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  1. 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

  2. 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.

  3. 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

  4. 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.

  5. Dentist Bashing

    April 14, 2015

    A post this week aimed mainly at non-dentist readers, but which I hope is an encouragement to dentists and the profession as well.

    IMG_0965There’s a great deal of ‘Dentist Bashing’ in the media at the moment it seems. Mainly coming from the Daily Mail from what I can see. Although a lot of this passes me by being based in East Africa, an article last week was shared on Facebook and made me so angry I felt I had to respond.

    I won’t share the ‘article’ because I don’t want to give it any more air time than it has gained already. In summary, it set out what an outrage it was that a group of dentists had made a large sum money from the NHS last year. Presumably these dentists had delivered services to patients in return for that money, and with my limited knowledge of the way the NHS works, they must have had multiple contracts across several practices in order to obtain those payments. They will have had many people working for them and invested a large amount of money in acquiring, equipping and running those practices to the required standard. Unfortunately the article took exception to people with a highly technical clinical skill who invest their own money and risk in running a clinical facility gaining the commensurate financial reward that results from a job well done. It also failed to point out that the vast majority of dental practices providing NHS dentistry are by no means making large sums of money.  It did the usual poor journalistic job of taking a stance, supporting it with limited one-sided quotes and demeaning the only response from the profession with a cursory mention at the end.

    We have no problem paying surgeons, specialists and other highly qualified clinicians appropriately, so why such a problem with dentists?

    Before I get too far into this (and these are my personal views), I want to steer away from the article and talk about my personal experience of the dental profession. I’ve worked alongside a fair number of dentists over the past 10 years. As with all sections of society, you will find a range of people. Are they all perfect – no. Do they deserve the bashing that they’re getting – absolutely not.

    The overwhelming majority of dentists I meet are highly professional, caring clinicians with a genuine desire to help people. Once you get past the dental phobia (let’s face it – a trip to the dentist is no-one’s idea of a good time), and consider what a dentist actually does inside the mouth, it’s incredible. The level of skill required to pull off what they do, day in, day out, is immense. That takes a level of focus and technical expertise to achieve that in my opinion, means they earn every penny they earn.

    The dentists that volunteer with Bridge2Aid do so because they care about people in pain. They help huge numbers directly, and make an investment on other clinicians by training them in emergency dentistry so that communities can be free of pain in the future. It costs around £2,000 to volunteer with Bridge2Aid, but dentists give up a huge amount more. Typically they are either business owners or self-employed, so 2 weeks away from practice can lose them tens of thousands of pounds in turnover.

    So to the dentists – I salute you. I am full of admiration for the job you do, and to those involved with Bridge2Aid – thank you for giving so much back.

    To the non-dentists – don’t believe all you read in the papers – dentists and the profession are a great group of people when you get to know them.


  6. Dentistry Show special – thanks to Dentinal Tubules

    April 13, 2015

    Thanks to our friends at Dentinal Tubules, there is a great deal on offer for new premium subscribers at the Dentistry Show this week.

    Anyone who subscribes to Dentinal Tubules Premium during the show will receive a free copy of ‘The Smiling Dentist’ AND Dentinal Tubules will make a donation to Bridge2Aid!

    Alif moosajeeAlif Moosajee wrote ‘The Smiling Dentist’ because he was so surprised with the poor oral health knowledge of his new patients. It is described as a guide to ‘general dentistry for the general public’.

    Alif says;

    “The chapter headings are the questions that I am asked by patients and the content has been designed to be as clear and jargon-free as possible.”

    The great thing is he wrote this book to help others in 2 ways – the book helps and educates patients while all proceeds go to Bridge2Aid – helping us to do more of our vital and sustainable work in making access to emergency dentistry available to communities in East Africa.

