Rapid City dentist’s lifestyle altered by her India mission

 Dr. D'Jonna Sewell performs free dental care to children at an orphanage in India.
Dr. D'Jonna Sewell performs free dental care to children at an orphanage in India. (KOTA)
Published: Feb. 14, 2019 at 1:12 PM CST
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India is a third the size of the United States but it has one billion more people. And 30 percent live in poverty, many of them children.

There are 440 million children living in India. That's 20 percent of the world's population of people under the age of 18. How many of these children are on the streets is hard to figure out, it’s hard to get an accurate count.

The children living in poverty is in stark contrast to the beauty in the country of India.

But for Rapid City dentist Dr. D'Jonna Sewell she never takes in the sights when she comes to India. She's here to perform dental work on orphans.

Her presence is an inspiration to those around her, her example encouraging others to be better, to give more.

She acknowledges that India has changed her: "Sometimes I think this has messed with me in a way I don't see the world the way I did before"

Going on vacations with her husband or even splurging on an expensive coffee drink all take second place to her work here.

"You just realize maybe we can't do this much but you can do this little piece," she says.

Piece by piece the children she has helped have a path to a better life. For example, with Dr. Sewell's help, the family who runs the orphanages have been able to open up a business-a bakery.

"It took 12 years but now we are ready to take off," Priya, whose family runs the orphanage, is in charge of the bakery.

The bakery keeps some of the boys employed. The profits all go back into caring for the orphans.

The orphanage changed Steven's life. He has been at the orphanage since he was one hour old. As he puts it, "everything comes from this place"

His parents threw him onto the railroad tracks after he was born. And yet he is grateful.

"I'm really happy. I'm really thankful to the policeman who brought me here, my parents even sometimes I want to thank you so much for throwing me on the railroad track!" Steven is now a collage graduate and an educator of teachers. He wants to pay it forward to young orphan boys.

He says "I'll help them in whatever ways I can. Financial if I can help them. If I can do well I'll surely help them."

He may get the chance in the near future.

Dr. Sewell is hoping to get the boys orphanage up and running again but she says it is currently in pretty bad shape. "There's rats living there now."

Rats maybe but no elephants.

"The first thing we had to do was put up an elephant fence," she explains.

Dr. Sewell is also building a new girls orphanage which means 30 more girls will have a home…..and a place to brush their teeth.

Priya couldn't be more grateful. "It's beautiful, beautiful. It's the answer to a lot of things. Thank you so much D'Jonna."

What started as a trip to bring a smile to India became a 15 year journey that transformed lives.

As Dr. Sewell looks to the future she says, "My hope is I can continue to come back as long as they need me and if things change and they're self-sufficient and they don't need us anymore then I know God will take me someplace else. It'll just be a new start of a new process."

Indian icon Mahatma Gandhi said "In a gentle way, you can shake the world" and Dr. Sewell hopes to do just that.

If you'd like to help, Dr. Sewell has set up a GoFundMe me page. You can find it at

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