Volunteer for the world’s largest international humanitarian dental effort by day, play at a luxury resort by night: That’s exactly what Ahwatukee Foothills’ Dr. Harvey Arnce will be doing Nov. 5 through 19 in Jamaica.
Leaving work at the local Ironwood Dental Center for one week, Arnce volunteers his time and skills for the 1000 Smiles program; one of three humanitarian projects of Great Shape! Inc. The 1000 Smiles program has evolved from the efforts of founder Myrtle Franklin to help fill a void that the Jamaican health care system has struggled to fill on its own.
According to Great Shape’s website there is only one dentist for every 100,000 people in Jamaica. Combine that with little knowledge about oral hygiene and maintaining healthy teeth becomes an obstacle.
“Almost everyone there has at least one problem tooth,” Arnce said. “It’s a culture of missing teeth down there.”
After reading about Great Shape! Inc.’s mission in the American Dental Association Journal, Arnce and his son went on a volunteer mission to Ocho Rio, Jamaica.
Arnce did basic dental fillings, cleanings and extractions on patients, while his son assisted.
Setting up temporary clinics in barns, churches or wherever someone would loan them space, Arcne, his son, and other volunteers worked all day in humid conditions with sub-par equipment to help relieve patients’ dental pain.
“It’s very dramatic. People line up 50 yards deep to get help,” Arnce said.
They also visit primary schools to pass out toothbrushes, toothpaste and floss as well as teach the proper ways to maintain oral hygiene.
The generous volunteer efforts do not go unnoticed by the Sandals Foundation, one of the main partners of the 1000 Smiles program.
Sandals Resorts are easily recognizable for their relaxing hotel paradises on exotic beaches, but are less known for their humanitarian efforts. The Sandals Foundation is dedicated to “educating, building and protecting the Caribbean.”
Great Shape! Inc. philanthropists reside at the Sandals resort free during their time in Jamaica. According to their website, Sandals donates $800,000 each year in accommodations and staff support for the volunteers.
On the weekends volunteers can scuba dive, gamble at casino night, play a round of golf, relax at a beach party or unwind with dinner and drinks; all compliments of Sandals.
Volunteering isn’t completely free though. Airfare costs as well as a $700 project fee are expected from each participant.
Arnce says it may seem like a lot of money but that it’s only one-fourth of the cost of staying at a Sandals resort normally and it’s also tax deductible.
Many volunteers send out letters asking for help and receive small donations.
“When they hear of a good cause, most people don’t mind giving $25 to help out,” Arnce said.
People can also “sponsor a smile” for a $50 donation. The money provides services and education for five children in Jamaica and also buys the benefactor a ticket that enters them in a drawing to win a Jamaican getaway.
“I was so impressed when I saw what we can do for them so cheaply. They are very grateful. They bring coconuts or whatever they can find as gifts. Great Shape! has left a good impression with the Jamaican people,” Arnce said.
Due to its success, Great Shape! Inc. has expanded its efforts with the iCare Vision project and the SuperKids Literacy project.
Jamaica does not have a printing industry so all books must be imported, making them rare and expensive.
The SuperKids Literacy project donated more than 15,000 books in 2009.
Volunteers work one-on-one with children who lack basic reading skills in hopes of solving Jamaica’s poverty issue through education.
The SuperKids volunteers also donated school uniforms to children who weren’t allowed to attend school because they couldn’t afford the proper attire.
The iCare Vision project gave 2,300 pairs of glasses to children in need over four days last fall. There are only two eye care professionals for every 500,000 people in Jamaica.
The iCare program is currently looking for 30 to 40 more volunteers to help give eye exams and help with paperwork on the next project trip.
For more information or to donate to the cause, contact Arnce at (480) 704-0701 or visit www.gsjamaica.org.
Erica Tiffany is interning this semester for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. She is a senior at Arizona State University.