays than having to treat them, hence this mission means a lot to us.”
General Manager at the Sandals Ochi Beach resort and Sandals Foundation Ambassador, Charles Blacher shared, “The mission of Sandals is always towards giving the best service available to those we serve and being able to partner with Great Shape! Inc. is one such venture that allows us the ability to serve our communities. We are happy to do our part creating a strong health foundation for our children to grow.”
Eltham community resident and beneficiary, Sean Allen shared, “this is a great feeling. I had my teeth cleaned and this has given me a brighter smile when I looked in the mirror. These people are very professional and thorough in the work that they do.”
Meanwhile, local volunteer dentist, Dr. Thwin Aung who operates his practice in the capital city of Kingston was elated to be part of the mission. “The fact that we are able to visit rural communities with the Great Shape! team and give of our expertise makes it a very worthwhile venture. At the end to see a child smile and we can know that we were able to preserve the dental health of another generation is an awesome feeling.”
For 19 years, Sandals Resorts have partnered with Great Shape! Inc. to provide much needed health services to communities in which it operates a resort. Starting in Jamaica in 2003, the teams have provided dental and eye care services to families in the islands of St. Lucia, Antigua, Grenada and Turks and Caicos’ Islands.