Variety bridges gaps with another year of effective outreach
It takes a village to raise a child.
Although its origins trace back many years, if not decades, only now is the ideal of this traditional African proverb starting to become familiar to those in the western world. It’s a concept that is both altruistic and simplistic in nature and harkens back to a simpler time in Canadian society when small towns and local neighbourhoods formed the lifeblood of a community.
That was then; this is now. And now things are a bit different. The dynamic and make–up of the community has changed as has societal attitudes towards it. The constant, however, in this changing dynamic is that there are still many who are in poverty and in need.
For proof of this, look no further than numbers posted by the Variety Children’s Dental Outreach program that wrapped up another big year this past spring at the Winnipeg School Division (WSD). The annual outreach effort screens children at 16 schools throughout in the division to identify and treat those in need of care. This year close to 3,500 kids were screened, with over 1,300 identified as needing treatment. Of that number, 400 cases were severe enough to warrant treatment at the Main Clinic at the College of Dentistry. Sadly, the numbers from this year are consistent with those in the past as area children and families struggle with what can be a difficult problem.
Fortunately, the Variety program helps provide tangible solutions, as it has done for many, many years. Division officials praised Variety and the program for making a positive difference in the lives of so many.
“Schools are very complicated places to work,” said Aaron Benarroch, vice principle King Edward School. “Sure there is the academic process, but there is also community development. This partnership is a really important part of community development. We can’t do it by ourselves. That’s why this partnership with Variety is so important.”
Each year, administrators from participating schools gather to assess the outcomes of the outreach effort. And, most each and every year many, if not most share stories of the powerful impact the program has had for the children and the school community.
Because the majority of the participating schools are located in economically disadvantaged areas, there is a commonality of experience that all are familiar with.
“Often we have families of the working poor and the availability of dental care is not always there. For these families, it comes down to putting food on the table,” Mr. Benarroch said. “This partnership is invaluable to the work that we do.”
Each year, one school is acknowledged with the somewhat dubious honour of having the highest participation rate in the program. This year, it was Victoria Albert School, located in the heart of the Point Douglas ward, a short distance from the college.
To be able to make such a real and positive difference in the lives of so many is what Variety and the program is all about, according to the executive director of the long–running children’s charity.