    And so at Dentistry Show 2015 in Birmingham at the NEC this Friday and Saturday 17 & 18 April, Dentinal Tubules has decided to support Alif. They will give anyone who signs up for ANNUAL premium membership a copy of ‘The Smiling Dentist’ AND pay Alif the proceeds to pass on to Bridge2Aid.

    Visit Dentinal Tubules at Stand H23 to find out more about the benefits of a Premium Subscription and to sign up.

  7. Another milestone for the B2A team

    March 31, 2015

    I am so proud I could pop.

    A couple of weeks ago we ran our latest training and treatment programme in the Manyara region of Tanzania.

    Our practical training and treatment programmes create sustainable access to emergency dental treatment in rural areas. We treat the community for free, train local health workers how to extract teeth safely, and teach both health workers and the population how to prevent dental problems in the future. The training is delivered by a team of volunteer UK dental professionals, and the whole 7 month preparation and execution phase is managed by our team in Tanzania and the UK. We also follow up the trainees for 18 months after the programme. It’s a big job, involving multiple suppliers, government agencies and stakeholders.

    Manyara is an area we started work in a couple of years ago and the significance of this programme was that it was to be the first one where there would be no management team or expatriate involvement in the reception, orientation or day to day management of the programme.

    What this involved was our local team of a Site Administrator, Monitoring and Evaluation Administrator and driver travelling to the region a full week in advance of the team arriving to make sure that everything was arranged. They met the volunteers off the plane at Kilimanjaro Airport, made sure they were transported safely to their hotel and then carried out the orientation programme with them the following day. We had a fantastic Site Clinical Lead in the shape of Mark Inman, a multiple volunteer who has been a stalwart by our clinical lead team for many years. His input along with his assistant Kathy Davidson and the B2A team was supplemented by videos we have recently recorded, in anticipation of us moving to the next stage of our succession plan in Tanzania – to have the local team run the programmes day to day.

    I am so proud because at every stage of the programme and during the preparation, delivery and follow up, everything has been absolutely first class.

    11046382_10153112173690446_4456567486910015049_n-2This would have been a great success in itself, but is even more of an achievement due to the huge numbers of patients which this programme saw. Typically we would expect a team like this to see between 400 and 600 patients during the days that they run the training programme. At the last count on the last day this team had seen just over 1,000 patients, an enormous achievement and a testament to their hard work and dedication. Although this isn’t great because it points to a huge need in Manyara, (which we will continue to address over the coming months and years), to process that number of patients through a system safely and train 6 clinical officers (local government health workers) at the same time was a massive achievement. I am pleased to say that 5 out of 6 the clinical officers successfully passed the training and this is in line with our usual 92% success rate.

    So all in all, a very successful programme.

    But then to the volunteers’  evaluation. We always evaluate our programmes with a 12 point questionnaire which is filled in by the volunteers after the programme and they grade their experience on every stage of the preparation and execution process of the training programme. Our target is to score between 90% and 95% of scores at good, very good and excellent. I was astounded when we received the feedback on Tuesday of last week that the volunteers on this programme had scored every single aspect at 100%!

    There are moments in time when you can see in black and white where all of the hard work over the past 10 years has gone, that it really has paid off, and Tuesday was one of those days.

    I a10429859_10153073676430446_8976260801748500928_nm so proud of the whole team – of Jo for directing the programme and training and preparing the team so well, of Joyce for managing them excellently, for the team in the UK who have worked so hard to make sure that the volunteers are well prepared, allocated to the right teams and packaged off to Tanzania at the right time, but mostly, I am hugely proud of Haji, Abel and Moses who did such a fantastic job on the ground in Manyara, as well as Joseph our Clinical Director who was part of the training team. Their hard work combined with the professionalism, commitment and sacrifice of our volunteer team (and my huge thanks to them) has made this programme a fabulous milestone.

    Huge congratulations to all.

    If you would like to take part in a Dental Volunteer Programme, you can find out all you need to know here.

