One of our dream scholars, Mutita, is currently working as a school teacher in a remote area in Thailand. While working, she noticed that students and teachers do not have adequate access to drinking water due to the building's improper water filtration system. In order to repair the school's water filter, Smiles on Wings plans on raising $1,000. Although repairing the filter is only a short-term solution until we can replace the water filtration system, this repair will have life-changing impacts on the health of these students. We hope to bring rapid relief to these school children who suffer from illnesses due to drinking contaminated water. If you would like to support this Clean Water Project, please consider donating to Smiles on Wings.
Letter From Mutita:
The water filter in our school needs to be repaired. Without proper water filtration, our students are forced to bring water from home in buckets. Carrying water in buckets is difficult because they are heavy and oftentimes break and leak. If students do not have access to clean water from home they must resort to walking to neighboring villages water. Unfortunately, many children do not this option and only have access to contaminated water. These students often suffer from stomachaches, nausea, and gallstones. It is important that our school provides clean drinking water for the students for their health and wellbeing. This project will be life-changing for many students and we hope to finish this initiative before school starts.
On February 1st 2021, the Myanmar military overthrew the democratically elected government. On March 27th 2021, the Myanmar military began its offensive against the Karen people living in Myanmar. Air and ground attacks have forced thousands of Karen tribe villagers to flee their homes in Myanmar and seek refuge in Thailand.
Our Karen scholars in Thailand teach and provide healthcare in the villages on the Thai border with Myanmar. Their villages are close to where the refugees are hiding and are impacted by the fierce fighting happening nearby.
Not only do our scholars have to protect their community from COVID-19, Malaria, and monsoon season, but they also have to support their community as they face danger from ground and air strikes. The villagers have started to practice bomb-threat drills as airplanes drop bombs in nearby areas.
One of our scholars, Saengthong Sodsaijampa, is currently working as a teacher in her village near the Myanmar border. She has been instrumental in supporting the Karen children through these violent times. Since April 27th, she has been leading the students during bomb-threat evacuation plans with the help of the local park rangers.
We pray for the safety of our graduates and villagers. We pray for peace. In this challenging time, Smiles on Wings is grateful that we have our graduates to help the students and villagers.
Coronavirus has negatively impacted the economy in Thailand and the livelihood of the Thai villagers. Our scholars Sangthong Sodsaijumpa and Chureepon Srisopawiman, who are currently working as school teachers, open up about how the pandemic has impacted their families, work, and financial situations.
"2019 and 2020 are the hardest years of humanity due to the spread of the Coronavirus. Going home is very hard because the dock has been closed since March 2020. When I try to go home by car or motorcycle, it takes more than 4 hours to drive. Going home by boat is more efficient because takes only 1 hour. However, the journey is still very difficult for me and other villagers. As a result, I rarely go home."
Social studies teacher
"The spread of Coronavirus changes our daily life because we have to keep social distance from friends and neighborhoods. In the first wave of the spread of Coronavirus or COVID-19 in Thailand, the government locked down cities, villages, provinces, roads, airports, and docks. Thailand boundary ports were closed for 5 months, including Thai-Myanmar docks in the rural area, northern of Thailand. Then, roads were opened in the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, but docks and boundary ports are still closed. Traveling by boat is the fastest way to go to work, but the dock has been closed for years. I decided to travel by car although it takes lots of time. Moreover, rural roads are bumpy which makes travel difficult. Villagers cannot travel by cars in the rainy season because dirt road becomes muddy. Because of the COVID-19 lockdown and difficulty of transportation, goods are more expensive than normal, but incomes are decreased. The spread of Coronavirus impacts my family members directly: my father is a fisherman but he cannot sell fish because the market is closed. Next, my brother lost his job in Bangkok and had to come home. There are no marketing activities between Thais and Burmese. Not only my family is affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, but other families in the village are too."
"Dock areas will not be allowed to reopen soon because of the disease and political conflict in Myanmar. Nevertheless, reopening of slow boat rides will be beneficial for people to buy and sell goods and gain more income."
Social studies teacher
Throughout the outbreak of COVID-19, our scholars have been working on the frontlines, protecting their communities from this global threat. We are so proud of their work educating the villagers about COVID-19 and keeping them healthy. Kornkamol and Patcharapon, public health workers in Mae Sariang, provide us with statements on how COVID-19 has impacted them and their work as healthcare providers.
"COVID 19 has a huge impact on public health workers because we are always in contact with infected patients. Our duty is to follow occupational health guidelines and safety in the workplace, we avoid going to some areas where the virus is spreading. We follow the guidelines for assessment, isolation, and treatment of patients by socially distancing during services. Ministry of public health suggests public health workers and patients wear face masks and use soap or alcohol-based hand sanitizer in order to clean our hands. I meet patients who can not go to the hospital in their homes. When I see them, I have to keep myself safe by wearing a face mask every time. Moreover, I have to give important information about COVID-19 disease to other villagers so they can understand the dangers of coronavirus and can protect themselves from the virus."
