Out in Tanzania, Mark Topley couldn’t be more grateful to supporters who helped to keep this year’s projects on track.
He says: ‘We are hugely encouraged by the response we had from the urgent appeal. As many readers will know, at the end of December 2013 we realised the combined effects of a grant that was unexpectedly withdrawn and a fraud, which was a smaller part of the problem, left us in a poor situation. We were hopeful, but not expecting, the huge response that we got from such a large number of people, who donated generously and got us to our total very quickly.
‘When the extent of the problem became clear, we had to cut back really quickly and take rapid stock of the situation to see where we were. We had to go to our supporters and our friends and explain the situation very candidly and transparently. The recovery’s been amazing. The dental community has really responded and I think what encourages me as much as anything is that some of the donations came from outside our usual layer of support, so we’ve brought on additional backing since the appeal.’
Donors’ generosity has meant that vital projects have been continued. Bridge2aid (B2A) had programmes planned up to the end of the first quarter and through this quarter, and it has been able to go ahead.
On this Mark comments: ‘To give you some context, those projects are so important because they have long term, far reaching implications. If a health worker doesn’t get trained this month or next, the knock-on effect for access to simple emergency dentistry is huge. We also treat thousands of people free of charge when we run the training programmes; in the first quarter of the year we treated about 5,000 people.
‘We still have several challenges. We’ve mitigated the immediate effects of the grant being withdrawn but we are still in a very tough economic situation. We do have plans to bring everything back on line, but it’s too early to decide when to schedule them in.
‘To grow further we need to get our message out to the wider donor community. Dentistry is not seen as a priority for the donor community; we think that’s wrong. Firstly, because oral health contributes to so many other health issues, particularly non-communicable disease. But also, for me fundamentally, it’s an injustice to leave people in pain when we could provide treatment to counteract that.
‘Until funding from other sectors kicks in, how much we can do is dependent on the great support we get from the dental industry. For the rest of the year we’ve slowed down but the plan is still there, to take this vital training programme to as many places as possible. We’re reviewing our strategy over the next month or so, and we’ll continue to deliver programmes we’ve planned for this year and the next in the hope we can raise more support to take us forward.’
Looking to the future
The B2A team hopes to expand within Tanzania, running more programmes in more locations, but this is postponed for the time being. Beyond Tanzania, B2A’s pilot programme in Rwanda was very successful and it is hoped more can be done there and in other east African counties.
After the bumpy past few months, Mark is keen to thank supporters and the B2A team: ‘I’ve been so encouraged by the team’s response. The B2A team is a committed bunch working very hard for low wages and the way they’ve responded has been phenomenal. They’ve been completely professional but operated with heart and passion as well, along with complete belief that we would get through this difficult time. The commitment they continue to show now has been a huge encouragement to me personally.
‘We are working very hard to make the best use of every penny raised for us, and people’s generosity is something that we are acutely aware of and very, very grateful for.’
B2A continues to look for more support for the invaluable work it does, and it would be delighted to hear from anyone who can provide extra backing. For example, the charity offers mutually beneficially packages, such as the Unity Partnership programme for practices and businesses.
The Unity Partnership programme gives businesses the opportunity to make a difference by sponsoring emergency dental training of a health worker in a developing nation.
For more information please visit www.bridge2aid.org or call 0845 850 9877.
You can make a donation to Bridge2aid in the following ways:
- By visiting its website: www.bridge2aid.org
- Online via its Justgiving page at www.justgiving.com/bridge2aid
- Online direct to its bank, Lloyds Bank PLC, sort code: 30 62 96, account no. 78758768*
- By cheque made payable to ‘Bridge2Aid’ and posted to Bridge2aid, Well House, The Chipping, Wotton-Under-Edge, Gloucestershire GL12 7AD
- By calling 0845 8509877.
*please notify [email protected] when donating online directly to the Bridge2aid account.