Call us now 0845 850 9877
  1. June 25, 2015

    Cross Morecambe Bay Walk with Cedric Robinson (Queen’s Guide to the Sands)

    Our friend Melanie Yates is organising a fantastic fundraising event for Bridge2Aid.

    It’s happening on Saturday 8th August 2015 starting at 12 noon from the Arnside Pier on Morecambe Bay.
    Approx length 7 miles
    Involves getting wet and having lots of fun!
    Further information available at Melanie’s website:
    Melanie says:
    “I hope all my friends and supporters will join me for a cross bay walk led by Cedric Robinson on Saturday 8th August. The walk will start in Arnside close to the pier at twelve noon sharp and finish near Kent’s Bank railway station. The walk is approximately 7 miles and takes 3-4 hours. Be prepared for an amazing experience – walking across the bay with unrivalled views towards the Lakeland hills, joined by a group of people all with a common purpose is very rewarding whatever the weather!
    Cedric can take 500 people, so the more the merrier. Spread the word and bring along as many people as you can to join in. Dogs seem to enjoy it to although can get confused by the lack of normal doggy smells to guide them on their way.”
    You can support the event on Melanie’s Just Giving page or donate on the day.

  2. The end of another Great National Smile Month

    Another National Smile Month drew to a close last week.

    There have been the usual fantastic efforts by the BDHF (British Dental Health Foundation) and many many others around the country to raise awareness of the importance of oral health and to educate people on how to care for their mouths.

    There was lots of fun, lots of smiley faces, and lots of positive messages and images out there on social media and the web.

    And yet the message isn’t getting through.

    Reports of increasing numbers of children requiring significant help caused by poor oral health are on the rise. Barely a week goes by without another story of an under 10 year old child in hospital for a full clearance.

    Screen Shot 2015-06-25 at 13.40.08Diet, and sugar in particular, is the issue. Whether it’s parental ignorance, apathy or simple neglect, far too many children are affected and in pain in the UK.

    Of course, dental caries is the most common disease in the world – and just as common in Tanzania.

    This week I spoke to an international foundation looking to change oral health behaviour within this neglected group of children – rural communities in developing countries.

    But even this organisation was stunned at the level of sugar consumption in Tanzania in the rural areas, and what it leads to.

    Because the basic difference between the UK and places like Tanzania is:

    • Understanding – there isn’t any knowledge of the causes of dental disease
    • Education – there isn’t any teaching on how to prevent dental problems
    • Treatment – there isn’t any access to even essential, pain relieving dentistry in rural areas where most people live

    What this results in is a devastating situation where there is no understanding of the causes of oral diseases, no education to prevent it, and crucially (the difference between the west and places like Tanzania) no-one to help when the resulting disease strikes.

    And so, back to the UK.

    Despite the various attempts by many agencies to change behaviour in the UK there seems to be a continuation of the poor choices by parents and children that lead to the consequences described above. Maybe it’s time we changed tack on the message that we present. I’m all for being positive, but when being positive isn’t having an effect, perhaps we need to turn to alternative methods. The anti-smoking campaigns used in the past picturing the lungs of diseased individuals and some of the other impacts that smoking has on the body have been effective. Maybe it’s time we started to use some of these images in oral health promotion as well. If parents and carers are not taking notice of the smiley faces and positive attempts to prevent oral diseases, and continuing to put children in pain, then perhaps an alternative approach is needed.

  3. Use it or lose it

    June 17, 2015

    I’m grateful for the people in my life who provide timely reminders of what’s important.

    A couple of years ago I started working with someone in Tanzania who was keen to support Bridge2Aid. He has lived and worked in the country for many years, is hugely respected, and in terms of philanthropy and working with communities, he is an inspiration. He has been recognised with honours from both his own Government, and the Tanzanian Government. As well as his achievements, he has also remained a kind, relaxed and friendly person. It’s a great balance. And it’s from him that my latest reminder came.

    Having agreed to start working on a new and very exciting project late last year, and completed the early stages, the project stalled, partly through a mixture of broken communication and a loss of momentum. I then received the ’tough love’ email. It was the sort of email that hits you hard, but for which you’re immediately grateful. In a nutshell, he had decided to withdraw his time from what we were working on, and focus it elsewhere on other charitable things he wanted to do. One line in the message hit me particularly hard:

    ‘Mark, time is the most valuable commodity we all have, and the most wasted.’

