For many years, Cranberry USA has supported GDR’s work of providing free dental care to children in need around the world. Cranberry USA’s dedication to this work is evidenced by their generous donations of dental supplies, clinic sponsorships and most recently providing scholarship opportunities for pre-dental and pre-dental hygiene students to join GDR clinics.

Since 2017, Cranberry USA has provided scholarships to 10 students who were able to experience their future career in a unique and exciting way!

This year, Cranberry USA has decided to shift their scholarship dollars into a COVID-19 volunteer relief fund. This fund will allow opportunities for people facing financial difficulties due to the COVID-19 pandemic an opportunity to join GDR at our newest clinic location in Jenkins, Kentucky!

In October, Jackie Wallowitch – a veteran GDR volunteer – was the recipient of our very first COVID-19 volunteer relief fund scholarship. We asked Jackie a few questions about her trip to Jenkins!

Read below to hear about Jackie’s experience volunteering with GDR in Jenkins, KY, and Cranberry Scholar.

How did you hear out about the Cranberry Scholarship?

On my first Global Dental Relief trip to Cambodia one of the volunteers was given the scholarship. I noticed her shirt and asked her more about it and knew from that point on that I wanted to be a recipient as well.

Describe your experience working in the clinic.

The clinic in Jenkins, Kentucky was like no other trip I have been on. For this trip I was a general volunteer, instead of a hygienist. This gave me the amazing opportunity to assist a wonderful dentist and learn more about dentistry. Each day we got straight to work after setting up our units and welcoming in our first patient.

I was able to assist in multiple extractions, restorative fillings, and X-rays. Every patient was extremely kind and grateful, it was so nice to meet them all. We even had the opportunity to work on special needs patients who were denied treatment at other clinics and inmates from the local prison. We knew every minute was precious since this was some of the patients’ only opportunity to receive treatment until the clinic opened again after winter. Most days we worked into our lunch time and left later than expected. Throughout my whole experience I felt like the entire group of dentists and fellow hygienist kept me under their wing and mentored me. They all knew my desire to be a dentist and it was very enlightening to learn and see things from their perspective.

What was your favorite part about volunteering with Global Dental Relief?

My favorite part about volunteering with GDR is the family that is created with the other volunteers. Being around like-minded individuals who give their time to help others for nothing in return is simply wonderful.

Did you learn anything new or different through your volunteer experience with GDR? How will that experience be applied to your future career as a dentist?

My experience in Kentucky fueled my brain and warmed my heart. I learned how to be mindful and listen to the needs of each patient. I learned the necessity of time management to address and help treat as many teeth and people as we could. I unfortunately also learned that there is a great need for dental care in America – more than I ever knew. In my future career I will use all these things to educate and help treat my patients, not only at my home office, but around the world. This trip has also reminded me to never stop volunteering because there will always be a need.

How did this opportunity impact your decision to pursue a career in dentistry?

My heart has always been in dentistry, but I felt like I needed this trip more than I knew. Due to COVID-19, I have felt very isolated working as a hygienist and almost forgot how impactful dentistry can be on someone’s life. In the matter of an hour, when working in Kentucky, we completely transformed smile after smile. It was so rewarding. I know that one day I will have the opportunity to be the dentist who changes someone’s life, and this trip has reminded me to keep pushing and become one.

If you could say anything to the next Cranberry Scholar, what would it be?

I would simply tell the next recipient to have fun and ask questions. I’d tell them to talk to every patient and learn about their lives. As a volunteer I had many heart-to-heart conversations with patients felt like some of them helped me more than I helped them.

In a few sentences, tell us about your current occupation and how your work has been impacted by COVID-19.

I am currently working as dental hygienist in New Jersey. COVID-19 has brought some positive things to the office but also many hardships. The new PPE protocol has made me feel safer doing my job, but unfortunately has put stress on our office due to shortages and heavy price changes for essential protection such as gloves and masks. With few exceptions, our patient population is progressively becoming more overdue for their 6-month cleanings and we are seeing an influx in gingivitis and restorative needs. COVID-19 should be taken very seriously but because of this people all over the world are suffering due to the decrease to access of dental care.

Please list anything else you would like to share with the readers!

If you are on the fence about volunteering, even locally at your food bank or blood drive, let this be your sign to do it! Go change some lives.

If you are interested in learning more about the COVID-19 volunteer relief fund, you can email volunteer@globaldentalrelief.org for more information.

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At , our mission is to bring free dental care to children around the globe, in Nepal, India, Guatemala, Mexico, Kenya, and Cambodia. Teams of volunteer dentists, hygienists, assistants, and general volunteers deliver treatment and preventive care in dental clinics that serve children in schools and remote villages. With a vision... Read more »