Alumni serve young girls in Guatemala through non-profit ‘United Tooth Fairies’

United Tooth Fairies

In September 2023, three West Coast University alumni journeyed to Guatemala to offer dental care at a local girls’ school through the non-profit organization United Tooth Fairies. Among them, Roberta S., a Master of Public Health alum and WCU faculty member, commenced her service to the Guatemalan community in 2016. Her dedication to aiding others became the catalyst for establishing the non-profit.

Roberta’s commitment to serving others began during her dental hygiene degree, where she volunteered at a mobile clinic, particularly working with children. In 2016, she seized an opportunity to volunteer at a local girls’ school in Guatemala, initiating dental services for 135 girls ranging from pre-kindergarten to ninth grade.

“That first year we sat down knee-to-knee with the kids. There were 135 in the school,” Roberta said. “We would bring them out and brush their teeth, take pictures and see what we were getting into. There was a lot of decay.”

Over the years, the team expanded their services, incorporating reclining lounge chairs and sealants, partnering with the local dental school to broaden their impact. Roberta also involved WCU dental hygiene classes in her volunteer work.

Last year, Paola C. and Selina M., also WCU alumni, joined the mission. Paola, a Mexican immigrant, felt a personal connection, resonating with the challenges the girls faced. Selina, an immigrant from Iran, found similarities in lifestyles between Guatemala and her home country.

“I am also from a third world country,” Selina said. “For me it was good to go to Guatemala and see how similar the lifestyle was to Iran even though it’s a completely different country.”

Apart from dental services, the team emphasizes education, encouraging the girls to stay in school and aspire to a brighter future. The impact extends beyond dental care, with the non-profit supporting young women in pursuing education.

“It’s fun to see them become something more than they could have been,” Roberta said. “You go into this and you’re hoping for something but not sure if it will work out so the fact that it’s working is amazing.”

For the volunteers, the reward surpasses the investment. Selina emphasizes the transformative impact of giving back: “I do it because I see these people need help, and for such little effort, it makes a big difference in their lives.”

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