Bridge2Aid works in Tanzania – a country with a population of 56 million people and just 495 dental professionals, that’s just one to every 113,000 people. The UK ratio is one dentist to every 2,000 people. Statistics can sometimes be hard to grasp but these tell a straightforward story, one of very poor communities for whom the idea of being treated by a dentist is an impossible dream.
But, what does this mean in reality?
It means that we meet people who endure tragedy, like Magalita who, after seven years in pain, asked her son to take out her tooth with a kitchen knife. Or like Yusef who, after six years in pain, was ‘helped’ by an unqualified person resulting in a double fracture and chronic osteomyelitis.
We meet people who cannot sleep, work or look after their kids, and children in such pain that they have had to stop going to school. Access to very basic dental skills at an early stage would prevent all this.
So how is a problem of this scale addressed? At Bridge2Aid we’re a community that’s striving to prevent pain like this from occurring. We’re a small group formed from a larger one – the dental world. The power of community is enormous and we’ve harnessed that to do a huge amount of good.
What we do is very simple. We train health workers who are based in the Tanzanian countryside serving communities who are many hours away from any kind of dental help. We give these health workers additional skills that enable them to provide essential services for their patients – extraction, infection control, delivering oral health education and appropriate referring.
Our trainers are amazing volunteers from the UK dental community. They’re dentists, nurses, therapists and hygienists who volunteer for a fortnight to teach extraction and oral health education.
By the end of an intensive practical training course, the health workers that we train will have taken out more teeth than a UK dental student will have done by completion of their time at dental school. Those who pass are left with a set of simple hand instruments and a kerosene sterilising unit so that they can continue to serve their communities for years to come. These are the only practical tools of the trade as there is often no electricity or running water. You can find out lots more about our work here.
We’re a small UK-based charity and rely entirely upon voluntary donations. As well as organising our own fundraising events, we have a large supporter base of individual donors, who give via standing order, or by fundraising. We also generate income via applications to trusts and funds and we work with individual dental practices in the UK who help to sponsor training. We are also supported by many companies in the dental industry in the UK and also by several companies operating in Tanzania. We and our amazing supporters have to work very hard for every penny.
Practice Plan has had a long history of supporting our work and it’s had a real impact. We’ve also made a lot of friends along the way and some of these very close friends are doing something particularly amazing for us. Dental consultants Chris Barrow, Les Jones, Sheila Scott, Simon Tucker and Ashley Latter will take on the huge challenge of cycling almost 1,000 miles from Land’s End to John O’Groats in 15 days. They are collectively known as FiveGoForth and are looking to raise £50k from this massive challenge and the money will be split between three charities – Bridge2Aid, Cancer Research UK and BrushUp UK.
The impact of this kind of event is huge for a small charity like ours. We’re so grateful for the passion and dedication that’s being shown. It’s a physical demonstration of the power that individuals have to make a change for the very poorest people in our shared world. If you would like to make a contribution please do so here.
I’ll leave you with one of the many recent changes Bridge2Aid has made to someone’s life.
Imagine being the parent of an eight year old struggling to speak because of pain and swelling. Lucia’s parents are subsistence farmers who own a little land and a few cattle. They couldn’t afford to take her on the long journey to see the dentist at the regional hospital. Lucia’s mother brought her to the local health centre this February to get treatment from Bridge2Aid.
When we saw Lucia, she had swelling on her right cheek which was making it difficult for her to talk and had been in dental pain for two years. A very short procedure carried out by one of the rural health workers that we were training resolved the sitution, and was life changing for Lucia and her family. Join us in changing lives.