One of the ways Kiwanians know their service has been successful is when those they help flash them a smile. So to make sure smiles are symbols of both happiness and healthiness, the St. Johns, Antigua, Kiwanis Club teaches children about the importance of oral health.
Last year, when a dentist joined the club and volunteered her insights for the Young Children: Priority One committee, everyone smiled. The club members had been contemplating how they might educate young students about dental hygiene.
Young Children: Priority One (YCPO) is an ongoing Kiwanis International service program, which addresses the needs of the community’s youngest members. The projects — which range from raising awareness about immunizations to providing parenting education — aim to positively influence children during the most formative years of life.
Through interactive lessons, which use a giant model of teeth and a teddy bear, students at two Antiguan elementary schools learn proper brushing techniques and which foods are “good” and “bad” for teeth. “One of the most common things that cause a lot of oral health problems such as cavities and gum disease is plaque, which is formed by the accumulation of bacteria in the mouth; when children are taught proper brushing techniques, they know the consequences of poor oral hygiene,” explains club member and dentist Techa Williams.
“The age group of first grade was chosen since YCPO’s focus is on children between the ages of zero and five, but also because many children at that age have both temporary and permanent teeth in their mouth at the same time,” she explains.
Local distributors provide the club with supplies, and the club designed a tooth chart, featuring the Kiwanis logo, to give to each student.
“Each child was given a toothbrush and a tube of Colgate, as well as a brushing chart,” says club President Doniza Alexander. “The children were very excited and enjoyed it. And we have the full cooperation of the principals and teachers.”
“We started with the Greenbay Primary School mainly because the club had been working in the Greenbay community for a little while,” says Williams. The club has previously donated books and a clock to the school.
“The other schools were chosen because they were in large, non-affluent communities. Moving forward, the plan is to branch out to all the primary schools on island.”
— Courtney Meyer
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