My summer program has come to an end and as I sit at the airport writing my final blogpost, I am overwhelmed with emotion because I have spent the last 7 weeks forming new friendships and exploring Tanzanian culture. These past 7 weeks have truly been one of the best experiences of my life.
My last two weeks in Tanzania were used to carry out the final steps of my oral health project. My team and I spent hours designing an oral health presentation, creating a dental health ambassadors program, and scheduling multiple training sessions with the students and faculty.
As we got together daily to work on the interventions listed above, we found that one of the most difficult aspects of creating a presentation to train the students and faculty with, was that the presentation required a level of English which was easy to understand but also explicit enough to convey advanced medical information about taking caring of ones teeth and the consequences of poor oral healthcare, among other topics. After many conversations and consequent revisions, we were finally able to create an appropriate presentation which was easy to understand and did not distort any of the important information we wanted to teach.
We scheduled the school-wide seminar on Sunday and made it optional to gauge interest and were pleasantly surprised when the room was filled with almost all of the students at the school. Without being prompted, most girls brought notebooks and wrote down notes as we educated them about the importance of maintaining good oral hygiene.
As mentioned previously, we also created a dental health ambassador program to facilitate peer-peer monitoring and training. The girls selected and trained to become ambassadors were present at the seminar physically teach the girls how to properly brush their teeth. We thought this approach would be most effective as we realized the importance of involving community members in projects which affect their lives.
A few days after our seminar, we were pleased to learn that the students had started taking teeth brushing more seriously than before and that they had also cut down on the amount of sweets they were consuming in order to take better care of their mouths.
Today, we said goodbye to all of the students at morning assembly and were overjoyed when many approached us to tell us how thankful they were for our commitment to help them take better care of their mouths and teeth. It was heartwarming to also read the many letters they had written for us thanking us for the impact we had left in their community. It was exciting to hear the students talk about how they wanted to go home and share the information with their family and friends.