Helping with hygiene

First and second grade students at Mount Vernon-Ruth Elementary School collected toothbrushes and toothpaste to donate to Nicaragua.
Jan. 09, 2013 @ 06:30 AM

FOREST CITY— Toothbrushes and toothpaste can be found on the shelves of any dollar store in America, but in Nicaragua, they are not so common.

Alice Campbell's class at Mount Vernon-Ruth Elementary School decided to help children in the country by collecting these items and making a donation. On Tuesday, they donated around 200 toothbrushes and tubes of toothpaste to Helen Schafer, an R-S Central High School graduate who serves in the Peace Corps and works in Nicaragua.

"Each year I do a community project of some sort with my class. I got acquainted with Helen through her sister and knew about her time in the Peace Corps. Her sister set up a Skype session with Helen for me and we talked about how she was working with health in a school," Campbell said. "I figured this was a way we could help."

Campbell asked each of her students to bring in at least 10 toothbrushes and tubes of toothpaste.

"The kids have worked so hard. We had one girl whose mother works at a dental office and she brought in 75. Another boy spent his own allowance to order a case of toothbrushes, toothpaste and floss off of the internet," Campbell said. "We have learned a lot about Nicaragua also. We have compared their school life to ours here. It has been amazing for my students to learn that the things we take for granted, are such big things to those kids."

During Schafer's visit to the classroom on Tuesday, she talked with the students about the work she is doing in the municipality of San Fernando. She also gave each of them a letter that had been written by third grade students at Monsenor Carranza, the school where she works in the areas of health education, HIV/AIDS prevention and other health related preventative practices. The students in Campbell's class practiced their Spanish skills while reading the letters and wrote their own for Schafer to take back to the school.

Schafer, who returns to Nicaragua on Friday, is very pleased with the donations from the Mount Vernon-Ruth students.

"This is huge. The people in Nicaragua know the importance of taking care of their teeth, but they don't have the products. I see tubes of paste squeezed to the very bottom and cut in half. They don't buy more toothpaste because of the money," Schafer said. "I have done a lot of work with them on dental hygiene. I have seen children with their baby teeth rotting out and people with caps on the outside of their teeth. These children don't have the control of whether their parents buy them toothbrushes or not, so the important thing is getting these donations to the kids."