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  1. Oasis Dental Care launches a new charity partnership

    September 18, 2014

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    We are really excited to announce that Oasis Dental Care has chosen Bridge2Aid as their charity partner for the next year.

    The partnership will be launched at their Annual Conference on 19th September, and will start with a Fundraising Week in October.  During this week, a number of their practices around the country will be getting involved, and having fun whilst raising money for our Dental Training Programmes.

    To find out more about why they decided to partner with Bridge2Aid, click here.


  2. Back to Bukoba

    September 16, 2014

    CEO Mark Topley visits the 63rd Dental Volunteer Programme team in Bukoba, North West Tanzania, and talks about the impact of the programme and its importance in rural areas.

     


  3. Win tickets to the Bridge2Aid Birthday Bash

    September 12, 2014

    Win tickets to the birthday bash of the year!

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    Bridge 2 Aid is celebrating its 10th anniversary with a birthday bash this October, and to add to the excitement we are offering you a chance to win two tickets to the event of the year!*

    Entry couldn’t be easier; simply make a £2 donation to Bridge 2 Aid at https://bridge2aid.charitycheckout.co.uk by the close of business on Monday 15th September for your chance to win these sought-after tickets.

    Ten years have bought us many generous volunteers, donors, fundraisers and a number of family members who all continue to support our work and development in East Africa – all of whom are invited to join us for this very special evening.

    The birthday bash will take place from 6:30pm on Saturday 4th October at Wembley Stadium. Tickets are £95 per person, and family and friends are most welcome to join in the fun – the more the merrier!

    For your chance to win, please visit https://bridge2aid.charitycheckout.co.uk., or click on the donate now button above.

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    *Please note that if you are successful in winning the 2 tickets, no cash alternative can be offered. If you are unable to attend, however, you can offer the tickets to someone else to attend in your place. 


  4. Straumann’s Intercontinental challenge for Bridge2Aid

    August 22, 2014

    Next month, members of Straumann UK will join loyal customers to collectively unite for a challenge that will see them travel through 5 European countries in just 5 days!

    The 500 mile intercontinental charity bike ride will take place from Tuesday 2nd September – Saturday 5th September, and the group will begin this once in a lifetime challenge in Milan, Italy and will finish in Basel, Switzerland.

    Many obstacles and challenging conditions are expected along the way but are considered more than worth it by the team who are raising money for Bridge2Aid and the Cleft Lip & Palate Association. The route will include one of the most iconic routes through the Stelvio Pass with a climb of over 9000 feet, one of the highest paved mountain passes in the Eastern Alps of Northern Italy!

    Straumann are ultimately aiming to raise over £24,000 for Bridge2Aid and CLAPA. Donations can be made online via http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/team/straumann2014 and you can find out more about this year’s team on the dedicated Facebook Page here.

    We thank the team for their continued support of our dental training programmes, and wish the riders the very best of luck!


  5. You vs yourself

    August 11, 2014

    - Mark Topley, CEO

    Three years ago this week, I, along with 20 or so others was busy preparing for what was to become one of the most enjoyable, challenging, rewarding experiences of our lives – climbing Africa’s highest Mountain – Kilimanjaro.

    A 40 minute turbo-prop flight from my home in Mwanza, Kili overshadows the north eastern Tanzanian town of Moshi – a peaceful cool and calm ex-colonial settlement surrounded by leafy coffee plantations. With clean mountain air, cool mornings and on a good day, a stunning view of the twin peaks of Mwenzi and Kibo which constitute Kilimanjaro, it is one of my favourite places in East Africa.

    I’ve written before about the friendships that were forged and cemented on that trip. I treasure them, and just last week was messaging our group about a reunion in October at the 10 Year Birthday Bash. I’m hoping we can get together and have a lot of fun together.

    Chatting to my Kili group over the years since we climbed in 2011, we have all kept our own special memories. They share similar themes, but are very personal. For me, a few stick out;

    You vs yourself MT blog

    Being on the side of Kibo’s almost sheer, frozen scree slope at 4am, exhausted, not quite coherent, with a splitting headache and numb fingers and toes. But somehow summoning the strength and drawing on the support, love and encouragement of our group to make it to the crater rim in time for sunrise. And thereafter the 2 hour slog to the very top. Elation doesn’t cover it.

    Being out of breath in an instant should you mistakenly try even a ‘Dad-run’ to catch up with someone just a few yards in front of you.

    The mystical bird we saw at the top – an eagle type creature that soared above in the sunshine (but birds aren’t supposed to fly that high).

    The best sleep of your life returning to Horombo huts having been on the move for 18 hours solid, and reaching the highest point on the continent.

    We talked often during that week about what it meant to conquer the mountain. Henk, our guide, who is a legend, a man mountain himself (in many ways) and probably climbs Kili 7 or 8 times a year (but would never let on), spoke more in terms of us ‘asking permission’ to summit.

    I think pretty soon after you start the climb, you get a strong sense of awe, of respect and reverence for the ecosystem on which you stand. And I came to not see it as something to be conquered, but more a beautiful means to conquering adversity within. In the end, the battle isn’t with the mountain, it’s with yourself – it’s in your mind and over your body to keep going when you think you’ve got nothing left. Which is what life is all about – and not just when you’re on a mountain.

    I recall these memories today because this weekend our latest Bridge2Aid group will be landing at Kilimanjaro International Airport. They will touch down in the evening, after the African sunset has dropped an inky blanket over the surrounding countryside, and the 1 hour drive to the lodge will be pretty dark. They will need to wait for the next morning to hopefully get their first glimpse of Kibo peeking through the clouds, making an imposing and intimidating statement as it towers above their hotel in the foothills. I get goosebumps just typing the words…

    It has been great to read some of the tweets, blogs and Facebook posts of some of the group getting ready to go. I remember that mix of excitement and nerves very well, and I am very envious. I know many of my Kili family feel the same when this time of year comes around. That week we spent together, disconnected from the outside world with nothing to do or think about but putting one foot in front of the other was a precious one.

