Bridge of Change

Posted in: Articles, by sheanna, on 27th October 2015 | Comments Off on Bridge of Change

Last week I spent time in Birmingham at the NEC for the annual dental industry showcase. If you’ve never been, it is an exhausting three days where the internal environment of the show, the weird lighting, constant talking, and being on your feet for 14 hours a day all act in concert to leave even the most hardened sales rep spent by Saturday afternoon.

However, it also great fun and a brilliant opportunity to meet up with the industry and individual supporters that make up the Bridge2Aid community. There are precious few opportunities for larger numbers of the people who make up the organization to be together, but this is one of them, and it is always good to see so many good friends who have done some outstanding things for Bridge2Aid.

If you’ve been around Bridge2Aid I hope what comes across is that we are a community committed to genuine and lasting change. Relationships are to who we are, and that means we are driven by people. But we try not to be just another charity trying to do good, we are very much the bridge for a professional and industry community to make a long term and meaningful change in other parts of the world. The breadth and depth of experience of our leadership represents more that 40 years of actually living and working in East Africa, and really understanding the issues, and the appropriate (and strategic) responses. This is why we work differently to many other organizations that on the surface appear to be similar. Our goal is to go beyond the mistakes that authorities in the development field point to – of charities making inappropriate, unsustainable responses to the need they perceive, where they focus on technical or even basic treatment without training or capacity building, and failing to broaden access to emergency dentistry through their efforts.

We’ve worked hard and consulted widely on our model and focus, and so it is hugely encouraging to gain support for it at the highest levels. It is not many groups who have former Health Ministers as Patrons, but we are fortunate to have Professor David Mwakyusa, Tanzania’s longest serving health minister, join us recently. Here is what he said;

“As a medical practitioner, administrator and teacher; and during my time as Minister for Health and Social Welfare, I have been keenly aware of the damage and pain that oral diseases and lack of dental treatment cause in individuals and communities.Untitled

“Bridge2Aid is a charity that I have witnessed making a tangible, long-term change in the health infrastructure in Tanzania. By training rural health workers in emergency dentistry skills Bridge2Aid is empowering local communities and by so doing making a difference.

“I am proud to be associated with an organization that is promoting truly sustainable solutions with such passion and integrity.”

Over the course of the showcase, I met many people who really want to do something to help. There is enormous goodwill in the profession in the industry to give something back. What excites me about what we do, is that we can turn that goodwill into something that doesn’t just do good, but actually brings about a change and a long term difference in the communities we are seeking to serve.

Our vision has to be big enough to go beyond what we think is possible. We need to stop accepting that it will always be this way. Through the work of the Bridge2Aid community, we’ve already brought a huge amount of genuine change to thousands of communities across a wide area. There are parts of Tanzania and Rwanda where we will not have to work again because we have trained sufficient numbers of rural health workers to provide a sustainable, basic emergency dental service, as well as beginning the work of training the trainers, that will continue this long into the future.

In the process, a community has emerged of a group of people who respond to this greater vision, of how things can be different, not just better for a short while. Of course, there is a small group of us who work for the organization and whose full time focus is to lead, to organize, to make things happen, but it is the volunteers, the fundraisers and the donors who make the impact possible.

It was wonderful to see this community together last week, and have new members added to it, and it fills me with excitement and anticipation if what we will achieve in the next 12 months together.

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