'As the lunch hour came to a close, I walked through
the emptying food lounge. I passed a table with
mounds of uneaten food and no anxious attendee
to receive these portions.'
By Alicia Murria, RDH
Perception is reality. If your brain chooses not to see something, you most certainly will not, even in plain sight.
Let me give you an example, during a conference I attended, a friend and I were walking on a trail during a fundraising 5k, we chose to see what others did not. The trail led us through an underpass that was the home of several families. These families were not the typical family you would imagine; they were resting and winding down for the evening. Without a request, we decided to donate all the money we had on us to the families, wishing we could do more.
With this newfound perception, I couldn’t ignore what was happening around me. As life carried on and the conference continued, I found myself brainstorming during a sponsored lunch. As the lunch hour came to a close, I walked through the emptying food lounge. I passed a table with mounds of uneaten food and no anxious attendee to receive these portions. I asked what happened to the food, and no one had a definite answer…
Hygienists For Humanity noticed a problem and is now part of the solution. Hygienists For Humanity’s mission is to connect communities around the United States with usable food and quality oral hygiene products. This is a major feat, but we can’t tackle this mission alone.
Eyes wide open, we will start small, affecting change in our own backyards. Our vision is to revolutionize the way the world of dental professionals interpret “helping people.” As an organization, we are seeking to eradicate these needs.
Charitable organizations get a bad reputation for being institutional and capitalizing on the misfortune of others. The premise behind Hygienists For Humanity is not only to advocate for more access to dental care, but also to create awareness about vulnerable communities and advocate for legislative change. There is a better way to help. While our grassroots efforts are meant to address an immediate concern of food and oral hygiene products, we must look at the long-term severity of these concerns and help to fix the problem of homelessness altogether.
We all understand the psychological and sociological aspects of oral health. When psychological and sociological needs intersect with homelessness and poor oral health, it makes it much harder to readjust to society, increasing the chances of recurrent homelessness. We all know who we are, and what our responsibilities are within our profession. What is our responsibility to humanity—dare we imagine a world where there was no poverty or homelessness? Shouldn’t we?
From my perspective, we are privileged to be able to commute to professional development conferences, pay for our attendance, afford social functions, and dine out with friends. When the conference comes to a close, we collect countless toothbrushes, toothpaste, and floss. We pack them in an extra bag to take home, but there is a greater need for these items. I have seen this need. I’m sure you have as well. There is a better use and greater need for these items other than what has been perceived in the past.
As privileged as we are, we must open our eyes and help those who would otherwise be forgotten. Hygienists For Humanity will provide an organized platform for all the oral hygiene products that are collected and food that has been salvaged from a conference (that would otherwise be wasted) are donated to a homeless community in the hosting city. If you had an opportunity to donate your meal and excess swag to the homeless, would you?
The way Hygienists For Humanity perceives it, we can’t tackle this project alone. Homelessness is a national problem. This is not a perception; it is a reality. We understand there is a strength in numbers, and we can tackle this problem together. Your help is needed.
Within the next few months we will organize a national oral hygiene product drive and a way to pledge your conference-sponsored meal, “Doing Angel’s Work.” Please help us to collect quality oral hygiene products, donate your meal, and/or make a donation to make a difference in the lives of those who have been overlooked. For more information on how to give back and support our mission, please send a formal email to [email protected].
Alicia Murria, RDH, is the executive director of Hygienists For Humanity.