Generosity & The Smile Generation

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Since I started at charity: water 3 1/2 years ago, “Smile Gen” has been a buzzword around the office. This amazing group of people at Smile Generation and their parent company, Pacific Dental Services, not only started one of the first fundraising campaigns ever (on the newly-launched mycharity: water platform in 2009), but have brought clean water to more than 34,000 people in eight different countries since then.

Their generosity and dedication continues to amaze us… and this year has been no exception.

In May, inspired by their visionary CEO and Founder, Stephen Thorne, they set an unbelievable goal… to raise $1 million and fund 100 wells in Ethiopia.

I had the privilege to start working closely with Matt Hall and Kyle Guerin, from their “We Serve” team, in January when we spent 10 days together in Tigray in Northern Ethiopia before they kicked off the campaign.

We bonded over flash flood mudslides, before-dawn wakeup calls and late-night bonfire sing-alongs with the local community. We also captured the powerful story of a woman named Nagistie, who, along with the other women in her village, was collecting her water at the bottom of a ravine.

The women escorted us there. We followed them down the steep and rocky cliff (getting knocked around by camels and donkeys on the path along the way) to a nearly dried up river bed. The journey took us more than two hours, and the water source was one they shared with animals.

It was heartbreaking, but motivating. And the result of that trip was an incredible video that Smile Generation could share:

They premiered the film in early May at their annual conference with the top performers of the company in attendance. And in one night, nearly 200 campaigns were pledged by Smile Generation dental offices all over the country.

Each of these teams and dental offices has committed to fund a well in Ethiopia. They’ve hosted chili cook-offs, raffled baseball tickets and made donations from patient services–all to help raise funds for 100 Wells for Ethiopia.

The Chili Cook-off

And I’m thrilled to say that they’re well on their way. Thanks to generous contributions from their patients, vendors and staff, last week, their campaign hit $500,000!

It’s a huge accomplishment. Because of the community at Smile Generation, 50 villages in Tigray, Ethiopia will now have access to clean water–that’s 12,500 people! It’s almost too large a number to comprehend, so I think of one woman–Nagistie, whose young daughter followed her up the cliff, with her own small bottle of water filled from the river.

I like to imagine the day when clean water will come to her village and the hours she’ll be able to spend in school getting an education instead of making that treacherous walk. I’m so grateful to Smile Generation for making this possible.

–Sarah Cohen, Corporate Foundations Manager

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