In March 1999 the secondary school “I.I.S. Galvani – Iodi “in Reggio Emilia, Caritas and ASL signed an agreement and started a collaboration for producing and setting free dentures for people who needed them but couldn’t afford them because of their conditions of poverty .
The project started from the acknowledgement f two needs.
1. Many people in Reggio Emilia, town and province, are in bad economic conditions and need dentures but cannot pay for them;
2. Students from the school need to practice what they have learnt in their curriculum , making real dentures for real people.
Thinking and organizing this project was not easy, also because there weren’t other similar projects going on in Italy and everything had to be decided and discovered for the first time.
One of the toughest task was to define what each partner really had to do:
1. ASL (Local health Service)gave professional help assuring the assistance of a dentist and the possibility of using a dentist’s lab
2. The school “Galvani” made the dentures in its school labs
3. Caritas in collaboration with local social services gave certification of economic need, finding patients and inviting them to free consultation with the dentist
4. A local centre for volunteering gave free legal assistance, granting that everything was done according to the Italian Law.
The most important idea which made a success of the project was the true and real cooperation among the people involved, the will to work side by side with different people.
The project had a very strong impact both on the best students, who could for the first time try to work in a real situation, testing their knowledge and professional skills, and on people who for the first in their life could afford new teeth. Moreover. the project started new synergies among institutions and this was a very important goal, especially for young people. They could experience what cooperation, collaboration and sharing are.
The best students from the fourth and fifth grade wee chose. Their parents signed an agreement, allowing them to participate. Therefore they could attend the school lab during school time, in the morning, and with an afternoon internship once week.
This could be possible because the Principal of the school allowed the teacher of the lab to work on the project for 9 extra lessons a week, according to the agreement mad with the partners. The local dentist from ASL gave free weekly appointments . Patients admitted to the service were from the Town of Reggio Emilia and from the district and were Italian Citizens or Foreigners Temporarily Present (STP).
The activities involved extra expenses for raw materials, which reached the gross amount of 5,000 euro a year. The sum, even though cheap comared to fìthe final result, could not be included in the school balance sheet, so the Council helped.
Then, it became necessary to substitute some equipment in the lab and that was done thanks to the Foundation “Pietro Monadori” in Reggio Emilia.
The final results, the problems which had to be faced and solved every year are analyzed and discussed in an annual “check meeting “ with all the details reported clearly.
These are some of the data emerged:
• 14 year activity
• 533 patients served
• 929 professional jobs actually finished
• Average age of patients: 45 years
• Fixed and removable dentures produced, either total or partial
• Final value of the dentures delivered: 668,410 euro
Kasa, a student form the 5th grade says.” The job done in the Lab is very motivating for me, also professionally. We made dentures for poor people who couldn’t afford to have teeth….Thanks to our expertise they can smile, they eat and chew, without feeling uneasy or embarrassed. But this experience helped students like me to try the real job, to learn to work responsibly and at our best. Thinking that what you do won’t be thrown away in a bin but will give hope and help to people in need…that was great. I sometimes receive “Thank you” note from a patient.
It was the chance of doing something real for the first time, as if we were real pros! And it was a great human experience too”.
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