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Mpumalanga, South Africa, 2018

King Makhosonke II and Princess Agnes invited Humble Smile to the Ndebele Kingdom for the purpose of “improving oral health integration in education and basic health care systems“.  The International Association of Dental Students answered the call, and dental students, a dental hygienist, photographer, public health and project management professionals, flew in to SA from 10 different countries.

Three days were spent fact-finding in 5 schools and some homes. The team was joined on these visits by representatives of the MoE and the Kingdom. At each school information was gathered on the school infrastructure and school body. 68 school students were interviewed with a WHO survey plus a brief clinical examination, to learn of their circumstances and needs.

Considering the amount of sweet foods and beverages consumed by the children, they had surprisingly less tooth decay than the national average – probably due to fluorosis. The community and schools were highly cooperative because of their misconception that the kids’ oral health status was poor due to the “staining”, “neglect” (no dentistry available) and poverty.

On the home and school visits we discovered the Gogos – the grandmother caregivers of the children. Strong, independent, loving, and articulate, the Gogos are organised, have missions, and a vision to help each other, their families and their communities. They are dominant both at home (because most of the parents are not around) and at schools (where they control the School Governing Bodies).

A collaboration with the Gogos was formed based on Humble Smile support for their needs while they carry out the task of supervising tooth brushing and controlling diet at the schools. The team expressed hope that the collaboration will be an opportunity for Africa to show its beautiful and important traditions – humbling and inspiring so-called 1st world communities to improve their own family lives.

A 3-day model, for implementation at each school, was designed and tested. Day I – Investigation – to learn about the school & kids’ OH status. Day II – Workshop – to build relations, educate and empower the Gogos to promote oral health in the school (advocacy) and at home (confidence in their traditional foods and remedies). Day III – Field – to set up tooth brushing stations and other preventive activities at school.

Results of evaluations were promising. 100% of the Gogos indicated: The workshop prepared me for helping in the school the next day, and; the in-school program was successful in introducing new habits in the school routine. 90% of the volunteers stated they would definitely recommend volunteering on a similar project to a friend. Gosia Osypiuk from Poland:I am extremely grateful for having the opportunity to see the world from a different perspective. Through this project, I was in a position to notice thoroughly the importance of preventive dentistry. Everything was genuinely inspiring, and I must admit that this experience thankfully gave me some ideas for my future professional life.

The King requested Humble Smile to help integrate the Gogos Give Smiles program into government policy for the benefit of the 983,000 Ndebele children. The team was honoured as his guests at the annual Komjekejeke Festival.

Romay Harding was appointed Project Manager, and 2 successful South African women (each with her own personal Gogo story), Nonzuzo Makanda and Storm Johnson, are our project Ambassadors.

The team learnt about South Africa from trips and guest speakers. They were lucky enough to spot a cheetah at a game park, and 3 even bungy-jumped in Soweto.

Over 1000 children were reached with tooth brushing and nutritional activities on this project, thanks to our partners: IADS and The Humble Co.






Gogos in Action


Komjekejeke Festival


School Nutrition






Tooth brushing