During this holiday time of reflection and gratitude, Open Wide is front and center for me. I can’t believe it’s been four years since the founders sat down to put legs on a dream that had been percolating in our minds for a long time. Four years later Open Wide is an established foundation, widely known among the dentists in the Spear group and beyond.
Since our first clinic opened in Peronia Guatemala three years ago we have made exciting progress. We’ve provided desperately needed dental care to over 25,000 patients. The outreach has benefited from over 400 volunteers working in the Peronia clinics from North America, Europe and Australia. Partnerships with local municipalities have made possible six more dental clinics being established in remote areas of Guatemala where, before us, no dental care was available. Through an alliance between Open Wide and the Guatemalan Association of Mayors, there are joint efforts to further expand the number of clinics. Together we’re bringing preventive care and education to under-served areas around Guatemala City and beyond. Open Wide partnerships with two dental universities in Guatemala City are presenting incredible opportunities for our dentist volunteers to mentor and teach dental students – both in the university setting and in our model Peronia Clinic. We are proud to share that thirty thousand fluoride washes and 5,000 home dental care packages have been distributed in communities where people struggle for the most basic needs. In our close working partnership with the municipality of Villa Nueva and the City of Peronia; we are seeing a much higher focus from these local governments on oral health issues. They are laying the groundwork for the first dental insurance plan in Guatemala, making affordable dental care a reality for the most impoverished families.
All of this is amazing. Our accomplishments as a young foundation are dramatic and I look forward to seeing where this momentum will take us in the next four years. But, as the year draws to a close, I find my mind and heart going, not only to the accomplishments but to the many people who made it all happen.
My thoughts go to the Spear partners who said “Yes” and funded a bold idea with no guarantees. And to the Spear industry partners such as Adec, Patterson, Sirona and others who committed their resources early on, even when our clinic site was just a cornfield on a hill!
I’m thinking of the founding team volunteers, Mike Johnson, Matt O’Shea and Johanna Tesoniero who stepped up, and said “I’m in”, dropping everything to make several trips to Guatemala to plan the clinic and lay the foundation for the future.
I’m thinking of our Guatemalan liaison and Open Wide board member, Evelyn Paiz who has jumped all hurtles to bring the people and support in Guatemala together. I’m thinking of our “pioneer” volunteers, too many to name, who were the first to bring their staff and families to work in the new clinic and the many doctor teams since who have volunteered, some numerous times, and still say, “What more can we do?” I’m thinking about all of our financial donors who believe in us and continue to provide the critical financial support we need to keep the work going. Finally my thoughts go to our Executive Director, Charity Crawford, who, with steady determination and an unshakeable love for the vision, makes everything work.
Without all of these players and their belief in the vision, there would be no Open Wide. Thanks to them, our bold and generous actors in this phenomenal adventure, Open Wide is accomplishing something unprecedented in humanitarian dental care. Because of them, a mere dream four years ago is now real and in motion.
It is with the deepest gratitude I think of you all this holiday season. Enjoy these precious days.