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  1. Drive and determination

    July 22, 2014

    - Mark Topley, CEO

    Last week was Quarterly Team Meeting time in Tanzania. Because of my diary and travel I missed the last one, so I was really looking forward to seeing the team and catching up (as well as enjoying at least 4 different carbs for lunch – if you’ve visited us or worked with us you will know what I mean!).

    I’ve said before how well this team has done over the past 10 years. We started with a couple of people, working in fairly low level administrative positions. In the past 3 years particularly, that has dramatically changed to a position where the team is largely managed and each area led by a Tanzanian colleague.

    Listening to the teams reporting back on their achievements and challenges, and meeting their KPIs, it’s difficult to single anyone out. Everyone has grabbed with both hands the work ethic and commitment we have worked so hard to instil – it was such an encouragement.

    A few things resonated powerfully with me:

    • Focus – everyone knew what their most important achievements needed to be last quarter. The keys to the organisation’s success that were their responsibility were very clear.
    • Drive & Determination – as usual, it had not been an easy quarter, but the tenacity demonstrated across the team was massive.
    • Teamwork – the toxic poison of “it’s not my job” is so damaging to teams, and ours is the antithesis of this. There were so many examples of where people had stepped outside of their primary responsibilities to help others, and where co-operation within teams and a willingness to serve was so evident.

    I’m still buzzing from the morning. Huge congratulations to everyone in Tanzania, particularly the managers, and Jo and Shaenna who have worked so hard with the team to get things to this point.

    TZ team MT blog 22.7.14



  2. Guest blog: Coast to coast by Tom Wright

    July 18, 2014

    Tom Wright, Marketing Co-ordinator at Goodman Grant Solicitors describes the firm’s recent Coast to Coast charity cycle challenge raising funds in aid of Bridge2Aid.

    As I recount the cycle challenge I have two feelings; elation and deflation. All of the team feel immensely proud at completing the challenge however, whilst there is great satisfaction in knowing that I have climbed my last hill for a while, there is a sadness that comes with knowing that the challenge has come to its conclusion. I am of course talking about the Coast to Coast cycle challenge: I was a part of the Goodman Grant team that endured the pain and strain that comes with cycling across such terrain.

    Our demanding challenge began on the West coast in St Bees where we embarked on the tricky ride to Robin Hoods Bay over on the East coast. The first day of cycling took us through the beautiful scenery of the Lake District; the peaceful surroundings provided a false sense of security over what was to come. Just before we came face-to-face with our first great challenge that was Honister Pass I was temporarily wiped out as my tyre blew, so I joined the support van whilst the team fought with this almighty obstacle.

    goodman grant coast to coast blog

    On day two we had to endure the ongoing climb of the Yorkshire Dales. I found this to be the toughest section because of the tricks it played on my mind. The roads curve in such a way that allowed for hope of a respite as you reached what you thought was the peak, however the break did not come and instead the cruel climb continued. This painful sequence persisted until we came head-to-head with a climb that peaked at a height of just over 500metres. Even the promise of a rewarding steady downhill path for the miles to come was not enough to prevent the disheartening moment on discovering what awaited us. Our aching legs started to wobble in the wind as we had to muster the physical and mental strength to reach the highest point of the challenge and earn a well deserved rest amongst the clouds before entering Yorkshire.

    By day three the pain in our legs was noticeable, however with what we thought to be a relatively flat day ahead of us we energetically set off for our final ride. The excitement clearly had an effect of me as I lost concentration fairly early on and, unfortunately for Martin who was ahead of me, went straight into the back of him, flying off my bike, over the handlebars and onto the road. I was informed that this episode looked “awesome” and “very dramatic”, fortunately after the initial weariness I was ok to continue. Passing through the picturesque countryside after the Yorkshire Moors allowed me to acknowledge what a fantastic route the Coast to Coast really is. It was not until the final 15 miles that the journey became frustratingly hilly. A desperate hope of seeing our final destination at the peak of each such hill doubled as a motivator and a realisation that the challenge was not going to have an easy ending for us. The end was difficult, yet catching our first glimpse of Robin Hoods Bay was truly euphoric; we had reached the end of the challenge.

    Whilst I did have a lot of fun along the way, this experience was in support of the fantastic work carried out in East Africa by Bridge2Aid. They work endlessly to provide training to increase access to dental pain relief for the millions of people suffering in the developing world. We have raised over £1,300 and hope to raise as much as possible for this worthy charity. If you would like to donate to Bridge2Aid then please visit our just giving page,

    I hope that you have enjoyed reading about my experience and if you are thinking of doing something similar all I have to say is to go for it!

