Call us now 0845 850 9877
  1. The Bridge2Aid Bash @ BDIA Dental Showcase 2015

    September 28, 2015

    Roll Up! Roll Up!
    Please come and support Bridge2Aid at our big and brash Bash!

    There will be crazy golf, hook-a-duck, a live band and a hot buffet. It’s a great opportunity for all the team to come and unwind and relax with friends (old and new).
    Great food, great company and a few drinks – all in a good cause. Come and join us!


    When and Where – Friday 23rd October @ Hilton Metropole Birmingham

    Times: 7:30pm – 1am

    Dress code:  Whatever takes your fancy

    Price: £35 per person (includes hot buffet dinner)


    calling us – on 0845 8509877

    emailing –

    See you there


  2. Our Fundraising Philosophy

    September 24, 2015

    In the light of the recent government commissioned review of charity fundraising we’d just like to reassure all of our supporters that we do not operate in any of the ways that have been brought to light as causes for concern in this report. Bridge2Aid is a small charity and we base all of our fundraising around relationships. We are supported by people who know what we do – and we care about those who are part of making our work so amazing.
    So we don’t buy in lists of contacts, we don’t cold call, we don’t do massive mail-outs, we don’t ask third parties to fundraise for us, we don’t employ door-to-door or street fundraisers, we don’t employ companies to phone you at the time of the evening when you’re just settling down to relax.
    But we are a charity. Without the support and donations that are given we would not be able to do the work that we do, and this work is vitally needed. So we do ask for money, we do try to engage people’s hearts and minds. We try to share stories and statistics to let people know why we are doing the work that we do, and how we are changing the landscape of oral health in some of the poorest parts of the world.

    It is impossible to overstate the importance of our supporters and we would like to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your continued efforts, donations, fundraising and volunteering.

  3. News

    September 16, 2015

  4. The Big Skill Share Appeal

    September 14, 2015


    Today we’re launching our Big Skill Share Appeal.  It is the next milestone in our work – and we thought that you’d like to hear a little bit more about our plans and where we’re heading!
    Bridge2Aid has now provided access to safe emergency dental care to over 4 million people in Tanzania.  It’s a fantastic achievement.  We have done this with volunteers from the UK dental community training rural health workers. We are saving lives and freeing millions more from the prospect of misery and pain.  However we need to go further – and we have a unique plan. We’ve already taken a massive step in the right direction, but we need to take a great leap forwards because the rural population of Tanzania alone is 35 million people. Our Big Skill Share is a game changer, a huge next move. In essence it goes back to the story about the man and the fish. Give a man a fish and you’ve given him a meal – teach a man to fish and you feed him for life. We’re just taking it one step further – teaching the ‘fishermen’ how to teach others too!
    The Big Skill Share is Phase 2 of our model – we return to the District Dental Officers who we’ve been working alongside on our training programmes and give them the skills to teach emergency dental skills themselves. This is where we see our core value of sustainability really come to life. It’s a model that becomes self sufficient, and it’s the only realistic way that our work can tackle such a vast problem.

    Our model:
    PHASE 1 – Groundbreaking: UK dental volunteers begin training Tanzanian health workers in emergency dental skills
    PHASE 2 – The Big Skill Share: UK volunteers teach District Dental Officers how to train in emergency dental skills – ‘training the trainer’
    PHASE 3 – Sustainable Change: Tanzanian trainers train Tanzanian health workers emergency dental skills supported by Bridge2Aid expertise.

    This unique model means that training in emergency dental skills can become a rapid roll-out where millions and millions of people in some of the poorest parts of the world have access to vital treatment. As our programme takes off in Tanzania we are then able to offer training into more countries where there is an urgent need.
    The Big Skill Share is key to solidifying the success of our Tanzanian programme and we need your help to make it a reality. By donating to our great leap forwards you’ll be changing the lives of people in this country forever. With your contribution we can build on the training programmes we’ve already run and embed this change for good.
    Please help with our vital work by donating by the  pink ‘make a donation’ button at the top right of this page.  With your help we can help millions more out of pain.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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

  10. 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.