Remembering why I started

Posted in: Blog, by sheanna, on 22nd February 2016 | Comments Off on Remembering why I started


This week I am back in Tanzania for the first time since we left, after 10 years of residency, in July last year.  Building up to the trip, and indeed on the journey here, I wasn’t quite sure how I would feel being back here. Would I hit culture shock, would I be able to deal with the change in pace, inshore, would I still be OK here?

What I found was that landing in Dar es Salaam was like putting on an old pair of shoes. I ‘fit’ here. I’m comfortable (especially once my Kiswahili cranked back into action), and there is so much familiarity that it’s almost like I feel more at home than I do in the UK.

It has been fantastic to reconnect – it’s amazing how distant you can become from a place in such a short period as 7 months, even after 10 years living here. But being here again has reminded me about why we started. Just being in country has brought back the connection with Tanzania and its people flooding back, and it has been so good to see so many people that I worked with and alongside for such a long time.

I’m particularly excited about one of my main reasons for being here, and that is to host some visitors to the Emergency Dental Training course next week.

On Tuesday I’m taking our Patron, the former Minister of Health, Professor David Mwakyusa to visit the team working in Geita region in north west Tanzania. Professor Mwakyusa is a key advocate for our work and has been a huge support since he became a Patron last year, and both he and I are really looking forward to the visit.

On. Tuesday evening a group of dental industry leaders arrive in Mwanza for a short visit to see the training course and the Bridge2Aid operation. The group comprises Patrick Allen, MD of Henry Schein Dental, Steve Booth, Managing Director of Straumann, Jason Newington, Managing Director of FMC, Bob Newsome, Commercial Director of Dentisan, and Alison Speak, HR Director of Oasis Dental. They are great friends of Bridge2Aid from the industry and I can’t wait to show them what we do.

It’s always a privilege to show people the training course and introduce them to our fabulous Tanzania team. Of course it’s also a challenge for people – seeing the scale of the problem of untreated dental pain, and the impact that it has on the lives of so many people. It’s good for visitors to see people having their pain relieved, often after many years of suffering. But what makes what we do unique is that it is a training intervention, and at the appropriate level. The WHO points out that the fundamental need, and a human right for everyone, is access to safe pain relief from dental infection. And that is why we focus on making that, as well as access to preventative education, available to as many people as possible. Our visitors will see that, and meet the Clinical Officers – medically qualified professionals based in villages – and get to understand the health system and how what we do goes beyond trying to good, and makes along term difference – sustainably relieving and preventing pain, building capacity, and strengthening the healthcare system.

This week, each one of our guests will have their eyes opened and I fully expect them to each be challenged and impacted by what they see, smell, hear and touch. My hope is that the personal impact both challenges AND inspires them, as it did me, to do whatever we can to increase and expand our work.

What Bridge2Aid does is unique, and appropriate.  Our volunteer options are unique. It works. We need to do more of it, in more places, and I’m confident that this week will bring even more support and resources on board to help us to help many more people in the years ahead.

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