    Goodman Grant Solicitors provide bespoke legal advice tailored specifically for the dental profession. For more information contact Tom Wright – Marketing Co-ordinator, Goodman Grant Solicitors on 0151 707 0090 or email


  3. Victims of our own success

    July 16, 2014

    - Mark Topley, CEO

    I’ve been so encouraged in the last couple of weeks by various fund-raising efforts that have come in:

    • People donating their speaking fees (including a certain participant in ‘The Island’) when they speak publicly.
    • Smile In Pink 2014 – Over 300 practices taking part and funds starting to roll in.
    • The same Island participant (Chris Barrow) using the platform of 7Connections to approach his elite clients with a fantastic opportunity to grow their practices in Unity Partnership, ably assisted by Colin Campbell – another great mate and triple-gold Unity Partner.
    • Artemis Challenge – James Hamill and Chris Barrowman putting themselves through a huge challenge of a Quadrathon, and making the fundraising part of their everyday in their practices to raise money for Bridge2Aid.
    • A coast2coast cycle from St. Bees to Robins Hood Bay by the fantastic team at  Goodman Grant.
    • A magnificent effort by volunteer Melanie Yates, and 200+ walkers who all braved heavy rain and wind as well as the challenge of the infamous sands as they waded thigh deep through the tepid waters of Morecombe Bay last month.

    What is so encouraging for me is that there’s goodwill towards the ethical, sustainable and appropriate work we do*, that people are prepared to act and do something to help us make change happen together.

    One of the comments we heard during the Urgent Appeal in January was that people had always assumed we had plenty of money. The difficult balance to strike in running a charity is between showing that people’s money is really needed and appearing so ‘needy’ that they lose confidence in you.

    This isn’t helped when you have such a great team in the UK, part of whose role is to deliver excellent marketing, clear and professional presentation, and a well organised PR strategy that keeps our impact in the news. The truth is we do all that on a shoestring (even by charity standards) and have a fantastic group of people like Barker PR, Dental Design and Apex who give their time for free to help us present the message.

    So the truth is – we really do need the money!

    We’re approaching our ten year anniversary of our first Dental Volunteer Programme this October. Over the past 10 years, thanks to the generosity of our volunteers, supporters and fundraisers (and ONLY because of that) we have been able to develop a model of training that really works to tackle the problem of untreated dental pain – by training medical people ALREADY on the ground to provide a basic service, and teach people how to avoid pain in the future.

    *If you’re new to all this Bridge2Aid stuff, essentially what we do is address a chronic lack of access to emergency dental treatment in developing countries sustainably, through the training of existing rural community Health Workers, so they can provide simple dental pain relief and oral health education. We also provide the equipment and resources to be able to carry out basic dental procedures. Each Health Worker serves a rural population of around 10,000 people, and training is provided by volunteer dentists from the UK who fund their own trips.

    Despite dental pain being a huge issue, outside of the oral health community it isn’t understood or prioritised, and even within the oral health community, there isn’t a widespread, low technology strategy to help people in pain. Instead governments continue with impractical and unaffordable approaches that leave the vast majority suffering.

    But we believe, along with the World Health Organisation, that making basic services available to many is better in the circumstances than banging our heads against the brick wall of ‘universal access to a dentist’ with insufficient resources to do the job.

    We’re working hard to articulate this and get wider support on board so we can grow.

    In the meantime – the fabulous UK Dental Profession and Industry are the ones who have made our work possible.  While we wait for the rest of the world to catch on, the people with a unique understanding and opportunity to make change happen (rather than just ‘do good’ – but that’s a future blog post) is people like you.

    So, if you’ve considered fundraising or donating in the past but haven’t done so, please have a think again. We really do need the money, and we really will put it to good use.

    Get personally involved – it really makes a difference to people currently living in pain.

  4. Changing lives

    July 8, 2014

    6 year old Semeni is from Kishima village, Kahama district in Shinyanga region, Tanzania.

    Semeni patient case study

    Semeni had been suffering from dental pain for approximately 4 weeks prior to visiting our temporary clinic. She hadn’t sought help beforehand because her parents didn’t know where they should take her; a visit to the city was out of bounds due to the expense.  A week before our dental training programme, Semeni’s parents heard an announcement about free dental treatment at Kagongwa Health Centre, and walked with her on the day for nearly two hours to seek help.

    An examination confirmed that Semeni had several decayed teeth. When asking about Semeni’s oral health routine, her parents confirmed that she did not brush her teeth.  They were simply not aware that she should keep her teeth and gums clean.

