Students in the Newman University “Study and Serve in Guatemala” program surpassed their goal of collecting 11,000 new toothbrushes for Guatemalan children this year. Through a campaign called Project SONRISA (Sonrisa means “smile” in Spanish), students collected 11,300 toothbrushes, which they distributed to the children in May during the first part of the Study and Serve trip to Guatemala.
Project Sonrisa was created by Sonja Bontrager, assistant professor of Spanish and chair of the Foreign Language Department at Newman, following a service and study trip for students she led in Guatemala in 2007. During that trip the group visited La Labor, an impoverished community on the outskirts of Guatemala City, where members of Newman University’s founding religious order the Adorers of the Blood of Christ (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.
In 2008, Newman students made their first delivery of toothbrushes. The Project SONRISA campaign was repeated this year for the 2010 summer trip to Guatemala.
Bontrager said that in Guatemala the majority of children live in poverty. Consequently, a toothbrush makes a real difference in a child’s health and education.
As part of the “Study and Serve in Guatemala” program, Newman students spend a week in La Labor working with the ASC on various projects, including a dental health education campaign for children. The students spend the remaining part of the seven-week intensive language, culture and volunteer program in locations throughout Guatemala.