South Africa Project, Part 2: Gogo’s Give Smiles

Earlier this year, members of Humble Smile Foundation (HSF) and International Association of Dental Students (IADS) flew in to South Africa from ten different countries. They were invited by King Makhosonke II and Princess Agnes to improve oral health integration in communities within the Ndebele Kingdom.

The team spent three days researching and collecting data from five schools and some homes. At each school, information on the infrastructure and school body was gathered. In addition, the team interviewed 68 students using a WHO survey and conducted brief clinical examinations to learn about the students’ needs and circumstances.

The team of dental professionals and students was surprised to find that, considering the amount of sugary foods and beverages they consumed, the children had lower rates of tooth decay than the national average. However, the team did find signs of fluorosis, which was evident from the children’s stained teeth. The community and schools were highly cooperative, and they believed the children’s oral health was poor due to poverty and lack of dental care.

During the school and home visits, the team discovered the Gogos – the grandmother caregivers of the children. Strong, independent, and loving, the Gogos organize missions to help each other, their families, and their communities. They hold dominant positions both at home (because most of the parents are not around) and in schools (where they control the school governing bodies).

HSF and IADS collaborated with the Gogos to implement an oral care program in the school and community. A 3-day model for the program was designed and tested. The first day was an investigation period, where the team learned about the school and the kids’ oral health status. The second day consisted of a workshop to build relations and educate and empower the Gogo’s to advocate for oral health care in schools and homes. To educate and teach the kids about oral health, tooth brushing stations and other preventative activities were set up at the school on the third day.

Results from the 3-day program were promising and all the Gogos agreed that the workshop helped prepare them for helping in the school and that the program was successful in introducing healthy new habits to the school routine!

To find out how this program has a lasting impact, keep an eye out for the next post!