    Under the supervision of a dental volunteer, a trainee Health Worker extracted 2 of Semeni’s problem teeth and offered her oral health advice for the future. Because of our training programme, Semeni and her family now have access to emergency dental care and will never have to wait to seek treatment again.

  5. Lloyds and Merchant Rentals launch merchant giving scheme

    July 2, 2014

    We’re thrilled that Lloyds and Merchant Rentals have decided to support Bridge2Aid via a new initiative that your practice can be a part of. The new Merchant Giving Scheme will offer dental practices the opportunity to save money whilst raising vital funds for our dental training programmes.

    How does it work?  

    Merchant Rental’s Cardnet service will provide a card processing handset for your practice through Lloyds, which will see 1p donated straight to Bridge2Aid per patient transaction. 

    How does this benefit my practice?

    Low cost handset rental – The rate set for this deal is incredibly low. Prices start at £11.99 for a basic countertop machine.

    Card services MOT –  Allow Merchant Rentals to look at your practice and suggest the best machine for you. This may be wireless, contactless, or just a simple counter-top.

    3 months free – When you sign-up, they will give you the first 3 months for free. Most contracts are for 3 months, so if you have to end a contract with another provider – you won’t have to pay twice.

    Easy set-up – All you have to do is say that you want to get involved, and we will do the rest.

    Great PR – It is an easy way to tell your patients that you are a bit different and that you support Bridge2Aid’s work. Our logo will be on the back of the till rolls and there will be some simple point-of-sale material – explaining that you are donating for every transaction. Your patients don’t need to do anything. If the scheme goes national, there may be other materials – such as information for your patients, a window sticker etc.

    An easy donation to Bridge2Aid – This is a really easy way to donate regularly to our work, and make a massive difference to our sustainable training in east Africa. Once you sign up, Lloyds will then transfer the money over to us monthly without you having to get involved.

    How will this benefit Bridge2Aid?

    Ongoing income stream – Although 1p per transaction doesn’t sound a lot, if we multiply that by the number of patients per day, and the number of practices we could attract – the amount soon adds up. The £50 per practice sign-up is also a great benefit. As this is a monthly donation, through Lloyds, it gives us a lot more stability to plan into the future

    Raising our profile – At the moment we are well known within the dental profession, but for us to grow in the way we plan, we will need to reach out further – to your patients, for example.

    This scheme has the potential to make a huge impact on our work and the number of Health Workers we can train, and people in pain we can reach. So please, if you would like to get involved in the scheme, or if you’d like more details, please contact Shaenna via email: or by phone: 0845 8509877.

  6. Our new animation

    We’re delighted to present our brand new animated video – created courtesy of Silver Unity Partner JSP Media Group.

    If you’d like a copy of the video please contact

    A big thank you to the team for creating such a fantastic animation – we hope you enjoy it!

  7. 10 year birthday bash!

    June 27, 2014

    This October we’ll be celebrating DVP’s 10 year birthday in style at the stunning Wembley Stadium!

  8. The Dentists on ITV 1

    - Dr Ian Wilson, Founder

    I found ITV’s documentary ‘The Dentists’ last week both illuminating and upsetting. The fact that 90% of adults in the UK suffer from the pain of dental related disease, and the majority, it seems, due to our never ending battle with the fallout from the UK’s addiction with sweets and chocolates was a little hard to swallow. More upsetting was that a quarter of us put off a visit to the dentist until the pain or the consequences of that become unbearable.

    To see people who, through years of neglect and pain, have allowed their lives to become a nightmare seemingly because of dental disease mirrors that of a developing world problem.

    Here in the UK, dentally related diseases are the fourth most common reason people under the age of 17 are admitted to hospital, and each dental procedure involving removal of teeth due to our battle with sugar and neglect – costing the NHS £700 a time.

    Now am I writing to pass judgement…absolutely not! As a member of the caring UK Dental profession I am reinforcing the message of the great work we do, and that lives and smiles are wonderfully transformed by the expertise, passion and commitment to always deliver the best dental care possible for the benefit of all patients; no matter who they are.

    However, I am sad that so much pain for the UK majority could be so easily prevented by simple lifestyle choices; choices that do not exist for the majority in developing nations. We have so much here in the west but it seems the more we have the less good it seems to be for us?

    I am sad that the UK majority has a wonderfully committed dental profession at their disposal and yet in developing nations millions don’t know what a dentist is, never mind have the opportunity to see one. Many in the UK having the opportunity for regular care but choosing not to seems incredible when the majority in developing nations may never get one opportunity in a whole lifetime.