    Which is a phrase we would all nod sagely at, but given the context, what this guy has achieved, and I guess my place in life, it nailed me to the wall. For those of us that have taken a few knocks in life, and learned to bounce back and learn from them, we know this sort of thing is Gold Dust. Although it’s hard to take when someone points out your failings and decides to move on, it also very often gives you the jolt you need. After all, who wants to waste their time? The email initiated a bit of a review for me in other areas of my life, and I am trying to create that sense of urgency that gets things done, whilst resisting the unhealthy tendency to be driven. It’s the difference between being hurried and busy.

    After the email, we managed to re-engage after an apology and an explanation, and I’m grateful the project is now back on track with a renewed sense of urgency and commitment (and I’ll be able to announce what it is in a few months).

    So today I am re-inspired by an important reminder from someone who has achieved so much, and clearly holds the tension between being achievement and being rushed – carefully stewarding his most valuable commodity.

  4. Smile in Pink – a day that so many are waiting for

    June 2, 2015


    11112491_10152930697005677_47797664594207011_nFriday 5th June sees our second annual ‘Smile in Pink’ day in aid of Bridge2Aid take place. Over 40 practices around the country, plus the whole of the Oasis Dental Care network will dress up in pink for the day, and raise as much money as they can to support Bridge2Aid!

    It has been a real pleasure to see the pre-event activity on social media – longstanding and new supporters looking forward to the day, getting their polo shirts through the post and planning their fundraising.

    But the people most looking forward to Smile in Pink day aren’t even aware that it’s happening. They are the thousands suffering from crushing dental pain who live in East Africa right now, and who will ultimately benefit from Friday’s frivolity.

    Today, smiling is sadly the last thing they feel like doing. They’ve already been in pain for a long time, and live far, far away from anyone who can help. On average, the patients we see during our training & treatment programmes have been in pain for 621 days. A third will have been in pain longer than a year; a third longer than 18 months, and one fifth longer than two years.

    But help is on the way – both in the short term, and crucially, the long term.

    What Bridge2Aid does

    Bridge2Aid is not really about getting western dentistry to these people. Our mission is to relieve their pain, prevent it in the future, and help them to return to a fully functional quality of life so they can pursue their livelihood. We’re committed to building the rural health care system to do this by training local health workers in emergency dentistry, and treating the community in the process.

    You can watch a 3 minute video here that sums up what we do and why.

    What we do is all about an ethical and sustainable approach. We use dental volunteers in a way that is not about what we want to do, but all about what is most needed. Our contribution is the kick-start for local capacity building – we get out of the way and don’t make ourselves part of the long term solution.

    What you can do

    It’s great that our 70th and 71st Dental Volunteer Programme teams start work today, in two new regions of Tanzania. Over the next 9 days they will treat close to 2,000 people, and train 12 local health workers in emergency dentistry. Each patient costs £5 to treat and educate. Every one will be a story of hardship and suffering coming to an end – almost 90% of them will have been in pain for more than a year.

    So I’d like you to do one of two things (or both!)

    We rely on your donations and fundraising to do this work (and 88.9% of your money goes directly to the programmes), so please help:

    • Donate now – how many people would you like to treat this week? £5 gets each person out of pain
    • Smile in Pink on Friday  – it’s very simple to take part. Whether you are already registered or not, why not aim to raise enough money to help as many patients as you would expect to see on Friday?  Call us on 0845 8509877 or email now to get a pack sent out to you.

    Your donations and fundraising will have a huge impact. As well as these programmes in June we have others in July, September and November this year. The work never ends while there are people in pain, but through your generosity, you help to not just treat people now, but also train someone who can help their community in the future. That’s what makes Smile In Pink day so different, and why I for one, am really looking forward to it.

  5. Locuming at Hope – The same but different

    May 21, 2015

    hope 3

    Phil Loughnane has recently returned home to Gloucestershire from a short stint as a locum dentist at Hope Dental Centre in Mwanza, Tanzania. He shares with us some of his experiences

    hope 2

    I have been involved with the charity Bridge2Aid for over ten years, volunteering on the Training Programme, raising money with my teams at Chipping Manor Dental Practice in the UK, and even taking a group of team members and patients out to Tanzania to help refurbish a community health facility.