  8. Different landscape, same pain…

    March 20, 2015

    MbuluTwelve hours’ drive south east from Mwanza and you’ve barely covered a quarter of the length of Tanzania, yet it feels like a foreign land. “Sleepy Mbulu District” way up in the Rift Valley highlands, surrounded for much of year by clouds, to the east overlooking Tarangire National Park and to the north, the vast Serengeti and the Ngorongoro crater. “Mbulu is cold” said Haji, our programme administrator, “it’s like the UK; people are wearing about three jumpers”…

    The Bridge2Aid team have just completed 8 days’ training. Mbulu district proved to be far from sleepy with an Mbulu patients 1average of 126 patients visiting the training team every day – an astonishing 1010 patients treated in total with yet more people having to be turned away because the team was working at full capacity. “Patient numbers are not everything, it’s the quality of the Health Worker training that matters”…we repeat at every volunteer orientation; however the sheer volume of patients on the recent programme shocked everyone.
    Josephat 2 mbulu

    One of the 1000 patients treated on the programme was Josephat (7). Josephat lives with his uncle, because his mother is divorced and cannot afford to care for Josephat and all four of his brothers and sisters. Josephat has been complaining of dental pain for about 4 years; he had developed a swelling on the right side of his face. His mother and uncle, not really having any other option, relied on the witch doctor and traditional medicine. It was not helping; the pain was getting gradually worse. Josephat was now reaching the stage where he had started to miss school.


    As the Bridge2Aid Dental Training Programme expands across into different areas of Tanzania, the training teams come into close contact with different people, languages, landscapes and cultures; a hugely diverse nation.
    “The people in Mbulu district were proud to share information” Dr. Joseph (Bridge2Aid’s Clinical Director) Mbulu patients 2explained… “They came, they received treatment, and then they returned to their villages and each person then told their family, friends and neighbours, that’s why we had such huge numbers of people”. He went on to explain “Mbulu people are so kind, welcoming and calm; they listen inventively to instructions, there’s no scrambling for patient numbers which we sometimes see in other districts”


    While the people, the languages, the weather, altitude, landscapes and the cultures change as Bridge2Aid travels, one thing that we can be sure of is wherever we go, we meet hoards of people whose lives; their education, their work, relationships and social networks; are being affected every day simply because there is no safe, affordable option for dental treatment available locally.


    josephat 3
    For Josephat and the kind, welcoming and calm people of Mbulu district way up in the mountains, there are now five Health Workers who have the skills, knowledge and experience of collectively treating in excess of 1000 patients to help provide this evidently much-needed service. The Health Workers will be able to continue safely treating the people whom the training team had to turn away and the hoards of people who day after day will hear about their services as news continues to travel around their communities.


    A huge thank you to the training team for helping another community out of pain and for joining Bridge2Aid on the journey…

  9. World Oral Health Day

    March 17, 2015

    The annual World Oral Health Day comes up again this Friday.

    If like me, you’re not a dentist, your response may well be ‘so what?’ It’s not an unexpected one given the level of other disease around the world. So why is Oral Health important?

    What I’ve observed over the past 12 years I’ve been in this field, is that the main reason oral health and access to dentistry isn’t seen as important is because we take it for granted.

    Let’s face it, sugar consumption in the past 30 years has rocketed in the UK, and yet the level of dental disease hasn’t. Caries rates in children seem to be coming down (although there are still far too many kids needing extractions). On the whole, people understand that they need to brush twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, floss, visit the dentist regularly, and cut back on sugar. Whether they choose to do it is another matter.

    And so we’ve got very comfortable in the UK with a situation where our oral health is pretty good, and if we do have a problem, we’ve got somewhere we can go to get prompt help.

    However, we’re in the minority – by a long way.

    There are still more than 70% of the world living without the chance of any kind of help when they have a dental problem. These people, mostly living in the rural areas of developing countries, have little understanding of oral health care, access to toothpaste or even that sugar is bad for your teeth.

    We’ve shared it before, but I keep coming back to this boy – Petro. You can read his story here.

