The Toothbrush Project to Support Nyumbani Village

nyumbani kids

Children From Nyumbani Village


When we think of poverty we immediately imagine starving children and their mothers who are unable to provide even the most basic necessities for their families. I spent this summer volunteering at Nyumbani Village in Kenya. The Village has taken in nearly 1,000 HIV-affected orphans, and there they receive all the basic necessities their families were unable to give them: three meals every day, medical care, an education, etc. But despite the large donations Nyumbani receives, feeding that many mouths is expensive, and inevitably other, lower-priority needs cannot be addressed. After spending two months there it was easy to see what the children were lacking. One of my friends, a recent nursing-school graduate, held hygiene and sanitation workshops. There she noticed that the kids didn’t have toothbrushes or toothpaste. They used branches from a special tree as toothpicks in order to clean their teeth. This explains why many of them had permanently stained teeth.

image-3Back in Madrid at the Universidad Pontificia Comillas, we decided to propose a project that could provide all the children with access to dental hygiene. First, we would collect toothbrushes to send to the orphanage. The University’s solidarity department helped us put up collection points in every department of the University. During two weeks, there were boxes to drop off toothbrushes and tubes of toothpaste, which we had to empty at least twice a week because they filled up so quickly. Ultimately, and with the help of one very large donation from Procter & Gamble, we collected 2,487 toothbrushes and 1,623 tubes of toothpaste. The campaign was an absolute success.

Still, providing for that many mouths is expensive, and we would have to be on a permanent quest for toothpaste if we were to send enough for one thousand kids to brush their teeth three times a day, every day. So we came up with the second part of our project: homemade toothpaste. Not the fancy, Shailene Woodley, hippie-ish kind, but the cheapest, most effective way of cleaning teeth kind. A mixture of salt, baking soda, and water, this is meant to be a simple way for the kids to make their own toothpaste and be able to brush their teeth.

image (1)Last month we sent the first thousand brushes as well as 200 sample-sized pastes for the kids to learn to brush their teeth. We’re still looking for funding for the homemade toothpaste, since the organization will most likely not be able to permanently provide the ingredients for the kids to make it.

If have any ideas or would like to support the project, please contact the author, Isabel Landaeta.

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