    This trip was different, though. I wasn’t going to Tanzania as trainer, fundraiser or even flag waver. I was going as a locum dentist, to join the team at the new Hope Dental Centre. Hope is run by Bridge2Aid as a social enterprise. It is a fee-paying dental practice, and all its profits are transferred to Bridge2Aid to extend its invaluable work in East Africa. Hope offers access to quality dentistry in Mwanza. More importantly, though, the more patients it sees, the greater the support for Bridge2Aid – and that’s where we visiting locums can help.

    I was excited to see the new facility. I had visited the old Hope clinic, which was no longer fit for purpose, and I’d heard a lot about the new one. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect; I knew that the equipment was all new, as it had been donated from the UK during the building project, but seeing how well the surgeries were equipped and stocked was great – and having an air con unit in my surgery was amazing!

    hope 4hope 1









    A friend, Julie Williams, had visited the clinic a month earlier, and she warned me to expect a warm welcome. That’s exactly what I did receive – a very welcoming team who coped patiently with me learning the ropes and consequently running into lunchtime (just like at home!).


    And it wasn’t just that that felt like home; the standards of cross infection control employed at the clinic were really reassuring, the computer system uses the latest version of Exact, and most of the kit and materials were very familiar.

    phil hope 1There are of course some adjustments to make. It wouldn’t be worth travelling 4,000 miles if there weren’t. There are some challenges we don’t face often at home, such as frequent power outages, and the resident team adjust easily to these. Though the Hope project manager summed up my contribution by saying that I was wonderfully ordinary – when the power went down I was the only one working because it was still possible to extract teeth without the compressor.

    Although there were some ex-pats, the majority of patients are Tanzanian. I did anticipate I may have a problem communicating, but it was no issue at all. I saw wonderfully well-informed, appreciative patients who nearly all spoke English. When they didn’t, my nurse was always on hand to translate so this was much less of a problem than anticipated.

    Beware; depending on the season, it’s not always baking hot – one afternoon there was torrential rain which sounded so loud on the tin roof. It would have been hard to hear yourself speak. I just looked at my nurse and smiled because it was so unique.

    The resident clinicians do not have much contact with other dental professionals, so an important role for the visiting locum is just to share how others go about things. I’m a little disappointed in how little time I ended up spending with Drs Yusuf and Mo. We had hoped to do some training but in fact the appointment book filled so quickly this was barely possible. I hope instead I was able to provide a role model of hard work, efficiency and professionalism; being organised and productive. They are working in a busy practice, so any tips on how to be more efficient were seized upon eagerly.

    In some ways, I felt more like a learner than a tutor. I felt like a Foundation Dentist working in their surgery on the first day, so it was a great way to empathise with that experience of feeling so new.  I even struggled with a surgical extraction and had to get help! The experience of starting a difficult procedure without really knowing the experience or training of your team was an education. I had checked the instruments thoroughly  but I hadn’t discussed the nurse’s role beforehand.

    And it wasn’t all work, either; one unexpected event was a ‘boys night out’ with the two resident dentists, Yusuf and Mo, which was a great team event.

    Doing a stint as locum at Hope is hard work, but extraordinarily satisfying. Everyone there is eager to learn, but also quick to jump to assist. The team and patients are all so appreciative, and although the area outside the clinic is unmistakably ‘Africa’, inside it is familiar to anyone who has worked in a general practice in the UK. The same, but very different!

    Contact if you’d like to find out more about locuming at Hope

  6. The multiplier

    May 5, 2015

    As the countdown for my return to the UK continues, it’s been a time for a lot of reflection. I guess it’s inevitable that once the end of your time gets closer that you begin to not only reminisce but also reflect on how much of an impact you’ve really been able to have.

    For those that don’t know, I am not leaving Bridge2Aid, but after almost 10 years here in Tanzania and having worked hard to establish the programmes and the team, Jo and I will relocate to the UK, but continue in our current roles. With a great Tanzania Management Team in place, we’ll be able to focus on developing the next steps for Bridge2Aid and in particular, raising the funds we need to expand what we’re doing here in East Africa, and extending the work to other parts of the region where treatment and training is desperately needed.

