Caring for your smile

The aim is to highlight the vital role of oral health in overall well-being and to inspire Namibians by showcasing their own cultures promoting oral hygiene.
Henriette Lamprecht
The spark that would lead to starting an initiative bringing oral health to the most remote regions of Namibia, was ignited in 2018 during a visit to a renowned dental school at the University of Turku in Finland. One of the classmates of Namibian student Marc van Niekerk (28) who came from a rural area of Northern Namibia, mentioned that they had never been to a dentist before in their life.

The revelation struck Marc, who was pursuing a degree in Educational Sciences deeply, prompting him to consider how many other Namibians, particularly in remote areas, lack access to dental care. Determined to make a difference, Marc teamed up with Tiia Rantanen, then a Master's student in education, to tackle the issue.

“Drawing from our shared belief in the transformative power of education, we decided to create two educational posters. One which emphasized the importance of oral health, while the other illustrated effective brushing techniques, incorporating elements of Namibian cultures.”

It took Marc and Tiia eight months to design the posters, during which they collaborated closely with members of different Namibian cultures. Their aim was to meticulously capture the intricate details of the attire and accurately represent the cultural heritage.

“Our overall goal was to highlight the vital role of oral health in overall well-being and to inspire Namibians by showcasing their own cultures promoting oral hygiene.”

Although neither of them were in the dental profession at the time, they recognized the significant impact they could achieve through education. Support for ProjectSmile were garnered from various local businesses and organizations, including the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture. Through their website, the project’s posters became valuable educational tools for teachers in both rural and urban schools across Namibia.

“ProjectSmile not only aimed to raise awareness about oral health but also sought to empower Namibians to take proactive steps in caring for their dental health. By making the posters culturally relevant, we aspired to foster a sense of pride and inspiration among fellow Namibians, encouraging them to embrace and promote oral hygiene within their communities.”

ProjectSmile officially launched towards the end of 2020, as the Namibian Government eased COVID-19 restrictions. Its inaugural outreach brought joy to the Windhoek Central Children’s Cancer Ward, with the message continued to schools and orphanages in Windhoek and around Okahandja. One of the most heart-warming initial outreaches embarked upon by ProjectSmile was in a community located in Ovitoto in the Okahandja district, says Marc.

During the oral health promotion session, passionately advocating for the significance of oral health and imparted knowledge on self-care practices, ProjectSmile’s educational posters were distributed to the community members.

“Among the predominantly OvaHerero community, we were moved to see a few members of the OvaHimba community present. Witnessing their pride as they pointed to their own culture represented in the posters filled us with immense joy.

This moment served as a powerful example, reinforcing our core mission: not merely to provide educational materials, but to empower Namibians to see their own cultural heritage as a beacon for oral health awareness.”

We aimed to inspire them to take proactive steps towards their own oral well-being, says Marc, with the project’s posters thoughtfully designed with inclusivity in mind.

“The illustrations were crafted to be easily understood by all, even those who were illiterate, ensuring that every member of the community could grasp the message and significance of oral health.”

In all Marc and Tiia’s endeavours, they collaborated closely with community leaders who provided invaluable assistance in translation and further emphasized the importance and continuity of advocating for oral health within the community.

“Together, we fostered a sense of collective responsibility and commitment to oral health education, transcending barriers and embracing the rich diversity of Namibian culture.”

Marc, who graduated Summa Cum Laude in 2019 and is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Dental Surgery (Hons) at the University of Namibia, says ProjectSmile’s

future goals involve integrating education and healthcare, collaborating closely with government ministries and other organizations. The aim is to advocate for oral health education across all regions of Namibia and provide essential dental services through mobile dental clinics, particularly in areas where dental services are not available.

These efforts encompass addressing prevalent oral issues like dental caries and periodontal disease, as well as conducting oral cancer screenings.

“Early detection is crucial for oral cancer, which often presents late with unfavourable prognoses.”

ProjectSmile has already travelled to communities and schools in the Khomas region, Keetmanshoop, and across the Kunene region, including Opuwo and extending to community villages at Epupa and along the Kunene River. Next, ProjectSmile aims to reach communities in the southern regions of Namibia.

“We take pride in our accomplishments and the positive impact our project is creating. We extend sincere gratitude to our sponsors for their invaluable support of this initiative, which continues to advocate for the significance of oral health in Namibia.”

