As members of a health-care profession, we are dedicated to serving the public. I am always inspired when I see our colleagues seek opportunities outside of our clinic walls to serve those who are less fortunate. Here are two brief examples that I recently encountered, shared in their own words:
Rainbow Pack AZ—Saira Puri (daughter of Sameer Puri, DDS)
Rainbow Pack AZ is a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to providing students of all backgrounds with equal access to education. Too many students do not have the most basic supplies that they need at home to do their homework, and as a result, they fall behind in school. By providing each and every student of the schools we support a backpack filled with homework supplies, we hope to send a positive and encouraging message that gives all students the opportunity to do their absolute best. Rainbow Pack has tackled missions in Los Angeles and Phoenix. This past year, we visited Paul Laurence Dunbar Elementary School in Phoenix and Mary McLeod Bethune School in Los Angeles with Rainbow Packs for about 500 children.
The founder of Rainbow Pack California, Riley Gantt, is a close friend of mine. She started the charity when she was just 10 years old, when she met a young girl who revealed that she did not have crayons because her mother could not afford them. This upset Riley, so, with the help of her parents, she created Rainbow Pack. I was lucky enough to attend one of the events, where I witnessed a young boy become very excited about having his own pencil sharpener. I knew that I had to bring Rainbow Pack to Arizona, even if just to make more students as happy as that boy. When I learned more about it, I realized the impact went much further than smiles: teachers no longer have to worry about a student’s lack of supplies when assigning homework, working parents do not have to stress about the cost of a backpack and school supplies, and students can all begin their school year on a level playing field.
Miracle Corners of the World—Clint Timmerman, DDS
Miracle Corners of the World (MCW) started in 1999 and provides assistance to countries in Africa, particularly Tanzania, Kenya, and Malawi. Their focus is on self-sustainability, which is a big reason why I was drawn to them. They have provided training to dental therapists and dentists, set up clinics, and tried to improve the health infrastructure through government policy and directly in the field. For example, the last time I was in Tanzania, I sat in on a meeting with Marion Bergman, one of the MCW directors and a Minister of Health. Marion was trying to influence the government to encourage nurses and physicians to screen for oral health issues when conducting physicals. At the same time, they were setting up dental screening excursions with dental therapists to conduct oral exams and perform certain dental procedures. They also help out in areas such as education and youth leadership training.
I met a woman on a plane when I was applying to dental school and I told her I wanted to take part in dental outreach efforts. I mentioned that I applied to NYU, and her husband coincidentally worked with NYU in their foreign student program. She introduced me to her husband, who introduced me to Anthony Vernillo, a professor at NYU, who in turn introduced me to Eddie Bergman, a cofounder of MCW. This was the summer before dental school in 2003. Again, it was their vision of giving people the tools to help themselves that really drew me to them.
You can follow and support MCW at mcwglobal.org/.