    Overwhelmingly we’re leaving with a great sense of achievement. It has been so rewarding to see so many people relieved of pain they might have suffered for many months, and without our help, would have continued to do so. The last DVP team saw over 1,000 patients – a fantastic achievement. It has also been immensely satisfying to work with so many teams (over 60 now) who have given so freely and had life changing experiences themselves.

    As good as these things are, I keep reminding myself that behind the founding of Bridge2Aid was a dissatisfaction and ultimately a recognition that most dental volunteering and charitable intervention was not enough. Ian’s passion, which every one of the team still carries today, is that training at a basic level has to be the key. After more than 10 years in the 90s volunteering all over Africa as a dentist, Ian had seen plenty. And that’s the difference with a Bridge2Aid volunteer programme. Each one not only treats patients, but more importantly trains local health workers to educate the community and provide simple pain relieving dental services long after the volunteers have left. And the results are clear. Our friends at ApexHub helped create this graphic which shows the difference:


    As you can see, training multiplies the impact of a volunteer placement many times over.

    Over the past few months I have been discussing the next stage of the programme strategy in Tanzania with senior officials and ministers in the government. It’s been a fascinating insight into how governments view programmes and external assistance like ours. It has made me realise that even our 10 years of work is short term. Projects come and go, and what is ultimately needed is the building of human capacity within the government that is sustainable. As valued and appreciated as our work is, we have a duty to pass skills and knowledge to government and/or indigenous groups as fast as possible, so that the dissemination of that knowledge is not reliant on external intervention.

    This is of course what the issue is with so many dental volunteer and charity interventions. It’s good work, but it’s not great work. As Dickson and Dickson say:

    ‘The assumption that we are the solution to another’s problem becomes a proposition of self-interest, whereby we feel we are able to tell people what their problems are, and then deal with them on our own terms.’

    It’s not difficult to see why governments and communities are tired of projects that don’t involve training and perpetuate the need for external intervention. These projects leave a vacuum, there’s no long term change. The very change which communities are crying out for.

    Our strategy will adapt and evolve to embed what we do even further into District and Regional government plans. Because when it comes to oral health, we have to start with the most basic services for the masses. Anything else is unaffordable and given a limited ‘pot’ for healthcare (especially in developing countries), ignores their plight.

    With our departure date fast approaching, I’m increasingly seeing that despite what Bridge2Aid, the volunteers and our supporters have achieved being significant, there is still a long way to go. We can be very proud of the 30,000+ people we treated, and the 350+ Health Workers we’ve trained, but that work must continue. What we’ve seen after 10 years on the ground, year round with a team working hand in glove with the existing structures to strengthen them is that our work has an impact. But it takes all those things and long term, big thinking to achieve it. Short term projects that don’t include training or focus at the right level will of course do good, but ultimately will be quickly forgotten, leaving the communities they visited in the same position as they found them.

    Our charity interventions have to be better. We need brave strategies that will go beyond doing what we as outsiders see as the right thing (or even ‘what we can do’) to addressing the bigger needs that are all too evident, and pass on skills, not just use them. We need humility, engagement and real commitment. We need a bigger vision – one that will harness the immense goodwill that exists in a way that (to quote Jim Collins), goes beyond good, to great. Otherwise we will continue to visit, do what seems right, but sadly leave things just the way they are. The people we seek to help, deserve better.

  7. Fundraising isn’t just about running!

    May 3, 2015

    Every year, hundreds of people do amazing things to raise money for Bridge2Aid.

    Running through mud and over obstacles is great for some, but doesn’t suit everyone.

    Hannah Sutlow in Gloucestershire has been making tooth fairy bags for us for just over a year now. She says…

    “As a dentist, Bridge2Aid is a charity which is naturally close to my heart. I first heard about the wonderful work they do when I was at dental school, and I was part of a group who took part in an It’s A Knockout fundraising event. When I graduated in 2013 and started foundation training my interest in Bridge2Aid grew thanks to the enthusiasm of my adviser and various speakers, who had been lucky enough to go out to East Africa and shared their experiences with us.

