By Joanne Peazel McCavery, RDH, BSc
With summer and all of its distractions in full swing, it may be difficult for us to think several months ahead, to what we will be doing for Valentine’s Day. However, February 14 is only six months away, and with that red, romantic, rose-filled day comes a very special event, Gift from the Heart.
Gift from the Heart is a community care initiative that was developed by our colleague, Ms. Bev Woods R.R.D.H. The first event was held on February 14, 2009, where 75 dental hygienists provided complementary (free!) dental hygiene services to under- and underserved people in 24 communities across Ontario. The second year, there were over 50 dental hygiene clinics participating with over 150 volunteers. As well, dental hygiene schools came on board and offered the use of their clinic chairs and students to enable more spaces for people to access the free service. This year, the event broke through the borders of Ontario and our colleagues in Alberta and British Columbia became involved. In total over 1500 smiles were brightened on February 12, 2011.
If you have not yet had the opportunity to experience volunteer work, or more specifically, dental hygiene related-volunteer work, then Gift from the Heart is an excellent opportunity to gain some insight and valuable experience into what it means to give back to the people that share your little corner of the world.
Some may shy away from events like Gift from the Heart for the reason that they may not be self-initiated. If you are not able to self-initiate or practice independently, you can still participate many ways in this program other than chair side.
For those Ontario, dental hygienists who are not authorized to self-initiate, this blog may serve as a timely reminder or motivator. Why not utilize an event such as this to be the motivation you need to obtain your authorized to self-initiate status? Self-initiation is your gateway to participation in this great event. Just as important, it also strengthens the collective voice of dental hygiene. (There are six months to obtain this authorization. Dental hygienists in general practice dental offices and dental hygienists who have no current intention of opening an independent dental hygiene clinic still benefit from becoming self-initiated. In Ontario, the College of Dental Hygienists of Ontario offers three options (streams) so even new registrants can work towards this goal shortly after entering into practice.
A large support network exists to help organise and/or participate in the event. Visit the Gift from the Heart website at http://giftfromtheheart.ca/event/ ; this website has all the information you will need to run the event at your office. There are media releases prepared for you to use, marketing tips and posters to print, and a place to register for the event so that the coordinator will be able to make sure you have the donated products delivered to your office or to a central depot. You can also view pictures of offices that have participated in the past to get ideas on what you might like to do with your office when you participate in this valuable community care initiative.
Supplies and equipment for community health programs can be challenging to accrue, but the Gift from the Heart event already has several large companies sponsoring by providing free supplies. Donations are readily accepted, and of course, try brainstorming some FUNdraising ideas yourself.
Locations to host the initiative are abundant. Consider how many independent dental hygiene clinics, dental hygiene schools, and community centres are found within thirty to sixty minutes of your home. Or perhaps you will join a dental hygiene colleague/friend in another location.
When it comes to advertising, posters and word-of-mouth are a few suitable examples, but having the national and provincial dental hygiene associations support the program is ideal. (Let us hope they are reading this!)
Imagine the oral health impact that the dental hygiene community could have if even half of the dental hygienists in Canada participated in this program! How many smiles would be bigger, brighter, and healthier if 10 000 dental hygienists provided complimentary services for 6 hours on Feb 11, 2012?
We all know that dental hygiene is a specialized body of knowledge. We are a profession, based on our education, our certification exam, our registration and compliance with our unique regulatory bodies. Can it follow then that dental hygienists play a vital role in greater society to provide some relief from oral disease to individuals close to home that could otherwise not afford it?
The Gift from the Heart initiative allows the profession of dental hygiene to give back to the community, all the while bringing special attention to the role of dental hygienists as business owners and primary oral health care providers. Give it a try next year; make a difference, expand your professional network, and help spread the healthy smiles that began as a gift from your heart.
By Bev Woods RRDH
On February 14, 2009, I opened my own independent dental hygiene clinic. The rewards I gained by owning my own practice were immeasurable. My husband is with the Canadian Air Force and suddenly we were posted to Dover AFB in Delaware USA. To say I was saddened when I found out I had to sell my practice is an understatement. I did not know how I would cope without the interpersonal connections I had built with so many of my clients. It was never about the money that drove me to work every day, because to me it was never a ‘job’. Instead it was about building relationships with my clients and providing an opportunity to make a difference in their oral health and overall health. It was also about putting my efforts into the struggle to bring public awareness to independent dental hygiene. I can truly say that after 26 years of working with people, and working as a dental hygienist….. I MISS IT.
While living in Delaware, I have searched for a direction that would allow me to have the same compassionate contact with people. I started volunteering with an organization at Dover AFB call Friends of the Fallen - friends helping lift the families of the fallen soldiers. We are a community-based volunteer group which provides service and assistance to families who come to Dover Air Force Base to witness the Dignified Transfer of their loved ones.
After months of training, I was asked to join their board of directors as the Volunteer Coordinator. I now spend my days meeting amazing people who have given the biggest sacrifice - the lives of their sons, daughters, husbands, wives, mothers, and fathers. Even though I am from another country and our uniforms are different, we are all fighting for the same cause – FREEDOM
My recent trip home to Ontario last month opened my eyes and my heart. While attending a repatriation ceremony at CFB Trenton, I had the honor of meeting two amazing men. They have come together to show the world that there are no boundaries when it comes to improving quality of life. Their mission is to recognize and pay tribute to the people who risk their lives to save others in the course of their chosen profession. They have started this simple organization so that their message will spread and give meaning to the word sacrifice. They believe in peace, unity, mutual respect, and cooperation. They do this by special events and rallies.
It made me realize that our profession is no different. I began to see the similarities between their everyday obstacles and ours in dental hygiene. For example, in 2008, I turned to friends old and new to come together as one to bring public awareness to independent dental hygienist, while at the same time reaching out to those less fortunate in our communities. I named this day A Gift from the Heart. Three years and hundreds of happy healthy smiles later, registered dental hygienists from across our great country have ‘rallied’ together, unified as one to make a difference in the lives of those in our own communities. Self initiated RDH’s that work on their own as well as those that work in traditional settings all came together on that one ‘special’ day to work together to make a difference. You see it doesn’t matter what location we provide our scope of practice, we are all the same, we are all one. Our passion shines brighter and brighter as we continue to work together as oral health care providers.
The two men I met in Trenton pointed out something very important to me that can be applied to many aspects of our lives and that is “We must learn to see beauty and find joy through living the simple goal of living well together side by side.”
I thought I was at a crossroads in my life but instead I realize that I am standing right in the middle of the intersection where I have the freedom to choose a variety of directions to go forward in. I will continue to volunteer for the families of the fallen, I will continue to promote my profession any way I can, mentor my fellow colleagues in dental hygiene, and I will continue to volunteer to coordinate the Gift From the Heart so that we can all work to build the event to make it the best it can be so that we continue to help many more people less fortunate in our communities. Ultimately that will bring about the much deserved public awareness to our great profession.
If anyone is interested in volunteering for the Gift From the Heart in 2012, please contact me, I would love to explain to you how you can make a difference.
CHANGING THE WORLD--BEGINS WITH YOURSELF!
Side by Side…we are one.
Sincerely, Bev Woods RRDH