    IMG_1182For me he sums up why Oral Health is important – because without education, understanding, prevention, and crucially in this case, ready access to treatment, life becomes miserable and impossible for billions of people every year.

    And that’s why World Oral Health Day is important. For those of us fortunate to have the huge privilege of understanding how to care for our mouths, and ready access to pain relief – we should be celebrating the dental profession and the good oral health we enjoy.

    At the same time, 20th March gives us an opportunity to raise awareness  of the plight of those for whom even access to dental pain relief is impossible.

    Giving children like Petro and their families a way out of pain by training their local Health Worker in emergency dentistry is our priority. It’s great that the training we provide gives us the platform to educate communities about how to avoid problems as well. Slowly but surely, together with our fantastic volunteers (who will train the 350th Health Worker this week), we’re bringing the very fundamentals of what we take for granted in the UK to more and more communities.

    Mark Topley, CEO @Mark_Topley

  10. Scarred for life, in agony, and at risk – Petro’s story

    March 6, 2015

    We frequently see just how much damage a lack of simple dental knowledge and access to basic treatment can do in rural communities. Hidden by geography many hundreds of miles from the decision makers, huge swathes of the community suffer untreated pain, with no hope of help.

    But this story has even affected many of the Bridge2Aid team, who have seen more than their share of tragic tales. In short – a 12 year old boy, scarred for life, in agony, and according to our clinicians, had he not come across our programme in February, at serious risk of death through septicaemia. This is Petro’s story.

    On one side of his face the skin was taut, bright and healthy – as the skin of a 12-year-old should be. On the other side, his skin looked like it had aged 70 years; rough, distressed and tired.

    Petro’s mother was visibly upset, as any mother would be. She felt helpless. Petro was crying, holding his right cheek; petrified.
    Over the past month Petro had been taken by his parents to see the local witch doctor about the worsening pain he had been experiencing in his cheek.

    The witch doctor, professing to know what was causing the pain, had repeatedly stabbed and cut Petro’s cheek with a razor blade and then proceeded to rub into the wounds a black powder; a concoction of ground charcoal, dried leaves and other ingredients. He had done this on each of Petro’s three visits; the pain gradually increased.

    Petro had missed a lot of school, only attending for about three days, even in a good week. The rest of the time he spent sleeping at home unable to concentrate on anything other than the intense pain.

    The Bridge2Aid training team met them in Nyang’hwale district in February 2015. His mother explained that after the failed attempt by the witch doctor they had no other choice than to save, borrow and beg money that would enable them to take Petro to see a doctor at the district hospital; they were now in the process of gathering together the funds.


    IMG_1181At no point had anyone identified that Petro’s pain was being caused by a dental issue. The family intended to see a medical doctor at the district hospital who then, presuming the problem was correctly identified, would have had to refer Petro to the District Dental Officer; a procedure which may have taken considerable time – possibly weeks; and multiple journeys to and from the hospital; all costing the family time and money which they did not have. More seriously, it would have cost precious time – time that Petro did not have.

    The Bridge2Aid team identified the cause of Petro’s pain as a dental abscess – something that once correctly diagnosed can be simply treated with antibiotics and an extraction. Exactly the sort of treatment that we are striving to make available for people like Petro through the training of rural government Health Workers in Emergency Dental Treatment.

    Petro is scarred for life physically and, after his experiences, no doubt mentally scarred too. Petro’s story highlights the serious need for Health Workers trained in simple Emergency Dentistry in the rural clinics. Only by chance was the Bridge2Aid training programme being carried out in the area in which Petro lived, though unfortunately for Petro it was a little too late.

    IMG_1184Luckily for Petro’s friends, should they experience a similar problem in the future they will not have to endure a series of traumatic experiences and neither will their education have to suffer as a result. They will be able to access immediate, safe, affordable treatment by a rural health worker who will have been properly trained in what action to take.