Helping children smile with clean teeth with the Smile London Campaign
W Bro Alan Hillman reports
In 2017, Bro Hillman visited his grandson, Stanley, in hospital together with his daughter. Nearby a nurse was giving a little girl a Teddy Bear to stop her crying. Bro Hillman's daughter proudly told the nurse: ‘my Father is a Freemason who helped buy those’ (the Teddy Bears with Loving Care campaign). She went on to ask what else we could provide to help children. The nurse immediately replied, ‘Toothbrushes. Parents either forget them or do not bother to get their children to brush their teeth’. A seed was planted.
Talking with NHS staff, Bro Hillman realised that a third of children suffer from tooth decay. During their conversations, Professor Nigel Hunt of the Dental Faculty of the Royal College of Surgeons suggested to Bro Hillman that he distribute toothbrushes and paste directly to schools as well as hospitals. Tooth hygiene may start at home, but it also happens in primary schools where regular habits can be further developed.
Thus, the Toothbrushes for Children in Hospital appeal was created. Since 2017, it has supplied 80,000 disposable brushes to children in London hospitals and community care centres. The pandemic forced the team to take a break, but it didn't stop their good work. During the lockdown, they gave £10,000 to the Oral Health Foundation to help them distribute teaching kits to primary schools across one of the most affected London boroughs. In the chosen location, tooth decay is estimated to be 10% worse than the English average.
The demand for brushes and toothpaste in primary schools remains high. Earlier this year, the Oral Health Foundation worked with the appeal to run a National Smile Month and, in particular, SMILE LONDON - running between mid-May and mid-June. The campaign however won’t just stop there and will hopefully go on for up to 2 years to cover the children aged 5 to 6 across the whole of London as toothbrushing is now on their syllabus. Lodges or Chapters who wish to show support can donate through their Relief Chests to the London Freemasons’ Charity and mark it as a donation for the Toothbrush Appeal.
The London Freemasons’ Charity has released an extra £1000 from the Appeal account to purchase 2000 toothbrushes and toothpaste, bags, printing paper, colour ink and labels. So far, Bro Hillman and W Bro Gary Tuck have delivered 1,550 packs to Ealing, Islington & Brent with the assistance of the Whittington Health trust (Community Dental Services), and a further 560 packs to Shepherds Bush, Hammersmith & Fulham. Central London Community Health (CLCH) NHS Trust has been helping by distributing the packs to primary schools and providing Zoom teaching. The work continues over the summer to prepare for the intake of children in September.
With the help and advice of CLCH NHS Trust, the appeal hopes to launch in September a new campaign called ‘Happy Homework to make you SMILE with CLEAN TEETH from London Freemasons’. This will be similar to the previous one, but the packs have been improved with a good quality toothbrush, a full size 75ml toothpaste and a 4-week toothbrushing reward chart to help children demonstrate that they are cleaning their teeth at home by making it into a game. The donations made will result in us being able to spread this campaign across most London Boroughs.
This article is part of the Arena Magazine, Issue 45 July 2021 edition.
Arena Magazine is the official magazine of the London Freemasons - Metropolitan Grand Lodge and Metropolitan Grand Chapter of London.
Read more articles in the Arena Issue 45.