In 2020, Alliance for Smiles launched its Virtual Education Initiative (VEI) when it was clear that it would not be possible to resume standard missions during the developing COVID-19 pandemic.
We immediately reached out to our international partners to gauge their interest in and need for virtual education, and the majority responded positively. We recruited AfS expert leads in relevant disciplines and conducted needs assessments among the hospitals where we perform surgeries to determine what would benefit them most. Training in nursing care was a subject in high demand and one that would work well within this format. Our partner hospitals in Bangladesh, Guatemala, and Honduras were immediately interested so, we began the process of translating presentations into the appropriate languages and recruiting teachers who were fluent in the native languages.
In September 2020, we presented our first VEI nursing class to our partners at Shaheed Monsur Ali Medical College in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Since that time, we have expanded our resources and trainings, and we have conducted seminars in Guatemala, Honduras, the Congo, and Benin.
As we continue to develop the VEI, we have discovered an unexpected bonus: we see great potential in continuing this program in conjunction with in-person missions. It will not only help to build a strong foundation of knowledge before the in-person medical mission begins, but also will help establish deeper trust and connection between the local and visiting teams. This familiarity will lead to more efficient and effective missions once we are in the field again.