By Savannah Thorne
The strength of being a leader comes from the courage of personal convictions and the belief that within every challenge lies the seed of opportunity. I am the proud daughter of Stephen Thorne, the founder, president, and CEO of Pacific Dental Services (PDS) and Smile Generation. Our family humbly knows and appreciates what it means to be fortunate and, consequently, how much is required of us. Charity and the joy of service are a regular part of our family life. The utter joy that comes from zestfully contributing to the betterment of others is a blessing not just to the receiver of the gift, but to the giver as well. In fact, for me it is so sad to think of those who have not had a chance to experience the joy of service to those less fortunate than themselves. For that reason, the challenge becomes an invitation to participate in the charity work that my dad's dental support company promotes and sponsors.
As PDS has grown, so has its outreach and serve team. When my family and I went to Ethiopia to adopt my little brother, my dad became aware of the need for dentists there. Only three dental schools exist in the whole country. My dad had a vision of bringing in a dental team to serve those who most likely have never seen a dentist before. It wasn't long before that vision became a possibility and the planning of this extraordinary mission began. A group of dentists agreed to volunteer their time to help those in a far-off country.
I was lucky to watch the lives of multiple dentists supported by PDS be moved by this experience. Many people think they are going on these service projects to change other people's lives, when truly they are the ones whose lives are changed. Being of service benefits them so that they no longer view their own lives in the same way; they have a lingering passion for wanting to help others. It is amazing to see these dentists sacrifice a week's worth of work to serve those in great need in an improvised setting. An experience like that is well worth taking a week away from the office. It brings the practitioner back with a new perspective on life and a sense of gratitude for all he or she has been blessed with.
However, what is great about the PDS service projects is that serving doesn't require going overseas. This is why PDS created many ways for dentists to use their talents to give back to those less fortunate. Understanding that many people have family they can't leave behind, the PDS Serve Foundation created a mobile dental clinic to travel around the country and supply clinical care in local underserved communities. The company realizes that there are needs not only in far-off countries, but also in our own communities.
PDS facilitates charitable dentistry in different countries around the globe. The company has donated over $2 million tocharity: water, a nonprofit organization that helps bring clean water to people around the world. As a trusted charity, it is well known for its transparency. In fact, it shows global positioning systems and photos that thoroughly explain exactly where the donated funds go.
Along with assisting PDS and the Smile Generation's charity work, I personally have been encouraged by my parents to be involved in charity fundraising. Over the past couple of years, I have raised over $20,000 for the country of Ethiopia. I have done everything from lemonade stands and washing cars to babysitting and hosting huge events. Recently, I succeeded in raising money to build another well in Ethiopia that cost $10,000. My campaign name was "A Splash of Hope" on the charity: water website. While I realize I set high goals, I do my best to raise as much money as possible. Being able to reach out to others and tell them about my projects, in the hope that they will be better educated about the poverty, is something that moves me. I delight in rallying others to pick up the challenge and accept the invitation to help others in need.
It was a gift from my dad to allow me to visit a third-world country at a young age. I was able to see beyond myself. The biggest eye-opening experience occurred during my fifth trip to Africa. It was my first time traveling out of the main city of Ethiopia, and I saw what I never believed to be true: poverty so extreme that it is life-crippling. After driving over five hours through beautiful flat land, we arrived at a community celebrating our visit. Thousands of people gathered, cheering praises. Horses were dressed up in red and blue decorations with children laughing and singing, and men waving palm branches in the air. Riding on a horse into the middle of the village had me feeling like a celebrity. However, once the festivities calmed down, the head of the village showed me the water source from which they drank: it was a mud hole. The women would stand in it and stomp the mud to get liquid to ooze up. It was heartbreaking to see people drinking this sludge – and even be grateful for it – even though it compromised their health. Babies died every day because they drank this filthy water. Thankfully, a few others and I have been able to fund a water well for this village. However, there are millions of more people who are still drinking such mucky water.
I currently have been on 11 trips to Ethiopia. As I continue to travel back to my favorite foreign country, I hope to partner with one of the local orphanages so that I can provide a better life for more children. Even with so much strife, the happiness and hope these children have is amazing. They strive to learn English, become more intelligent, and improve their lot in life. I have not met one child who is unhappy or without dreams, even though the lack of proper education is a major issue. Only 40% of the country has access to safe drinking water. I want to help give children a nice place to live, clean water, and a proper school education.
I am fully aware of how greatly I have been blessed and, therefore, have a responsibility to give back. I don't believe that anyone should be denied the joy that comes with the blessing of giving service to others in need. Any gesture to charity is wonderful, but the opportunity to truly give with the heart of a willing servant is wonderful beyond measure, and everyone should have the opportunity to feel it for himself or herself.
Savannah Thorne is 18 years old and finishing her senior year of high school. Her future plans include working at an orphanage in Ethiopia and, hopefully, one day running an orphanage of her own. She also is an accomplished gymnast who has competed nationally. Savannah will continue her passion for serving with an internship with A Glimmer of Hope.
We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give. – Winston Churchill
A generous person shall be enriched, and the one who waters shall also be watered. – Proverbs 11:25