Here in the states, we take dental hygiene for granted. We hate getting our teeth cleaned, we see dental visits as a painful chore and necessary evil.
But there are people outside of our wealthy country who would give anything for a thorough teeth cleaning, a new toothbrush, or a licensed professional to pull a rotten tooth. People who live in rural, remote regions of Nicaragua, for example.
Enter CU Global Brigades. Founded in 2009 to provide aid for underprivileged countries in nine different areas of sustainability in healthcare, economics, and environment, this ground-breaking student-led program at universities across U.S. importantly includes dental care.
“Global Brigades’ holistic model aims to build moral, educational, and economic infrastructure in under-resourced communities to empower such communities to become self-sustaining,” as described on their website.
At the CU-Boulder chapter of Global Brigades, volunteer students from CU-Boulder partner with dental professionals to travel to Nicaragua, bringing about 2,000 packages of toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss, and mouthwash along with them.
The dental professionals from Colorado offer pro bono dental work and medications to Nicaraguan patients, while student volunteers work alongside them, helping with dental cleanings, application of local anesthetic, instrument sterilization, and education. They also work with Nicaraguan community leaders and staff to develop sustainable health systems.
“The opportunity to travel and to assist communities in need was what initially drew me to this group,” CU Global Brigades Dental Co-President Kyle Parmley said. “The friendships, experiences, and connections I have made while on the Brigade are what drove me to return as an active member and make this group one of my most valued experiences during my undergraduate studies.”
However, despite the positive experiences of those who have traveled with the Brigade, they are having a hard time finding volunteer dentists and dental hygienists who are willing to take time off of work for seven to nine days to do more work, while paying for the trip out of their own pocket.
In addition, while the students hope to have all of the supplies and medications donated from local businesses, if extra is needed, the remainder is paid for by the student volunteers.
They need help. And if you aren’t a dental professional or dental student, don’t worry, you can still offer valuable assistance.
CU Global Brigades are looking for donors to sponsor travel expenses for dental professionals as well as the medications and supplies needed for serving patients.
“This is my fourth year participating in the Global Brigades and my second year as Co-President for the Dental Brigades. The holistic model deeply rooted in our aid to the communities is what sparked my interest in the group, and continues to fuel my passion for helping out local and international communities. We invite anyone who is interested to reach out to the group and see what work you could do locally or internationally to help our program out,” said CU Dental Brigades Co-President Maya Giannetti.
Companies and individuals are welcome to support the CU Global Brigades through charitable donations, matching gifts, company fundraising activities, or in-kind donations of supplies. Visit the CU Global Brigades website here to find ways to make a difference.