Why I Give: Student Alumnus Sustains Tanzania Dental Support From Home
A mention of Global Volunteers on our partner’s website moved Maddy Aungst, an aspiring dental student, and her dentist father to help meet the needs of families and children in the Reaching Children’s Potential (RCP) Demonstration Project in Ipalamwa, Tanzania. After appealing to family, friends, and their faith community for material support, the father and daughter delivered dental supplies along with their assistance to children and families in 2019. Read on about how Maddy has remained committed to the community she served.
Finding a Volunteer Experience Where I Could Make a Difference
In 2018, Maddy Aungst, at the time a 22-year-old biology student in Hollidaysburg, PA, said the moment she read about Global Volunteers’ RCP Demonstration Project, she was motivated to help.
“I found Global Volunteers on the Rise Against Hunger website, which works with my church packing food. I researched more and discovered Global Volunteers offers exactly the type of volunteer opportunity I’ve been looking for. Instantly, my heart gravitated towards Tanzania. I was excited,” she said.
Maddy had been discouraged by volunteering programs that required her to have a medical license. “I was graduating from college in May 2019 and taking a gap year before attending dental school. However, since I was not a qualified dentist or professional, a lot of volunteer programs didn’t allow me to have hands-on involvement with their health care projects.” But Volunteer Manager Diane Fredricksen assured her she could make a significant contribution with Global Volunteers in Tanzania. Maddy didn’t imagine at first how significant that would be.
“Diane was marvelous. She explained how people of Ipalamwa who don’t have access to toothbrushes just use sticks to clean their teeth. That’s when it really hit home – and how my idea for raising money to supply toothbrushes came about. After all, we here in the U.S. take so much for granted. We often forget that a simple ‘hygiene tool’ such as a toothbrush can do so much for our oral health as well as our overall health. I wanted to give the people of Ipalamwa the opportunity to improve their health and live happier lives.”
“I wanted to make the most out of my volunteer experience, and to improve the lives of the people in Tanzania.”– Maddy Aungst
Just as soon as she registered for the program, she launched a fundraising campaign to provide toothbrushes to the village children. The initial goal for “Don’t Brush It Off; Be the Change” was $1,000 to supply toothbrushes. But after her father agreed to join her on the service program, she knew she’d have to purchase all the equipment and supplies he would need to provide oral healthcare.
“My father, Dr. Bryan Aungst, is a general dentist, and was on board right away. He too had always wanted to serve on a volunteer program and was the first dentist to register to work in the new clinic,” Maddy explained. “So that’s how my fundraising goal quickly increased.”
Community Responds With Contributions Big and Small
Maddy created a GoFundMe page so her neighbors, church family, and community could easily donate online, and promoted the fundraiser on social media. “My mom and I got involved with our neighborhood yard sale and put all the proceeds towards my campaign. I spoke at my grandparents’ church and they helped me collect $200, which is unbelievable for such a small church. The biggest success I had fundraising though, was reaching out to my church, the First United Methodist Church in Hollidaysburg. I spoke at all five services. Before my presentation, I had collected $2,100. After my presentation, I had raised $4,300. Unbelievable! I was absolutely amazed by the overwhelming support and encouragement.” One parishioner from Blair Gastroenterology raised $1,000 for Maddy’s effort. “You can imagine my surprise when I received the check,” she said.
Maddy raised over $6,000 in addition to the toothbrush donations. These funds were used to buy forceps and other dental equipment to perform extractions and administer local anesthesia on patients at the Ipalamwa General Clinic in Tanzania. Nine hundred fifteen toothbrushes and 915 tubes of toothpaste were distributed to Tanzanian villagers.
Before Maddy left for Tanzania in 2019, she gushed: “Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I’d be able to raise that much money. I didn’t think I was capable of touching the hearts of so many people. I am so overwhelmed by the love and support that my church and community have shown me. They are thrilled and eager for me to go, return, and then finally share my adventures with them.”
Dental Student Keeps on Giving!
Maddy said her January 2019 Tanzania service program was “a dream come true” (Read more on Maddy’s volunteer experience here). That same year, Maddy graduated from college with a degree in biology and started dental school at the University of Colorado, where her resolve to help bring good dental hygiene to the children in Tanzania continues. She is currently in her second year, pursuing her Doctor in Dental Surgery (DDS) as well as a Master’s in Public Health (MPH).
Although the COVID-19 pandemic cancelled her plans to return to Tanzania with her father in 2021, Maddy set her mind on sending much-needed supplies to the community – regardless of the cancellation. She set up a GoFundMe fundraiser and raised enough money to purchase 780 toothbrushes and 780 tubes of toothpaste to be distributed this month in Tanzania to RCP families. In the absence of volunteers on the ground, the importance of supplies has been compounded. We spoke with Maddy about her determination to support the RCP Program in Tanzania:
What has inspired you to continue to serve the people of Tanzania and donate to the program?
Oral health and hygiene is important to me being a dental student. I decided to pursue a career in dentistry because I feel oral education and hygiene is lacking worldwide. Often times people go to the dentist because their teeth hurt or they have a cavity and it is too late to either save their tooth or restore gingival health. I am learning prevention is the biggest key to success for overall oral health and systemic health, so my main goal with continuing to serve Tanzania is to prevent oral infections/diseases and systemic diseases. The more I’ve learned in school about how oral health affects systemic health, the more I think about the people of Tanzania and how they don’t have access to oral hygiene instruments like toothbrushes and toothpastes. I am a firm believer that everyone should have equal access to health care and be able to live their life to the best ability possible. If I can help those in Tanzania and improve their wellbeing even in the slightest, then I will be so happy.
“If I can help those in Tanzania and improve their wellbeing even in the slightest, then I will be so happy.”– Maddy Aungst
How do you know your donations are well spent?
After spending two weeks in Tanzania getting to experience the clinic, meet the patients, become friends with the staff in Ipalamwa, and now continuing to communicate with Global Volunteers staff members in the U.S., I know my donations are well spent and used for their intended purpose. Everyone I’ve come in contact with through Global Volunteers has been so endearing and honest that I fully trust them with my donations.
“I know my donations are well spent and used for their intended purpose.”– Maddy Aungst
How have you witnessed the impact of your donations to Global Volunteers?
The most important thing I can do is provide the tools and education that people need to be able to care for their oral health. After I left, I was asked to provide a PowerPoint presentation for an “Oral Health Workshop” that the volunteers who visit Tanzania can present to the people of Tanzania to continue to reinforce even when no one is there to treat them.
Why is giving now during the pandemic important to you?
Everyone is struggling right now in some way, shape, or form with the pandemic. Right now, it is more important than ever that we all come together and give to those who need it. I was told that a lot of the women, children, and families in Tanzania rely on the efforts and workings of Global Volunteers to survive, so I figured I would try to do my part and provide more toothbrushes for them.
We applaud Maddy and her parents’ continued support of the Reaching Children’s Potential Program in Tanzania through donations during the pandemic. Support from donors like the Aungsts has ensured that patients continue to receive care at the Ipalamwa General Clinic. And we eagerly await the day when they can be back on the ground in Tanzania providing patients with dental care.
Read about Maddy’s volunteer experience in Tanzania:
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