It is this lack of awareness on the importance of oral health that Team Grin Movement chose to address. “It’s a very big problem in the Philippines, and it’s a problem that is being neglected dahil andyan lang siya. People think that the teeth are just a small part of the body.”
Did you ever miss school because of toothache?
In Buenavista Elementary School in Tubungan, Iloilo, dental caries are the second most common reason of absenteeism among students. When the children suffer from toothaches, they tend to skip classes, resulting in poor performance in school. This could be addressed by proper tooth brushing, but not all children can afford to buy a toothbrush, let alone a sachet of toothpaste.
Some students admit—they just go to sleep after eating candy. “Hindi po ako nagsisipilyo ng ngipin, kaya sumasakit ang ngipin ko kapag kumakain ako ng kendi,” says 7-year-old Althea Joy Tabingo.
It is this lack of awareness on the importance of oral health that Team Grin Movement chose to address. “It’s a very big problem in the Philippines, and it’s a problem that is being neglected dahil andyan lang siya. People think that the teeth are just a small part of the body,” says Grin Movement’s Frankie Araneta.
Team Grin Movement is from University of the Philippines Visayas. The team is composed of Rigel Kent Villaruel, Karla Magsipoc, Vivienne Endoma, Francine Araneta, and Karmela Samoro, supported by mentor Dr. Philip Ian Padilla.
For six months, the team went from house to house, spreading awareness of the importance of dental health among students, parents, and teachers in Buenavista. In partnership with the Philippine Dental Association-Iloilo and the Rural Health Unit of Tubungan, the team distributed initial toothbrush kits to the students, to ensure that they will brush every after meal. Buenavista Elementary School supported the project, by assigning a shelf in every classroom where the students can keep their kits. The school administration also put up a common toothbrushing sink in the school, designed in partnership with the teachers.
“Malaking karangalan sa ‘min na ang Buenavista Elementary School ang napili nila. Kung hindi nila kami tinuruan ng tamang paraan ng pagtu-toothbrush, wala kaming kaalam-alam dyan. Maka-toothbrush lang, okay na. Dapat pala three minutes magsipilyo, pakaliwa-pakanan,” Catalina Tadit, mother, shared. Through Team Grin Movement’s project, over 150 children were educated about proper dental care, resulting in zero new cases of cavities.
“Now, they are more confident to go to school, to face the real world. That’s what we wanted to do,” Frankie shares. “Yung ligaya ng pagtulong sa kanila, yung makita mo lang na nakangiti sila, sapat na.”
The school vows to continue what the team left, by electing Toothbrush Rangers among the students. As a Toothbrush Ranger for her class, Althea commits, “Sasabihan ko ang mga classmates ko na mag-toothbrush araw-araw. Nagpapasalamat po ako kanila ate at kuya sa binigay nilang toothbrush kit. Mapa-promise ko sa kanila na di na ko kakain ng kendi para di na sumakit ang aking ngipin.”
Team Grin Movement is a National Finalist of Ideas Positive Run 6. This article is part of the #IdeasPositiveRun6 series, which documents the transformation of 13 communities through the innovative ideas of 13 youth teams. Follow their story as they build a healthier Philippines, one community at a time.