Students in the Newman University "Guatemala Study & Serve" program have again launched a campaign to collect new toothbrushes for Guatemalan children. The campaign, called Project SONRISA (Sonrisa means "smile" in Spanish), was created by Sonja Bontrager, assistant professor of Spanish and director of the Guatemala Study & Serve Program at Newman University.
This year, the goal is to collect 22,000 toothbrushes by April 7, as well as raise funds to buy toothpaste in Guatemala for the children.
As part of the Guatemala Study & Serve program, Newman students spend a week in La Labor working with members of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ (ASC), Newman University's founding religious order, on various projects including the Sangre de Cristo Health Care Project, a dental health education campaign for children. The Newman students spend the remaining part of the seven-week intensive language, culture and volunteer program in locations throughout Guatemala.
"Project SONRISA has already given me a broader perspective on life," said Tanner Grieving, Newman student from Derby, Kan. "Most people, including me, take the small things like toothbrushes for granted. I am truly grateful to be able to give away the donated toothbrushes and to share smiles with those in need."
Anyone wishing to donate new toothbrushes may place them in designated boxes in the Dugan Library and Campus Center, Eck Hall, outside Room 312 in McNeill Hall, and in the Campus Ministry Office in Sacred Heart Hall, all on the Newman campus. Toothbrushes may also be picked up by calling 316-641-9312.
Tax-deductible donations may be sent to Project SONRISA, c/o Chelsea Whipple, Newman University, 3100 McCormick, Wichita, KS 67213, or by calling 316-942-4291, ext. 2445.
An anonymous donor has pledged to match gifts from Newman faculty, staff and students, up to a total of $500.
Bontrager noted that 100 percent of donated funds goes directly to buying toothbrushes and/or toothpaste for the Guatemalan children.
Project SONRISA developed when Bontrager led students to Guatemala in 2007. During that trip the group visited La Labor, an impoverished community on the outskirts of Guatemala City, where members of the ASC have created schools, medical and dental clinics, and community health and environmental protection programs for local people. The Sisters requested that Newman students in the program bring 11,000 toothbrushes the next year to distribute to the children. The project has been successful and has grown from there.
Note: This story contains updated and additional information from the original story posted on March 21, 2013.