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Feb 10, 2003

Project Smile celebrates decade of dental care

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With one of the highest per capita consumptions of sugar in the world, Belize has got to be an uphill struggle for dentists. All the more need for any help we can get. Marion Ali has more on one programme that has saved more teeth than we can count.

Marion Ali, Reporting

Project Smile started out in 1993 as a cooperative effort between the Anglican Diocese of Belize and the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia. Its first service was free basic dental care to underprivileged students attending Saint Mary’s primary. Now ten years later, the programme has expanded to include five other primary schools in the Belize District.

Stephen Acuff, Dentist

“When we did a survey we had a sixty-two percent reduction in cavities in only three years. Now after ten years, it must be better, but after three we found out that was enough, so let’s bring in all the people we were comparing and include them in the programme. So we’ve added more children to the programme from other schools.”

And those children number over two hundred per week. Based in a room at Saint Mary’s, Project Smile also includes year-round fluoride rinse programme and daily hygiene programme for the younger ones.

Stephen Acuff

“Each child has their own toothbrush with their own name on the toothbrush, and they get toothpaste provided by the teacher and they brush their teeth and go outside. So they come back from lunch everyday with their teeth brushed…And we provide the toothpaste, the toothbrushes, and every week a fluoride rinse.”

“This packet you mix it in water. The children rinse, spit and it gives them a protection of fluoride. This is done once a week in the school here by a trained adult volunteer. We hope to begin this at another school this week, and every week the children will get fluoride rinse. This is just as important as everything we do in the clinic.”

But toothpaste and fluoride are not the only things the programme provides.

Stephen Acuff

“We have a modern hygienic clean kitchen for making healthy lunches for the children and everyday they get lunches.”

(To cook)

“And you’re serving how many lunches today?”


“One hundred today.”

Stephen Acuff

“And what are they having today?”


“Black eyed peas rice and beans and chicken.”

Each child pays a dollar for a meal, and for those who cannot afford it, lunch is paid for by a local sponsor. The equipment for the feeding programme was also purchased by Project Smile. As for these generous volunteers, what are the reasons why they do what they do?

Larry Schmitz, Dentist

“It’s kind of a combination of do a little good for everybody plus a little vacation, because it’s beautiful in Belize and it’s a fun country to visit.”

Stephen Acuff

“We come down here and we give our gifts of our hands and our minds and our training, but we go back to America with even more, because we learn from these people the gifts of happiness and their spirituality and we find out that people are the same everywhere.”

Marion Ali for News 5.

All the medical equipment and instruments are provided by Project Smile through grants, while the volunteers, who are mainly dentists and licensed hygienists, foot their individual expenses. Each mission costs between fifteen and twenty thousand U.S. dollars. The equipment is also available free of cost to anyone who would like to provide free dental service to schoolchildren. The next mission under Project Smile is due in October.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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