Sandals Foundation – the philanthropic arm of Sandals Resorts International – together with Beaches Turks and Caicos Resort and Spa, provided dental services to more than 1,500 Islanders recently under its ‘1000 Smiles’ initiative carried out by volunteers from Great Shape! Inc.
Between October 10 and 21, the dental volunteer mission team, which comprised of 92 practicing professionals provided cleaning, filling, extractions, sealants and oral health education to residents of South Caicos, Grand Turk, and Providenciales.
Beneficiaries received free state of the art dental care that guaranteed them greater confidence in their smiles, as the Sandals/Beaches chain seeks to support the islands’ dental health care services.
This enterprise effort marked the second year that the programme was being implemented in the Turks and Caicos Islands, with the numbers indicating growing support and trust.
On Providenciales, the dental clinic site was the Jericho Baptist church. Former Minister of Health and Human Services Hon Jamell Robinson, who was on hand to get firsthand knowledge of what the programmed entailed, shared his satisfaction with what he saw.
“As the Minister of Health, to see firsthand the quality of work being executed is an amazing feeling. Being able to see residents of TCI getting quality dental care being provided by professionals who have committed themselves to volunteering is what makes this initiative more meaningful,” Robinson said.
He added: “The continued relationship between Sandals Foundation, Beaches Turks and Caicos and the government of the TCI augurs well for the development of the people of these islands. With this event that served our people for two weeks, more than 1,500 residents were impacted including adults and students at our primary and secondary schools.”
General Manager of Beaches Turks and Caicos James McAnally shared: “We are humbled by the numbers of persons that came out this year. As a resort, we value partnerships and through the Great Shape! Inc.’s healthcare partnership, together we have created history with the highest number of clients being served in any one visit to a region. We are proud to have been involved in creating brighter and healthier smiles for the residents of these beautiful islands.”
One resident of Lower Blight, Gregory Simpson, his wife and four children were recipients of the programme…he was elated at the service received.
“To be able to have received the quality dental care that I was able to receive along with my family is amazing. The atmosphere was safe and comfortable for all to receive the best dental care that anyone could ask for.
“The dental surgeon was patient and very professional and they all made us feel comfortable as they were patient with especially the children and the advice that they shared after everything was done,” Simpson said.
In explaining the approach of the volunteers, Founding Executive Director of Great Shape! Inc., Joseph Wright said: "Some people come in with fear and are a little bit scared to get stuff done, but, as we talk through the procedure, explain what we're doing, and why we're doing it, we are able to build the trust of patients who develop a sense of ease."
Meanwhile, more than 2,000 students from Enid Capron Primary, Ianthe Pratt Primary, Oseta Jolly Primary, Thelma Lightbourne Primary, Long Bay High and Clement Howell High Schools also benefited from dental care education through a school tour which was also executed over the two-week period.
Students and teachers were reminded about the importance of proper brushing, flossing and oral care by members of the Great Shape! Team during interactive sessions at the educational institutions.
Principal of the Enid Capron Primary school, Sophia Garland said: “We welcome the initiative as the sessions were dynamic, educational and children-friendly. The students were able to interact and ask questions which the team were able to answer in a fulsome manner which provided much needed information for the students.”
Ministry of Health's (MOH) Chief Dental Officer Dr Janice Baron expressed appreciation to the Great Shape! outreach noting, “It has established a good example of best practices in the field”.
Great Shape! Inc. is one of the largest dental volunteer missions in the world The dental outreach, which commenced in TCI last year, is made possible with Beaches Resorts providing accommodations and the charitable arm, the Sandals Foundation, spearheading logistics and offsetting the costs for transportation, as well as food and beverage for the clinics.