When the penny drops

Posted in: Blog, by kayleighb2a, on 12th May 2014 | 0 comments

– Mark Topley, CEO

It’s a pivotal period for Bridge2Aid at the moment. If you’ve followed us for the past year you’ll know that we had a fantastic year in 2013, followed by a very difficult period in 2014 so far.

Right now, we have a proven and effective model of training, a great track record and have had huge, sustainable impact in Tanzania. We’re tackling a massive health issue, but one which is unknown to most people.

And this is why 2014 is so pivotal – because we need the penny to drop with a wider audience.

I’m speaking to, and networking with, more and more people who have never even thought of the issue that we address. If we are going to expand the work we do, and take it into new places, we have to better articulate the reasons why what we do is so important.

The dental community in the UK have always been fabulous supporters, and really demonstrated this very strongly with their response to our urgent appeal in January, raising £50,000 in a little over 8 weeks. I hope and believe that this support will continue, and grow, as we get better at communicating to the profession that can do the most, and who really understand the impact of untreated dental disease, that together we can make a sustainable difference.

And so the question I am asking at the moment is how do we catch the attention of people outside of our dental community?

Because the truth is – most people have no idea – we simply don’t think about what happens when there isn’t a dentist – even in a country like Tanzania where basic healthcare issues are more challenging. Over the past 3 months I’ve had the privilege of speaking to a number of groups who have lived and worked here all their lives. It never fails to amaze me as we go through the presentation, how shocked people are that so many people in their communities are suffering, all for the want of a simple dental procedure.

Ten years ago, the penny dropped for me when I heard Ian Wilson speak about what Bridge2Aid was up against. For one of the Directors of a corporate donor, it was when he went home after meeting us to find his seven year old daughter in agony with an abscess. As it dawned on him that there were millions like her in pain at the very moment who had no hope of drugs or treatment, he resolved to do more.

Everyone involved in Bridge2Aid has had their moment, and many continue to have them.

One of our most experienced Clinical Leads, an Oral Surgeon with many years experience, and who has been on 10+ of our Dental Volunteer Programmes, recently recounted a story which renewed her commitment. She was heartbroken by an eleven year old girl with abscesses on both sides of her lower jaw, who had been ostracised from her community because of the smell that her infection was letting off. Simple treatment over 2 days solved her issue and she could return to being part of the family and community.

The truth is, what we do is vital. With 75% of the world without any access to the most basic treatment, there’s far too much pain and suffering going on. Sadly, the global oral health community hasn’t got to grips with the issue of treating this pain, and hidden and forgotten communities continue to live in agony.

The huge encouragement for me is that the UK dental profession and industry have shown that they believe that something must be done about the issue.

Of course the world has a huge number of problems, and living in East Africa for the past 10 years, I am reminded of them every day, such is my proximity to poverty and inequality.

But I am a firm believer that my role in life is not to try and do everything. But where we find something that we can do something about, well therein lies our responsibility. For the dental profession, a tiny proportion of the skills and resources that you have available can quite literally transform communities – dental pain is your patch, passing on basic skills is your opportunity, Bridge2Aid is your charity.

10 years after the penny dropped for me, I believe we have started something which could create a significant legacy. There is still a long way to go, and how much we can do will depend on the support of the Bridge2Aid family, as well as us being able to take the message further.

Hopefully there are a lot more pennies to drop in the future.

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