Brighter Teeth, Brighter Futures
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Brighter Teeth, Brighter Futures

Toothpaste and whitewash were the service tools for our regional team in India

Located in the deciduous forests of northern India, Ranthambore National Park is best known as a sanctuary for the endangered tiger. But many human residents of this rural region need assistance, as well. Under the leadership of regional general manager Mohammed Iliyas, five associates from Grand Circle's regional office in New Delhi and 30 Trip Leaders of OAT's Heart of India adventure decided to engage in not one, but two service activities to benefit this unique community.

Wearing matching T-shirts, the OAT group gathered at the Saini Adarsh Vidya Mandir Primary School on the hot, humid morning of July 12 and divided into four teams. One team remained at the school, while the other three set out for Dhonk Crafts, a women's handcraft cooperative born of the need to provide the families of ex-poachers and others residing within the park's periphery with a sustainable way of earning a living.

Health was the focus of the team at Saini Adarsh Vidya Mandir School. There, the team arranged for 42 children to have dental check-ups and for 50 to be examined by ear, nose, and throat specialists. After the check-ups, children with cavities were advised to visit a local nonprofit hospital, and toothbrushes and toothpaste were handed out to all the children. The team continued on to a government school to distribute more toothbrushes and toothpaste, so that, in all, a total of about 400 children were given the prospect of a brighter smile.

Their task completed, the school team joined the rest of their group, who were hard at work at Dhonk Crafts, whitewashing walls and painting tables, doors, and windows. "Dhonk is definitely a place where one feels that one is truly contributing to changing somebody's life for good," says Pallavi Banerjee, Grand Circle's Program Services Manager for South Asia. "The sense of helping people who are trying so hard to break from the mold of being the poachers and enemies of the jungle makes it so much more meaningful."

Adding to the Grand Circle team's overall satisfaction was a delicious meal of an authentic Rajasthani specialty prepared by their hosts: Dal-Bati-Churma (lentils, puffed dough, and a popular delicacy made from coarse wheat, ghee, and sugar).

"The whole team had a great day, and we all earned some good karma," says Pallavi. "Thank you to Grand Circle Foundation for giving us all an opportunity to do our bit for society."

Featured in our August 2012 E-Newsletter. Read the full issue here.