Posted on October 31, 2012

Meeting the DVP team #livefrommwanza #GGCBlogNo4

Tuesday 30th October, 2012

We’ve just retired for the evening after meeting the DVP team.

After writing about the experiences of those who have undertaken DVP previously for years it really was wonderful to be with them in the moments before everything begins.

21 dentists and dental nurses from the UK wander up to the veranda of Ryans Bay Hotel all looking a little sleepy after the long flight from the UK but equally filled with excitement and anticipation for the days that lay ahead.  Grabbing a drink and chatting amongst each other Mark Topley clinks on the side of his glass for his welcome note.  Thanking each and every volunteer for travelling to Mwanza he asks the team not to underestimate the impact of what they are about to do.  He’s right, in this beautiful part of the world, overlooking Lake Victoria clasping a glass of crisp white wine, it is easy to forget about those suffering in the rural communities.
Mark explained that there are only 440 dental professionals in Tanzania for a population of 42 million, 80% of which are in the rural areas with no way to get to a dentist.  And this is the difference that DVP makes.  Over the years the DVP programme has trained an additional 200 dental professionals, each of which are working in the rural areas.  This provides access for over 2 million patients in the rural areas.

The group looked on at Mark as he wished everyone the best for the days ahead, outlined the challenge ahead of them and wished them a nice and relaxing evening.

We then got the chance to speak to the group, and what a group of amazing people.

I spoke to a group of dentists working in the community in East Lancashire who are on their first DVP.  One lady explained the practice she was working in currently and the types of patients she is used to treating; only last week she had fitted a full upper denture to a 20 year old boy and that was not uncommon.  She was curious as to how the types of cases that would present on DVP would differ from that she is currently experiencing in the UK.

A gentleman who has recently retired, also shared similar feelings and felt he had seen terrible cases in his own practice and wondered how those in the rural communities would differ.

To compare a country that has access to the type of dental treatment the UK offers to the rural communities in Mwanza region which has no oral health education and no way to access any treatment or preventive dental care whatsoever, is mind boggling.  It will be interesting to meet with these same dentists after the DVP to see how it compares.

There were a number of dentists who had been planning to come on DVP for years and who had finally signed the forms on their retirement.  They call themselves the ‘saga contingent’ with a wry smile.  Each explained a similar story of their reluctance to retire, their love of the profession and how at their age they still possess the skills and expertise to treat patients.  DVP, they felt, provides the perfect framework for them to continue to treat and help patients in an environment that really needs them.

It was easy to spot those who have done DVP before.  They were bouncy, wide eyed and seemed almost euphoric about being back in Mwanza.  They explained a feeling of ‘belonging’ since touching down in the city and how it had been perfectly natural that they should return again and again since their first DVP.  A retired dentist from Cookham is on his fifth DVP and has come with his wife, a dental nurse, this year and she was looking forward to sharing the experience with him this time.

I can’t wait to see these guys training the clinical offers and to touch base and see how they’re progressing.  After speaking to those who have been on DVP before, I have no doubt that a great number of these new volunteers will be back again and that each and every person will have a positive and individual experience while they’re here.  This benefit to the volunteer – not only are you leaving a legacy through training clinical officers in the rural communities who will continue to treat those that most need it after you are gone – is another reason why people return.  Seeing the smiling faces on the returning volunteers it is so clear to see that they are having the time of their lives.  The satisfaction and self-gratification they get from being here and supporting the good work of Bridge2Aid is fulfilling them personally and is enabling them to have a renewed vigour for their profession.

I am feeling so inspired being surrounded by these amazing people.  People who have left their family members at home, left their practices and have travelled to Mwanza to help those far less fortunate by using their dental expertise.  I am SO excited for tomorrow’s orientation and even more so as we count down to being in the community on Thursday.  Bring it on!

If you have any questions about the programme or what we are experiencing, please just email me at or via the Twitter or Facebook links below.

As I said in our first blog post, we are here to provide a looking glass into DVP for you – so do use that to your advantage.

In anticipation for the days ahead…


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