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.

Laurie and Andrew in Kathmandu in 2002!

Kim and Laurie’s first volunteer team!

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!

GDR expanded to clinics in Vietnam in 2004, working with a local dental NGO. In 2013, this location was shifted to Cambodia giving GDR a chance to serve a high-need 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. Then in 2013, GDR joined a wonderful partner in Kenya 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 22,382 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.

Wolfgang Pfannenstiel

What Volunteers Say

After my first dental volunteer trip I was sure to do this continuously no matter what! This is helping kids in need effectively. This is having enjoyable conversations with new friends. This is creating unforgettable memories. So in my specific case the letters GDR stand for the German Dentist Returns :)”

- Wolfgang Pfannenstiel, Dentist, Germany

Darshani Khosla

What Partners Say

Global Dental Relief makes sure children are receiving continuous care and that clinics are run efficiently and with the highest ethical standards. They take care of every detail on your service trip — I plan to volunteer with them for years to come!

- Darshani Khosla, Dentist, Texas

Carol Lim

What Volunteers Say

Thank you Global Dental Relief! Nothing compares to the efforts and impact of your volunteer overseas programs, working hard to bring healthy smiles to children.

- Carol Lim, Vice President of Business Development, Cranberry U.S.A

TJ Gabriels

What Volunteers Say

I plan my whole year around these opportunities to volunteer abroad. I love travel with a purpose, being more than a tourist and making a small, positive mark in the world. This organization has allowed me to get out of my comfort zone and has really helped broaden my world view.

- TJ Gabriels, Lawyer and General Volunteer, New York

Michael Pasoff

What Volunteers Say

As a dentist, I have treated and cared for many patients, however, nothing can compare to the sense of fulfilment when volunteering your time and skill to ease the pain and suffering of others. It never ceases to amaze me what can be accomplished when surrounded by dedicated, caring and talented volunteers, such as those I met in past international dental clinics with GDR.

- Michael Pasoff, Dentist, Montreal, Canada

Nour Shehadeh

What Volunteers Say

I am honored and grateful to help these amazing children, meet incredible people, explore their culture and change children's lives for the better. I look forward to many service trips with GDR in the future.

- Nour Shehadeh, Dental Hygienist, Illinois

Peggy Lamm

What Volunteers Say

If you want to literally change lives, this is a great way to do that. Our work with Global Dental Relief produced more real good than all the other cumulative good works I've helped with through the rest of my life.

- Peggy Lamm, CEO Colorado Mesa University Foundation and General Volunteer, Colorado