Public health worker
"Due to the spread of Coronavirus, I have to wear self-protection, such as plastic gloves and face masks at work because I am a public health worker. I always wash my hands by using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer and keeping social distance. I work at a COVID screening point in Mae Sariang district, northern Thailand. My duties are screening people entering Mae Sariang for COVID-19."
Public health worker
Chomnapa, a Smiles on Wings scholar, is currently working as a third year dental therapist student. Her third year requires for her to participate in extensive clinical and community dental health. Chomnapa loves serving her community, and is grateful for this opportunity to expand access to dental care. Pictured above is Chomnapa teaching young students the importance of oral health.
Chomnapa is looking forward to graduating and being able to improve the dental health of her community in rural Thailand. Thanks to our donors, we are able to support Chomnapa in her studies. When she graduates, Chomapa will continue to help Smiles on Wings by working on our dental program.
Join us in a celebration of Thai culture at Farmsook, a local Thai restaurant. Enjoy a delicious menu of traditional Thai foods and entertainment from local Thai dancers and a guest speaker. All proceeds from ticket sales will go directly to Smiles on Wings to support their dental and education projects in Thailand.
Date And Time:
Sun, April 26, 2020
7:00 PM – 10:00 PM EDT
800 King Farm Boulevard#125
Rockville, MD 20850
Congratulations to Dr. Bunnag for being named one of the Top 100 Women of Maryland! The Daily Record began Maryland’s Top 100 Women in 1996 to recognize outstanding achievements by women demonstrated through professional accomplishments, community leadership and mentoring. Dr. Bunnag has exemplified the ideals of a Top 100 Woman in everything she does. We can not think of anyone more suited for the award. Join us in celebrating on April 27th, details on our Facebook page.
In February 2019, Dr. Bunnag, the Smiles team, and scholars Chalita and Mutita traveled to Hong Kong to give a TEDx Talk at Lingnan University. The theme of the event was Dauntless which means to show fearlessness and determination, the perfect word to describe Dr. Bunnag's journey with Smiles On Wings.
Growing up in a small town in Thailand with limited opportunities, Dr. Bunnag's fate was the same as many poor Thai girls today, either marry young or leave the village to work as waitstaff or in massage parlors and risk becoming a victim of the sex trade industry. Through education she has been able to change her destiny. Today she is a dentist with two successful dental practices and a humanitarian that is uplifting communities one girl, one village and one mission at a time.
Thank you to all of our donors, sponsors and supporters that have made this possible. And a special thanks to TEDx Lingnan University for giving us this opportunity. Please like, share and enjoy the video!
Join Smiles on Wings in celebrating 15 years of making smiles and keeping smiles!
October marks Smiles on Wings' 15th anniversary! Over the past 15 years, Smiles has hosted dental mission trips, provided humanitarian aid, and given young ladies the education and empowerment they need and deserve through our scholarship programs. As Smiles' founder Dr. Usa Bunnag once said:
"Dentistry allowed us to create Smiles on Wings. In return, Smiles on Wings gave us an opportunity to do more than I had set out to do."
Thank you to all of the team members, volunteers, and donors who continually allow Smiles to live out its mission. Here's to another 15 years!
ATLANTA, Oct. 16, 2017 — Usa Bunnag, D.D.S., of Bethesda, Maryland, will receive the 2017 American Dental Association Humanitarian Award at the Opening General Session of ADA 2017 – America’s Dental Meeting. The award will be presented by ADA President Gary L. Roberts, D.D.S.
Dr. Bunnag is best-known for her organization Smiles on Wings, which has carried out biannual dental volunteer trips to her native Thailand since 2003. In 2014, with partial funding from the ADA Foundation Post-Tsunami Dental Reconstruction Program, Smiles on Wings built a permanent dental clinic to serve the community.
Dr. Bunnag’s work in the U.S. has been an equal labor of love. She works extensively with Bethesda-area Medicaid and refugee programs, in addition to serving a Washington D.C. community of Buddhist monks since 1996.
“It is my honor to be the first woman to receive this award and I would like to dedicate this award to my mother who instilled in me the importance of giving and being altruistic,” Dr. Bunnag said. “My message for all the young girls out there in villages around the world and to young immigrant children in the US is keep on dreaming. Don’t stop believing in yourself. With hard work and dedication, you can achieve your dream.”
The ADA Humanitarian Award recognizes dentist members who have distinguished themselves by giving at least 10 years to improving the oral health of underserved populations in the U.S. and abroad. The award includes $10,000 that is given to the dental charity/project of the recipient’s choice.
To learn more about Dr. Bunnag, read this story in ADA News.
About the American Dental Association
The not-for-profit ADA is the nation’s largest dental association, representing more than 161,000 dentist members. The premier source of oral health information, the ADA has advocated for the public’s health and promoted the art and science of dentistry since 1859. The ADA’s state-of-the-art research facilities develop and test dental products and materials that have advanced the practice of dentistry and made the patient experience more positive. The ADA Seal of Acceptance long has been a valuable and respected guide to consumer dental care products. The monthly The Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA) is the ADA’s flagship publication and the best-read scientific journal in dentistry. For more information about the ADA, visit ada.org. For more information on oral health, including prevention, care and treatment of dental disease, visit the ADA’s consumer website MouthHealthy.org.