In June 2015 one of our dentists, Ben Molyneux, joined the Bridge2Aid Dental Volunteer Programme (DVP) to help people suffering from debilitating dental pain in developing countries. During the two weeks that the team of six dentists and four nurses were stationed in East Africa, they treated over 1000 patients and extracted over 1200 infected teeth.
Inspired by his journey, our dental nurse, Khirstie Fletcher, will be joining this programme in September 2017. She hopes to share her dental nursing knowledge with the health workers in Tanzania, so that they may continue to provide safe dental help to the people in their communities.
We spent some time speaking to Ben to find out what Khirstie can expect from this experience.
Why did you decide to volunteer with Bridge2Aid?
“I have approached various charities in the past including some dental industry charities. Bridge2Aid stands out because of its progressive and sustainable approach to their programme. Foremost, it is designed to teach basic principles of safe dental treatment in a rural African situation. It then has a second stage, which is to develop local teaching teams and allow them to grow and develop within the community. This seems a sensible, and sustainable, approach.”
How were you able to give up the time?
“I could not have done it without the support from my team. My practice principles and partners kindly shouldered the workload while I was away.”
What was it like working with a team you had never met before?
“Amazing, such a great experience that will stay with me forever.”
What did you learn from them?
“Much more than I expected. I met the most inspirational professionals and selfless individuals I have ever come across. I also learned the joy of treating and teaching people eager to learn and improve their communities.”
What did a typical day contain?
“Breakfast at dawn, followed by a bumpy ride to the medical centre. We kicked off with teachings and discussions before triaging and treating a number of patients. There were often a large number of patients to treat so an efficient system gradually evolved.”
How were your particular skills used?
“I guess the main thing is teaching technique of basic extraction, and carrying out lots and lots of them. We removed over 1000 teeth in our 2 week training program!”
What was the most rewarding moment of this experience?
“It’s the collective feeling generated in a team of 10 strangers all working together to support a worthy cause – it is an exhilarating feeling.”
You have been involved in many fundraising and awareness activities, what made this experience unique and special?
“Africa is special, and to be able to visit this region with a purpose gives you a real and definite positive experience far above that which you may have on a holiday or safari.”
How did this experience impact your future?
“The Bridge2Aid programme aims to move on to a different region and expand to other areas of need once it has reached a self-sustainable training level in the existing project area. I am very excited to be part of their future projects and will be working frequent trips and money raising antics into my career wherever possible.”
What was the biggest challenge you experienced during this trip?
“Having to deal with an upset tummy, in a foreign destination, around strangers!”
What advice do you have for Khirstie?
“Get involved, speak to as many locals as you can, learn a few words of Swahili to break the ice and take a football to kick around with the kids after the clinic, they will love you!”
As a practice, we are helping Khirstie raise funds to get her to Tanzania in September (covering her flights, accommodation and travel in the village). Money raised over the target will go straight to Bridge2Aid in support of the work that they do.
For more information, or to make a donation, visit her fundraising page here.
Bridge2Aid work to address the causes of poverty in some of the poorest communities in the developing world. They do this by strengthening local healthcare systems – specifically by training local healthcare workers in the provision of emergency dental treatment.
To see more on the work they do and how you can get involved, visit their website here.