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Thursday, 28th of April 2022

Vulnerable students have a smile on their dial thanks to Charitable Foundation grant.

LIVEfree Project has expanded its program to help vulnerable school kids get regular dental check-ups and treatment, thanks to $44,000 in funding from Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation.

There are now 140 Newcastle primary school students enrolled in LIVEfree Project’s Smile and Thrive Dental program, three times as many children as when the program began.

LIVEfree Project’s founder and director Chris Jones said the program promotes good oral hygiene and dental care but also provides emotional resilience and mentoring support.

Trained well-being workers take the children to appointments during school hours and afterwards for a mentoring session over lunch or a milkshake. The children receive dental hygiene and education packs, and some families receive regular bags of healthy groceries.

Chris Jones started the program almost four years ago, but was only able to run it on a very small scale. She said that the funding from Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation will help the program to support three times as many children.

“The kids get essential dental treatment to fix problems that can also be affecting other aspects of their health, their social life, and ability to learn,” Chris said.

Since the beginning of the program, Chris says the feedback has been positive so far.

“Children don’t always want to go to the dentist, but we make it fun and use it as an opportunity to build their self-esteem.

“It is very satisfying when a parent rings me to say that their child is hounding them about when they get to go to the dentist next” she said.

Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation chair Jennifer Leslie met with Merewether Primary School principal, Greg Culhane at LIVEfree Project’s Adamstown hub to hear about the expanded program’s impact since awarding the grant last year.

Jennifer said one of the pillars of the Charitable Foundation’s funding is helping the vulnerable, marginalised and young people. She said the LIVEfree Project team advocate for families to get access to treatment and follows through until the treatment is done.

“Chris has told me so many stories of the difference the program is making to kids and their families.

“LIVEfree Project uses trips to the dentist to reinforce to children that they can start and finish challenging or uncomfortable tasks, seeing things through, which is great for their self-esteem and confidence.” she said.

LIVEfree Project is a small Adamstown-based charity that provides families who have experienced severe hardship, through family violence, drug abuse or poverty with a range of practical, emotional and wellness support programs. Some Smile and Thrive participants make use of the charity’s school bus service which takes 150 children a week to school. It also provides in-school mentoring at Merewether Public School.

To find out more or to support LIVEfree Project visit www.livefreeproject.org.au

Newcastle Permanent Charitable foundation presenting grant to LIVEfree Project

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