Global Dental Relief (GDR) was founded in 2001 by former Director of Colorado State Parks, Laurie Mathews, and dentist Andrew Holecek. Laurie and Andrew spent a year in Nepal and were deeply moved by the desperate need for dental care, particularly for children.
In Nepal, they created field dental clinics to provide children with the first dental care of their young lives. Clinics began at the Shree Mangal Dvip School in Kathmandu, Nepal, and continue at this wonderful location to the present day.
In 2002, they were joined by adventure travel expert Kim Troggio. Wishing to connect more deeply with local people, Kim added her vision to provide impactful ways for volunteers to explore the world and serve remote communities around the globe. With this new partnership, Global Dental Relief as we now know it was formed!
With time, GDR’s reach expanded, as a growing group of dedicated volunteers allowed GDR to add new country locations. Expansion included:
- 2001 — Nepal
- 2004 — Ladakh, India
- 2004-2013 — Vietnam
- 2007 — Guatemala
- 2013 — Kenya and Cambodia
- 2019 — Akumal, Mexico
- 2020 — Jenkins, Kentucky
GDR’s first expansion beyond Nepal, happened at the invitation of a sponsor working in India. Once our volunteers experienced the magic of Ladakh, there was no turning back!
In 2004 GDR held a limited number of clinics in Vietnam, working with a local dental NGO. In 2013 this location was shifted to Cambodia giving GDR a chance to serve a high needs population in a wonderful new country location.
In 2007, GDR was in search of a new location closer to home for volunteers with limited travel time or experience. Work began in the Mayan Highlands and has since expanded to two additional amazing locations in Antigua and Chimaltenango.
In 2013, with high volunteer demand, GDR joined two wonderful partner opportunities in Kenya and Cambodia and now holds 2 clinics annually in Kenya and 5 in Cambodia, serving wonderful young populations with first time dental care.
In 2020, GDR added a domestic location in Jenkins, Kentucky, spurred on by the limits to travel during the Covid pandemic.
Our final international expansion was to Mexico, again led by a desire for closer, easily accessible locations. In 2024, GDR hosts clinics in three different Mexico locations: Akumal, Francisco Uh May, and Coba.
Since its beginning, Global Dental Relief has grown from 27 volunteers in 2002 to 323 dedicated volunteers joining us annually — dentists, hygienists and general volunteers. Global Dental Relief volunteers now hosts 29 trips a year serve 22,500382 children each year with $5.4 million in donated dental care – bringing dental care and hope to children in need.
GDR’s work continues under Kim, who serves as the director of Global Dental Relief, while Laurie serves on the Emeritus Board and devotes her time to GDR small adventure clinics in the field.