    The stark statistic that three quarters of the world’s population has no safe emergency dental care pushed me into action, and I started thinking of ways in which to fundraise. I enjoy various crafts in my spare time, so decided to put my skills to good use and made a few little tooth fairy bags, hoping to raise maybe £50 by selling them at work and to family and friends. Almost a year and over £700 later the tooth fairy bags are still popular and have enabled me to share Bridge2Aid’s work with my patients and colleagues.

    My next goal is to go on a Dental Volunteer Programme to help train a health worker in East Africa and see first hand the difference that my fundraising is making to people’s lives.”


    Thanks to Hannah and all our amazing fundraiser.

    If you’d like to join in and raise vital funds that will make a lasting difference to the lives of thousands, contact

  8. New Region, New Partner

    April 29, 2015

    We are very excited about extending DVP to a no fewer than three new regions in the next 3 months.

    In June we will be in Mororgoro and Tanga, and in July will move to the very far south east of Tanzania to Lindi Region.

    The Lindi project has been made possible by an introduction to the area through Songas, who pipe natural gas from offshore to a major power station in Dar es Salaam. We are particularly pleased to be working with Songas due to their strong commitment to community relations over many years in the area.

    CEO Mark Topley with Malcolm and Nic of Songas after signing the MoU

    CEO Mark Topley with Malcolm and Nic of Songas after signing the MoU

    CEO Mark Topley recently met with Malcom Taylor and Nic Chipakapaka from Songas to finalise the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) which covers the partnership.

    As well as technical assistance, Songas will donate $12,000 towards the cost of the programme.

    We are hopeful of a very positive outcome from the training, and relationships with the Kilwa District that we work in are already very good.

  9. Effective and Efficient

    April 28, 2015

    We work very hard at Bridge2Aid to make the very best use of the money we’re entrusted with. If you’ve ever visited us in Mwanza or the office in Wotton-Under-Edge, you’ll know that we certainly aren’t flash!

    I am constantly impressed by how much the teams in both countries manage to achieve with the money we have and it really does go a long way.

    It’s particularly nice for us when that is recognised independently, and so I wanted to share with you the most recent report from Charity Choice on how we spend our money.

    Charity Choice use a standard methodology to assess the spending of charities and then publish the results.

    Here’s a graphic which sums up the main results here, and you can download the full report at the bottom of this blog post.

    CC Report 2013

    You’ll see that 88.9% of our donations went on charitable activities. To give you benchmark, the Top 100 UK charities averaged around 78%.

    So a huge well done to the team, and I hope that for our supporters, this is further confirmation that we’re an efficiently run organisation.

    Efficiency is one thing, but a charity can be very efficient but not at all effective! If your approach or strategy is wrong, then time and money is wasted.

    Thankfully that’s not the case for us – combining human capacity building training to make a long term investment in rural health systems at an appropriate level, we’re extending access to the most basic and vital emergency dentistry and oral health education to many communities. We are focussed on making services available to the many – the millions who haven’t even reached first base when it comes to simple pain relief. Using volunteers only as trainers, giving skills to local professionals uniquely suited to deliver services and education, combined with a highly professional team on the ground, and linking directly into government strategy, we’re achieving high levels of effectiveness.

    Download the full report here: Charity Choice – Charity Report

  10. DVP Developments

    April 22, 2015

    We are excited to be working at a Ministerial level on some developments with DVP.

    Dep Minster of Health Dr Stephen Kebwe with CEO Mark Topley

    CEO Mark Topley recently met with the Deputy Minister of Health for a strategic update

    Following the visit of the Deputy Minister for Health on behalf of the President in October to our practical training and treatment programme in Mara Region, we have been in discussions about how to make the programme more widely available.

    CEO Mark Topley and members of the dental team in Tanzania have been in meetings with the Ministry of Health Oral Health Section and the Deputy Minister as well as the Prime Minister’s Office over how we can extend the reach of emergency dental training to more regions.

    So far discussions are very positive, and Mark recently met with Dr Stephen Kebwe, the Deputy Minister of Health to update him on progress, which was very positively received.

    We’ll post progress updates here as things develop.