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Other People’s Views

Posted in: Blog, by sheanna, on 9th March 2016 | Comments Off on Other People’s Views

It’s been a couple of weeks now since I hosted five leaders from the dental industry on a short visit to Tanzania. My only regret is that I didn’t organise something like this sooner. The trip was a great success and it was a privilege to show the group around Mwanza, visit a Bridge2Aid training site, go to Hope Dental Centre and spend time with some of the government officials we work with.geita

It’s always good to get other people to examine what you do. It reaffirms what you believe and adds new perspectives. It was great to hear the group talk about the common threads of our work – sustainability, a response at the appropriate level, and integration with what exists – as well as pulling out themes that we sometimes take for granted – the efficiency and value of the operation, the strength of the team, and the outstanding nature of the volunteers’ contribution.

Reflecting on the words below a couple of weeks on, I am immensely proud to be part of what they describe. We now push on to do more of the same for more communities in more places. Huge thanks again to my travelling companions Alison from Oasis, Patrick from Henry Schein Dental, Bob from Dentisan, Jason from FMC, and Steve from Straumann.

On visiting the Emergency Dental Training Programme:

Alison Speak, HR Director, Oasis Dental Care
“Although I’d been on a B2A training day in the UK , to see, first hand , just what an impact the programme is having was very emotional. Everything I observed (commitment of volunteers, skills of the clinical officers in training, organisation and admin skills of the employed local staff ) confirmed to me that the approach B2A have taken will effect lasting change. I noticed and felt the egalitarian nature of this approach – I liked the way that people seemed to be valued for the different skills they bring. It didn’t seem hierarchical – and I particularly noticed the way the patients are treated with respect.”
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Patrick Allen – MD, Henry Schein Dental
“Seeing the clinical officers providing treatment so proficiently after just 7 days of dental training, with little or no need for intervention is remarkable and proves just how well the model works. The examples of today’s patients walking such great‎ distances in order to access treatment after months and years in pain graphically illustrates the high level of the need. ‎The passion and dedication of the volunteers was incredible and meeting people who have been on 6+ programmes and who clearly will be back again was inspiring. I guess when you put all that together you have a special programme which is clearly creating lasting and sustainable change.”

Jason Newington – MD, FMC
“An amazing and humbling day watching the Bridge2aid volunteers at work. To see the life changing affect their work has on the lives of the local people who have suffered for so long with pain, was truly incredible. Bridge2Aid are simply making a massive difference to the community and its clear that the years of hard work and persistence by the team and volunteers has paid off”.

Bob Newsome- Commercial Director, Dentisan
“I witnessed great teamwork in play today, between Tanzanian Clinical Officers and Dental Volunteers from the UK – in less than ideal conditions, the rhythm of work and the camaraderie established was a delight and pleasure to see.”

Steve Booth – MD, Straumann
“Today was truly an inspiring day in several ways.
1. The patients, some clearly in pain and discomfort, were themselves immensely patient and grateful for the treatment they had or were about to receive. For a patient to have chronic dental pain and to be able to relieve it must have a dramatic effect on the quality of their lives.
2. British volunteers – whether nurses or dentists. The team spirit, respect and closeness of the volunteers was clear to see. The way they supported each other and the Clinical Officers was amazing. How they run such an efficient clinic in such an environment is astonishing and clearly a testament to the quality of the people and the process you have put in place. The way they look after each other to be safe clearly came through even in a challenging environment
3. The word that keeps coming to my mind is quality. That may seem a strange thing to say in such circumstances. Let me explain why that is. There is little more you can do but to relieve pain and further infection in most of the cases the team see. The quality of care for these patients in such an environment is truly mind blowing. From the booking in process, sterilisation process, patient care, and the training (which is the most important and which means it has the opportunity to be sustainable) is incredible in such an environment. To see all six clinical officers today taking charge of all of the clinical work shows what can be achieved with the right mindset and people. A truly inspiring day in so many ways and one that has inspired me to train hard and fundraise hard for our bike ride to be able to help and enable you to continue with this amazing and much-needed work.”

On visiting the Mwanza Offices, Hope Dental Centre and the Government Officials:

Alison Speak:
“Bridge2Aid’s close working relationship with the various government health departments was evident from the ease with which we were greeted and welcomed – all credit to Mark’s personable and focussed approach , which seems to enable him to effectively navigate working alongside health officials who move post every 3 years.

“On to the Hope Clinic and what a great dental centre! A modern, well run clinic – a sustainable revenue stream for the field training programmes. Grace – the PM – and Rosemary the receptionist were both a delight to meet – strong, competent women, delivering a well run clinic. I’ll definitely be encouraging both Oasis dentists and hygienists to consider volunteering to come out as volunteer locum dentists, working alongside the local dentists.

“We then moved on the the administration office and met the team who so effectively manage the rollout of the programme – Jacqueline and Jackie , who have both been with B2A for 6 years and Joyce the programme manager. It cant be easy managing the movement of people and kit across Tanzania (especially when a lot of the people have never been to an African county before!) but they seem to get everything to the right place at the right time with the precision of a military operation!”

Patrick Allen:
“It was reassuring for me to see how highly the B2A programmes ‎are valued by the region and the depth of the relationship the team have developed with local officials. To witness first hand the formal recognition of the central role B2A play in delivering sustainable emergency dental care to the rural communities of Tanzania was an emphatic testimonial to the difference this organisation is making.”

Steve Booth:
“It was fantastic to see how a modern well run dental practice manages not just to survive but thrive in the relatively harsh conditions in Tanzania. Treating mainly local people it has become an important part of the fundraising for Bridge2aid. Providing quality dental care while paying the profits back Bridge2aid to enable the team to train more clinical officers to provide emergency dental care in the rural areas. Seeing the way the team overcome the problems of power, heat, equipment failure and lack of lab work, again just shows anything is possible if you want and believe it is, and are prepared to find a way.

“The passion and commitment to the organisation from the volunteers, Bridge2aid team and the clinical officers has been inspiring. Bridge2aid has now trained 400 clinical officers. This means that 10s of 1000s Tanzanians are no longer living with the debilitating dental pain on a yearly based. This sounds like a great success and it is in many ways. It has only got to this level by the commitment hard work of a fairly small group of dedicated staff and volunteers. But everyone here in the Bridge2Aid team and the volunteers still know that they have only just scratched the surface of the problems for the millions of Tanzanians that live in the rural areas. This trip has totally reinforced my feelings before I came out that it is such a worthy cause to support and it is astonishing what has been achieved with relatively low amounts of funding. Every pound raised or donated can and will have an effect on a life in Tanzania.”


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