From little things, big things grow - or so the adage goes. Such can be said about the Bridge2Aid overseas aid program which has made life-changing emergency dental treatment available to more than 4 million people in the world's poorest areas.
Bridge2Aid was the result of a chance meeting between UK dentist, Dr Ian Wilson, who was on a short term dental visit and his future wife, Andie, who at the time was helping build an orphanage in the Mwanza region in Tanzania.
The lack of simple health care and poor oral health in this and other regions was horrendous and prompted the pair to return to Tanzania to bring an end to the suffering of those they saw in need.
The pair later succeeded in establishing the Hope Dental Centre in 2004, which now operates on a unique self-funding basis and sees almost 300 paying patients each month.
Bridge2Aid's mission is to provide access to simple, safe emergency dental treatment to all. All the profits are used to help fund Bridge2Aid's operations in Tanzania and this aspect of self-empowerment is what sets Bridge2Aid apart from other "charity" organisations.
Bridge2Aid has developed a model that provides basic training for local health workers - trained medics already working in and trusted by local communities and employed by the government. Volunteer dentists, nurses, dental hygienists and therapists from the UK and other nations carry out the training. Australia is also being approached to play its part by providing volunteers, equipment and/or financial support.
Recognising this, dental equipment manufacturer, A-dec, has been a supporter of Bridge2Aid for many years. As well as donating the surgery equipment and materials for Hope Dental Centre in Africa, A-dec has also sent technicians to Mwanza to service the equipment.
A-dec is now supporting the organisation's efforts to broaden its reach to other disadvantaged communities in African nations without oral health care by hosting the launch of Australian Bridge2Aid on October 11, 2016 at the ADA NSW Centre for Professional Development in St Leonards.
Bridge2Aid Australia is keen to start recruiting local fundraisers and volunteers from the Australian dental industry to travel to Tanzania for a fortnight to help deliver these programmes. It offers a truly inspirational opportunity to get involved in helping some of the poorest communities in the world and continue the momentum the program has achieved in its 12-year history.
In wealthy nations such as Australia, it is easy to take for granted the medical and dental services we have available to us and be totally unaware that a staggering 70%+ of the world's population does not have access to a dentist.
Experiencing pain, problems with communicating, eating and smiling due to dental decay leaves people ostracised from communities, unable to work or attend school. It is estimated that toothache is the reason for millions of school and work hours lost each year throughout the world. Lacking access to basic dental care is a serious problem, is a drain on resources and if not treated appropriately, can lead to infection and even death.
Bridge2Aid leaves behind competent health workers trained in emergency dental care who are able to get people out of pain and prevent dangerous infections. In that way, Bridge2Aid is leaving a long-term legacy of ongoing pain relief, enabling people to return to being productive members of their communities.