It's been said that civilization is but a thin veneer over the baser human instincts. When you look at the carnage around the world that seems to have gone on for centuries, it seems, perhaps, the saying is correct. Those of us who have grown up as baby boomers and beyond have never seen war firsthand in our own land until the tragedy of 9/11. And even that pales when compared to the suffering endured in Africa, Yugoslavia, and the Middle East.
Instead, we have grown up in unbelievable abundance and peace. Few of us have ever known what it is like to be homeless or hungry. But there are homeless among us. And there are people who don't know where their next meal will come from. A society is judged by how it takes care of its weakest members. When was the last time you volunteered to help those less fortunate than yourself?
Statistically, women dentists volunteer to do more charity dentistry. But we need to do even more. One of the ways we can give is through AAWD's Smiles for Success program, which was started by Dr. Donna Rumberger, a former AAWD president.
Smiles for Success is set up to help women get off welfare and into the work force. It has strict eligibility require-ments. Candidates are prescreened and must first go through an approved job readiness and placement program which teaches them how to be successful at a job. They learn what it means to show up for work on time and to arrive properly dressed with good hygiene. They learn about business etiquette, interpersonal relationships, how to answer the phone, and more. Most of the local programs are also affiliated with charities that provide clothing so the candidates can go job-hunting. Besides clothes, these women also have to smile at their job interview, and that's where Smiles for Success comes in.
The candidates are referred to AAWD volunteers. These volunteers provide whatever dental services are needed to get the patient back into dental function. Most of the time, this means composites and partials. It's not fancy dentistry, but it is functional. It gives the women back their smile that may have been destroyed by a life of homelessness, drugs, or extreme poverty. The dentists also teach these patients how to take care of their mouth to stay healthy. They really give them something to smile about.
It gives the dentists themselves something to smile about too. The good feeling you get when you see these young ladies recover their self-esteem and go out as productive members of society is remarkable! Civilization may have a thin veneer, but it is things like this that make you realize how important that veneer really is.
Do you think you could spare just a few hours to help someone regain her life? If you are interested in volunteering, please get in touch with Alexandra at our Chicago headquarters. She can make the arrangements to connect you with the Smiles organization in your area. If there is no Smiles program near you, maybe you could volunteer to get one organized. If you have a local AAWD chapter, I strongly suggest that you organize a Smiles program. If you don't have an AAWD local chapter, then start one! It takes just a few dedicated volunteers to get either or both programs underway, and you will be glad you did.
There are other opportunities for volunteering your talents at AAWD. Perhaps you are a gifted writer. How about volunteering to work on our "Chronicle"? We certainly could use your help there. Are you good at public relations? We need volunteers in that area too. How about accounting or business skills? We could use you in any number of positions on either the local or national levels. Don't hide your light under a basket. Shine! At AAWD, we have so many opportunities for you. You'll be happy you came forward. We don't demand a lot, but you will get a lot. That's a promise.