– Facebook: Project Smile Namibia; [email protected]

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Namibian Sun 2024-07-17

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Currie Cup: NovaVit Griffons 10 vs 52 Vodacom Bulls Rugby World Cup U20: New Zealand U20 31 vs 55 France U20 | Australia U20 36 vs 29 Wales U20 | England U20 31 vs 20 Ireland U20 | Georgia U20 40 vs 36 Fiji U20 | Argentina U20 34 vs 24 South Africa U20 | Italy U20 28 vs 15 Spain U20 Katima Mulilo: 12° | 32° Rundu: 12° | 33° Eenhana: 11° | 33° Oshakati: 11° | 31° Ruacana: 14° | 31° Tsumeb: 15° | 29° Otjiwarongo: 9° | 28° Omaruru: 9° | 27° Windhoek: 8° | 23° Gobabis: 10° | 28° Henties Bay: 11° | 17° Wind speed: 18km/h, Wind direction: S, Low tide: 06:18, High tide: 12:50, Low Tide: 18:28, High tide: 00:54 Swakopmund: 13° | 15° Wind speed: 23km/h, Wind direction: SW, Low tide: 06:16, High tide: 12:48, Low Tide: 18:26, High tide: 00:52 Walvis Bay: 11° | 20° Wind speed: 28km/h, Wind direction: SW, Low tide: 06:16, High tide: 12:47, Low Tide: 18:26, High tide: 00:51 Rehoboth: 9° | 25° Mariental: 9° | 26° Keetmanshoop: 9° | 23° Aranos: 9° | 27° Lüderitz: 10° | 18° Ariamsvlei: 9° | 21° Oranjemund: 10° | 18° Luanda: 20° | 22° Gaborone: 11° | 28° Lubumbashi: 12° | 29° Mbabane: 12° | 28° Maseru: 5° | 21° Antananarivo: 8° | 24° Lilongwe: 15° | 27° Maputo: 16° | 32° Windhoek: 8° | 23° Cape Town: 11° | 14° Durban: 14° | 27° Johannesburg: 12° | 22° Dar es Salaam: 21° | 29° Lusaka: 15° | 28° Harare: 13° | 27° Currency: GBP to NAD 23.65 | EUR to NAD 19.89 | CNY to NAD 2.51 | USD to NAD 18.19 | DZD to NAD 0.13 | AOA to NAD 0.02 | BWP to NAD 1.3 | EGP to NAD 0.37 | KES to NAD 0.14 | NGN to NAD 0.01 | ZMW to NAD 0.69 | ZWL to NAD 0.04 | BRL to NAD 3.32 | RUB to NAD 0.21 | INR to NAD 0.22 | USD to DZD 134.2 | USD to AOA 872.64 | USD to BWP 13.49 | USD to EGP 48.15 | USD to KES 129.98 | USD to NGN 1555 | USD to ZAR 18.19 | USD to ZMW 26.05 | USD to ZWL 321 | Stock Exchange: JSE All Share Index Same 0 | Namibian Stock Exchange (NSX) Overall Index 1783.48 Down -2.4% | Casablanca Stock Exchange (CSE) MASI 13456.34 Up +0.17% | Egyptian Exchange (EGX) 30 Index 27828.92 Down -0.44% | Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE) DCI 9380.4 Same 0 | NSX: MTC 7.75 SAME | Anirep 8.99 SAME | Capricorn Investment group 17.34 SAME | FirstRand Namibia Ltd 49 DOWN 0.50% | Letshego Holdings (Namibia) Ltd 4.1 UP 2.50% | Namibia Asset Management Ltd 0.7 SAME | Namibia Breweries Ltd 31.49 UP 0.03% | Nictus Holdings - 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Nam 2.22 SAME | Oryx Properties Ltd 12.1 UP 1.70% | Paratus Namibia Holdings 11.99 SAME | SBN Holdings 8.45 SAME | Trustco Group Holdings Ltd 0.48 SAME | B2Gold Corporation 47.34 DOWN 1.50% | Local Index closed 677.62 UP 0.12% | Overall Index closed 1534.6 DOWN 0.05% | Osino Resources Corp 19.47 DOWN 2.41% | Commodities: Gold US$ 2 465.39/OZ DOWN -0.0012 | Copper US$ 4.41/lb DOWN -0.0104 | Zinc US$ 2 872.30/T DOWN -1.05% | Brent Crude Oil US$ 85.07/BBP UP +1.06% | Platinum US$ 1 009.32/OZ UP +0.67%