Posted on 7th May 2019
Since 2004 Bridge2Aid UK has given the people of Tanzania access to emergency dental care. In 2016, Bridge2Aid Australia was founded to increase the impact volunteers can make for the Tanzanian people.
Dr Jeremy Keating, one of the directors of the board of Bridge2Aid Australia, says what makes Bridge2Aid unique is that it focuses on creating a sustainable model, ensuring the work continues long after the volunteering trip has finished. “By way of comparison, most dental volunteer organisations visit an area with people in need for a couple of weeks and in that time the volunteers will do a lot of work and help a whole lot of people, but when they leave there is a void left behind,” he says. “Where Bridge2Aid is different, is the primary objective is to train local health workers to go on with the work so the work can happen 52 weeks of the year”.
“I am going on my first official trip as a volunteer for Bridge2Aid in August this year (the first full Australian trip), and when I go I might take out a couple of hundred teeth to help a small group of people. The goal however is not about the teeth I remove but about the local health workers I train,” he adds. “In the last 15 years that Bridge2Aid has been running, we have helped free 49,000 people from dental pain, which sounds fantastic, but much more significantly the people we have trained have in that 15 years, have helped over 5 million people”.
“In the rural areas each community of around 10,000 people has what they call a medical officer,” he explains. “They are someone that has at least three years of medical training. The locals trust this person because they are like their GP – and the most common problem people present with is toothache. Up until now, there was nothing they could do about it, so that is who we have been training. Training these people in emergency dental care means they can diagnose what is going on, administer local anaesthetic and safely extract teeth.”
Jeremy says Bridge2Aid aims to train up to six medical officers during a two-week trip and then there is also a follow-up retrain program for those who need it, to ensure these medical officers are confident and are continuing their work safely.
The first full Australian trip is planned for August, with a second scheduled for February 2020. Jeremy says Bridge2Aid Australia would love more volunteers.
“Whether it be Bridge2Aid or any other volunteering organisation, I think giving back should be a requirement of being a health professional,” Jeremy says. “You end up getting more back than you give and to be involved in any volunteer organisation is a very rewarding thing.”
“Sometimes people might have something stopping them – and what I would say to an individual if there is something stopping them going on a trip, find what it is and remove that block. The statistics show that 70 per cent of people who volunteer with Bridge2Aid go on a second trip. So that really is validation of what a positive experience it is; most people go again.”
For more information or to enquire about volunteering with Bridge2 Aid Australia, go to www.bridge2aid.com.au