    I will make the climb again, but it won’t be this year. Due to other commitments I also won’t be able to go and meet the group, which I am very disappointed by.  I hope they have a fantastic time, and go with the thanks of the whole team for the funds they will raise and the challenge they have accepted.

    In the end it’s just you versus yourself, and remember – pole pole on the mountain!


  6. Why you need to be at Wembley in October

    August 4, 2014

    - Mark Topley, CEO

    It’s hard to believe that 10 years ago, I had just made my third visit to Tanzania, working with Founders Ian and Andie on the concept for something totally new in short-term dental volunteering. The trip in June was to prepare for our first Dental Volunteer Programme in October which my wife Jo also flew out to help deliver. It broke new ground in using 2 week volunteers to do something that would bring long term change. To treat, train, and relieve pain.

    It was also on that trip that we sat around with a bottle of wine and discussed whether the Wilsons were going to take the biggest risk of their lives and leave the job Ian had with another organisation in Mwanza and start Hope Dental Centre – another unique model of providing dentistry for a fee, which would generate income for the charitable activities of Bridge2Aid.

    18 months later Jo and I left West Sussex and started life on the shores of Lake Victoria, joining our great friends and increasing the size of the Bridge2Aid team by 50%, from 4 to 6.

    The time between then and now has been a blur – we’ve now run 61 dental training programmes, we’ve seen the growth, success and recent relocation of Hope Dental Centre to new premises with 3 full time dentists, we’ve seen a great deal of work at Bukumbi Care Centre and the many teams that came to do that refurbishment, and we’ve seen countless fundraising challenges and thousands of wonderful people who have joined with us and become the Bridge2Aid family.

    The great danger in life, and something we talk to our now 50+ strong team about each quarter, is that when you are focussed on doing something good, and achieving more, you never stop and see how far you have come. There are very few opportunities to take a step back and reflect on what has been achieved, and where all the hard work, sacrifice and commitment has got you. I am as guilty as the next person – we don’t make time to celebrate enough, to enjoy the success, thank and recognise each other, to pause and have some fun before we dive back into things and get on with doing, achieving, making things better.

    And that’s why I am SO excited about the 10 Year Birthday Bash coming up in October.

    Being involved with BridgeAid and meeting and working with the majority of people who are part of the family has been an absolute privilege. We’ve met in all kinds of circumstances and at hundreds of different locations across the UK and in East Africa. But there has never been the chance to bring all those groups together in one place to say ’Thank you’ and ‘Look what we have achieved together so far’.

    And now there is.

    10thBirthday-badgeSaturday October 4th at Wembley Stadium, we have the chance for DVP Teams, Bukumbi Teams, Kili Climbers, Runners, Skydivers, Swimmers, Hikers, Bikers, Bucket Shakers, Donors, Friends, Volunteers, Unity Partners, Corporate Friends and every other type of Bridge2Aid Family member to be together and celebrate the massive achievements of the past 10 years.

    It will be a landmark evening, putting a full stop on the first chapter and looking ahead to the next. And having a lot of fun together – squeezing out more of the fantastic relational glue that holds the whole Bridge2Aid family together.

    As someone reading this, no doubt you’ve been involved with us in some way. This is your chance to call the people you shared your experience with, get a table together, and join with us on October 4th as we celebrate.

    There aren’t enough opportunities in life to do this sort of thing, I’m not going to miss this one. I hope you’ll take your chance too.

    Tickets are available by calling the UK Office on 0845 8509877 or by emailing birthdaybash@bridge2aid.org.


  7. Driving a Classic

    July 29, 2014

    - Mark Topley, CEO

    I’ve been loaned a car.

    Juggling kids and work between two full time parents and 8 week’s holiday in the same African town (with virtually no friends around) means a 1 car strategy was going to be difficult. Thankfully a very generous local businessman offered the long term loan of this baby:

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    It’s a 1988, 1.3 Toyota Corrolla – yes that’s right, a true classic car. And I love it.

    No power steering, no AC (bit of an issue 2 degrees from the equator), no radio, manual windows, no central locking (although you can reach all the knobs from the driver’s seat). It’s a stripped back and simple a car as I have ever driven.

    It’s a pig to start, until you get to know its quirks (foot flat on the floor first thing in the morning, but don’t touch the gas when you start it anytime after that).

    It reminds me of my brother’s first car – an old Mini (before BMW developed it) which he resprayed Unigate orange (you getting the picture?), where you felt every bump and had to be spot on with every gear change. You really have to drive this car. You can feel everything on the road, you have to keep it in just the right gear, and nurture it on every journey.

    And maybe that’s why I am enjoying it so much – because it’s reconnecting me with what it felt like to drive as a teenager – simplicity, direct connection with the road, fun.

    So what’s the point? Well, driving this car this week has got me thinking about how as things develop, get bigger, ‘improve’, we can so easily disconnect ourselves from the basic, raw feelings of doing something the most basic and simple way. How often do I make something more complicated just because I can? Maybe the bells and whistles of technology that we love don’t always make things better, and getting hold of something which does something very simply, but effectively, is a lot more fun.

    I probably won’t be saying this tomorrow morning when it fails to start, but you get my drift.


  8. 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

     

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  9. 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.

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    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, www.justgiving.com/goodmangrantc2c.

    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 TW@goodmangrant.co.uk

     


  10. 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.