    Seeing the pain of a parent as her child undergoes multiple extractions reminds me of the thousands of parents I have seen who would give anything just so that their child could have that professional care in remote rural East Africa. Watching a child in pain for months but with no choices for pain relief must be agonizing; in desperation allowing the local medicine man to weave his ‘magic’ with the blunt coat hanger is surely an injustice!

    So I am thankful for the wonderful profession I am proud to be a part of. I am glad that the one off documentary brought a snapshot of the amazing work we all do as members of the UK dental profession. I am ultimately so grateful for the hundreds of volunteers over the years who have also seen the chronic epidemic of dentally related pain in developing nations that savages the lives of hundreds of thousands and have walked with us in addressing the injustice that this is.

  9. Supervision visit – June 2014

    June 23, 2014

    Last week Inno, Stellah and I went on a supervision visit to what used to be known as Kahama District. Starting from July 2013, Kahama District was divided into the 3 districts of Kahama Town, Msalala and Ushetu Districts, and the main aim of this visit was to find out which of the Health Workers we had previously trained fall under which district, so as to know which District Dental Officer (DDO) was responsible for them, and also to visit some of them and see how they were getting on.

    The visit was a great success, and thanks to the good cooperation from the respective DDO’s we managed to visit a good number of the Health Workers we have trained some years back and also some of the recently trained ones and see how they were getting along, and also check the condition of their kits.

    - Joyce Mpanduji, Dental Programmes Manager

  10. Why I travel (quite a lot)

    June 18, 2014

    - Mark Topley, CEO

    This week I’m in the UK again – 14 packed days talking about what we’re doing and why – and why people should be concerned about the millions in pain worldwide every day because of untreated dental disease.

    Because I am often in the UK, some people comment that I travel a lot. And that’s true. It’s not for the fun of it (although I do enjoy the travel), and it is also good to see people, and I count it a privilege that many of my good friends are people that I work with – united in taking Bridge2Aid and our impact for communities in pain forward. There are some things you really can’t do on Skype or by phone, and so travel is an important part of the cycle of my role.

    But reflecting last weekend on the forthcoming trip – my 4th trip in 6 months – and another 14 days away from the family (bringing the total to 43 so far this year in what I expect to be 72 nights in 2014), it got me thinking again about why I travel.

    It’s certainly demanding – over the next 2 weeks I will pretty much be in back to back meetings or on the way to one, or on the phone with people I just couldn’t fit in, or donors we work with in Tanzania who I need to catch up with. It will be busy morning till night. I’ve spent the past month lining up a large number of opportunities, and now it’s time to get ‘on stage’ and make the most of them.

    I’ll see a big cross section of people – there are a number of politicians, peers and foreign government representatives. There are senior leaders in the dental industry’s biggest groups and companies. I’ll meet with the people who manage our grants for the foundations that support us, and many others whose advice, support and counsel we rely on to take us forward.

    All this work is really important – because what we are trying to do at Bridge2Aid is wake the world up to a hidden problem that exists day to day in communities thousands of miles from the offices, coffee shops, embassies (and the odd palace) I will be in over the next 2 weeks. It happens to relate to teeth (which is why we are a dental charity), but it’s a problem which is much more about a fundamental injustice – the lack of access to medical treatment for chronic and excruciating pain caused by the world’s most common disease.

    The long days, many road and rail miles, lack of sleep and nights away from the family are all brought into context as I rewind to my reason ‘Why?’.


    elderly lady painIt’s why I carry this picture with me nowadays.

    Taken at one of our treatment and training clinics, it sums up for me very powerfully why we need to be in people’s faces with the issue of untreated dental pain. Without the NHS, antibiotics and education, this could be my grandmother – or yours. Before the services and medication that we now take for granted in the UK were widely available, this kind of anguish was widespread, and serious. Wind back only a few hundred years, and the second largest cause of death in the 16th century (after the plague), was sepsis from untreated dental infections.

    And yet in many parts of the world, we allow the same conditions to exist. And without basic treatment and access to antibiotics, a similar scenario prevails. Makes you think, doesn’t it?

    So, as I type this in the airport on my way to Blighty, it’s time to switch on, focus and get my head down – time to make the most of every opportunity and bring in the support we need to train rural-based health workers to be in the right places to provide the simple treatment that so many people need, and access to which would transform their quality of life.

    I need to get in front of people who will never see this first hand to help them understand, to get them to support.

    And that’s why I travel so much.