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The Subtle Difference

Posted in: Blog, by kayleighb2a, on 19th February 2014 | 0 comments

– Mark Topley, CEO

I can’t quite believe how busy our volunteer training programme is right now!

We started the year with another of our very successful Phase 2 programmes (where a smaller team of volunteers work to train District Dental Officers in how to be trainers), which was quickly followed by a double programme in Lake Zone where we are based, with two training teams running concurrently. They had a 100% pass rate this time and trained our 300th successful local health worker – a huge milestone. And as I write today, there is another team on the ground in Manyara, a new and remote rural region to the south of Arusha.

This past 8 weeks has been huge for Bridge2Aid. We launched our Urgent Appeal for funds (following the drastic, last minute reduction in our grant funding for 2014 compounded by a bank theft), started our tenth year of operation and looked forward to reaching that magic ‘300’ when we would have trained 300 people successfully and broken through the 3 million access barrier.

It’s also my 9th year living in Tanzania, and reflecting on that, I’m thinking again about what keeps me here, and doing the work we do.

And it’s down to subtle difference.

I am so pleased that in the past 10 years, we have been part of increasing the amount of dental volunteering that goes on from the UK enormously. There are now several groups of passionate individuals sending teams to various parts of the world providing relief for people in pain.

But there’s a difference with what we do, and it’s that difference that keeps me, a non-dentist, working hard to advocate for and expand the work we do.

Because in each of the pictures you will see from our programmes, there’s a person that is missing from other volunteer programme photos – a trainee.

That trainee is the difference.

As I said, on our last programme we treated over 1,000 patients. The number we have treated directly on our programmes now tops 25,000. But our most conservative forecast for the numbers of people being treated by the trainees we have successfully trained is at least that every year, and could be as much as double. That means there are an additional 25,000-50,000 people every year receiving vital pain relief because of ‘the difference’.

Ian Wilson and I often chatted when he lived here about our recurring nightmare – and it’s not uncommon to people working in development – that when we left, would we really have made a difference? As we pass the 300 mark, I am seeing every day that the work that our volunteer training teams are creating, is not only making a difference today, it’s building a legacy for tomorrow.

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