Twelve years ago I was looking for part time work when my daughter went to nursery. An impromptu visit to a local employment agency resulted in an interview at Belmont. The rest, as they say is history and I had a baptism of fire into the dental industry, where I have met some of the most genuine people and made some fantastic friends.
I first heard about Bridge2Aid a couple of years ago when Dr Ian Wilson made a presentation at the BDTA conference I attended.
We were told how the charity work closely with the Tanzanian Government to offer primary dental care and community development programmes for some of the poorest communities in the Mwanza region of North West Tanzania.
Recently, I bumped into Patrick Allen, of Henry Schein Minerva, and he mentioned in passing a trip to Bukumbi that the company had planned for 2011 on behalf of the charity.
I said what an amazing opportunity that would be and the next thing I know, I was offered a place. I spoke to my family, especially my daughter, as two weeks would be the longest I had been away from her since she was born.
To the testament of the young lady that she has become, she was all for it, even giving me ideas how to raise the money. So, I confirmed that I would like to attend, feeling both excited and daunted at the same time.
The two-week trip will see the ‘Schein’ team renovating primary school classrooms and running play schemes for children in local care centres. I have been warned that it’s back-breaking but very rewarding work and some of those who attended the trip last year will be revisiting in 2011.
Of course, the hard work doesn’t start in April, although all of us will be working on a voluntary basis we still have to raise the money to fund the project. The group emails are already in full force and we have everything from recipe books to tennis balls being sold and various fundraising events planned for the New Year.
Having worked with some amazing people and attending great events in beautiful locations, I am so pleased to be able to finally give something back to the industry that has been my home for over a decade.
Of course, this last year hasn’t been an easy one in the current financial climate and Christmas is just around the corner, too.
However, without continued support, trips such as these cannot happen, so I know I can speak for the group when I say a big ‘thank you’ for any donations that are received.
To donate towards the Bukumbi trip, please visit www.justgiving.com/hsm-tanzania-2011.
A little background
Kigongo Primary School is situated 2km from Bukumbi Care Centre in the village of Kigongo. Kigongo is a busy village due to the ferry that takes foot passengers and cars over to Busisi, and the road that leads onto Geita and Rwanda.
Since surfacing the road in August, there is now more traffic and passing trade. Kigongo Primary School has just over 600 students with 90 of the students from or connected to Bukumbi Care Centre. The rest of the children come from the surrounding village which is also very deprived. B2A has supported the children with uniforms, sports kits, balls and other equipment. We are also working with the school management to provide teacher training so that the whole school benefits. One of the main issues at the school is that its classrooms are in a very poor state which does not make a good learning environment.
The concrete floors and walls in the classrooms are bare, cracked and crumbling, the wire and mesh in the windows is ripped/broken, if there at all, and children are sharing 3 or 4 to a desk or often sitting on the bare concrete floors.
The school itself was built about 15 years ago by another NGO because of the overcrowding at Bukumbi Primary School. Unfortunately the classrooms have fallen into disrepair due to funding problems. Since 2009 we have renovated 2 of the classrooms but the others are in a desperate state. Before the Henry Schein team arrive, the floors of the classroom will be repaired or re-laid and the wire and mesh in the windows replaced. New desks will also be made. We also hope to have football goals and a netball posts made.
When the team arrive they will have a huge task ahead of them. Firstly, cleaning the classrooms, painting the walls, windows, doors, blackboards and designing and painting lots of educational murals, such as number lines, alphabets, maps and diagrams.
All will help to create a conducive learning environment. The team will also install the new football goals and netball posts. All of this work, plus the team will have the opportunity to play with the children. On the last day, we will have a celebration where we hand back to the school and the children.
The children at Kigongo and from Bukumbi Care Centre have few opportunities given to them and we want to improve their opportunities by giving them an improved learning environment.