Why volunteer?


Why volunteer? And for the sake of argument let’s include fund raising.

Earlier today I spent a couple of hours in one of the nicest places in Ireland being a marshal in a 10K race & walk held on the roads around Union Hall. Why did I do it? Firstly, because Susan asked me if I would, she is a volunteer for the local RNLI branch and some of the runners were raising funds for “the lifeboats”. Secondly, because I hadn’t done this activity here before. Third, and most important, it meant that by giving up some of my time to stand on a road looking out at Glandore Harbour other people were able to take part in a community event to do something that brought them together.

I have done these things for as long as I can remember. The early ones were the sponsored walks, the YogJog, in 1966,67, 68 & 69. when thousands of supporters of South Wales Young Oxfam Groups walked the 26 miles from Cardiff to Porthcawl. These events took place in October, leaving Cardiff at Midnight and heading off against the prevailing wind along the A48 to reach Porthcawl, and the buses home, at about 8am on Sunday morning.

There followed activities for “SCAN” – Student Community Action Newcastle when I was a student – this meant running a couple of Discos without a fee as fund raisers. (I felt I was doing the vinyl equivalent of the concerts for Bangla Desh and later Live Aid).

After University I joined Round Table and then Rotary, each organisation having as one of its aims to raise funds and awareness for others less fortunate. I have run in many races including several London Marathons where the only thing that kept me going through training and injuries was the fact that I had committed to a cause. But it is the volunteers at London and other events which makes them happen. The people who control the crowds, hand out the water, medals and sandwiches and stop the hordes hitting traffic bollards that really make the events happen. They are the vital cogs in the machine.

In addition, voluntary activities with British Dental Association (which have persisted beyond my clinical career) and support of the dental charities Bridge2Aid, Dentaid and The British Dental (now Oral) Health Foundation have meant my involvement in professionally related causes.

When we first moved to West Cork, Susan took part in a historical research where volunteers mapped old graveyards by recording position and inscriptions, where possible, on headstones. The Irish Diaspora is massive and the work has already helped people from around the world research their ancestors. She got to meet a lot of people, made friends and learned about the area and its history.

Why do it? Obviously, if I and my ilk didn’t there is a chance that things wouldn’t happen, that money wouldn’t be raised, that the causes like the RNLI, Marie Curie, Oxfam and dozens of hospices would not be able to do the work they do.

Also I wouldn’t have had the fantastic experiences that I have had in the generation of funds, the direct action and the making of friends.

So why don’t more people put their hands up, get off their sofas, give of their time, expertise and energy?

Dental Showcase Day 2

IMG_0742The photograph above is of the entrance tunnel to the exhibition hall, I heard it called disturbing, weird, uncomfortable and off putting. It reminded me of an 80s pop music video with something of David Bowie’s Stage about it.

On my second day I enjoyed several successful meetings and had some time to catch up with friends and colleagues. Amongst the conversations were a few of the “what the hell did they think they were doing?” and “how can they get away with that?” with Jonathan Jacobs. Stories of broken partnerships and misunderstandings that could and should have been avoided by conversations at the start of a relationship whether business or clinical.

Thirty odd years ago I was “turned on” to perio by the late Marsh Midda, John Zamet and Bernie Keiser, I was considered odd by some of my turbine toting contemporaries. I presumed that by now, with caries under control, all hygienists would be fully booked and at the heart of every practice. According to the BSP it seems that a large number of dentists still don’t do the BPE as a matter of routine and screen for periodontal disease with their eyes only. Two concerns, firstly there is the obvious clinical one of under-diagnosis and second why let work, cash and profit walk out of the doors?

At the far end of the hall were the booths where societies including ADAM, the BSP, BSDHT, BADN and Dental Fusion had representatives. These volunteers do great work on behalf of their members and are well worth taking the time to visit.

I dropped in for a catch up with Ian Pinner of Ceramic Systems, CADCAM and Cerec is alive, well and flourishing I’m pleased to say. Yet again I am forced to eat my words of two decades ago when my uncle described CADCAM and its use in engineering to me. “That would work well in dentistry” he said, “I very much doubt it” was my reply. Wrong for not the first, nor the last, time.

After my comments yesterday about the BDA, I spent some time having BDA Expert demonstrated to me, it’s impressive and all the better for being easily accessible on-line. I still think they (I know that should be “we” as I’m a Branch President) could and should do more to try to attract new members.

Once again towards the end of the day neatly branded FMC Bar was welcoming, there is a great sense of professionalism in everything that FMC does.IMG_0739

I spent the evening at the Bridge2Aid Bash. At the supporters’ reception before the “Bash”, Mark Topley gave an excellent summary of the charity’s work and future plans. His passion for the “project” is clearly undiminished.IMG_0743

At the end of the night I was fortunate enough to be able to cadge a lift back to my hotel in downtown Birmingham – thanks to Richard from taxis4coaches.

Bridge2Aid – The Big Skill Share

Phase 2 of Bridge2Aid’s Work is “The Big Skill Share” where UK volunteers teach District Dental Officers how to train in emergency dental skills – ‘train the trainer’.

I’ll let them explain:

“Since we started, we’ve provided almost 4 million people with access to basic emergency dental care.  It’s a massive step in the right direction, but we need to take a great leap forwards because the rural population of Tanzania is around 35 million people. This is what PHASE 2 is.  It’s a great leap, a game changer, a huge next move.  In essence it goes back to the story about the man and the fish. Give a man a fish and you feed for a day – teach a man to fish and you feed him for life.  We’re just taking it one step further – teaching the fishermen (the District Dental Officers) how to teach others too!”

The Big Skill Share is Phase 2 of our model – we return to the District Dental Officers who we’ve been working alongside on our training programmes and give them the skills to teach emergency dental skills themselves.  This is where we see our core value of sustainability really come to life.  It’s a model that becomes self sufficient, and it’s the only realistic way that our work can tackle such a vast problem.

For this to work they need your support, so why not make a donation now – https://bridge2aid.charitycheckout.co.uk

Phase 2 - A4 Emailable - 14.8.15_SM

Guest post from Mark Topley – “what if your child had toothache, and no hope of help?”

I want to share this blog post from Mark Topley the CEO of Bridge2Aid – the message is simple, please read then take action and join the whatif campaign

3 years ago this month we shot a video with our friends JSP Media about Bridge2Aid and our pioneering work training local Health Professionals to provide a simple, safe but vital emergency dental service. I spent the best part of a week with Jem and the team, and we travelled to one of our training sites to view the volunteer training team in action.

The reason I tell you this today is because what I am going to ask you to do below was inspired in part by one of the children we saw on that trip. He was around 5 years old, and has probably been one of the most deeply impacting patients I have ever come across on DVP.










He was in a bad way. His face was swollen badly on both sides, and he was having difficulty breathing.

Ian, one of the training team, examined him and talked to his trainee as he did so…

As Ian says – tragic.

Not just tragic because he has such a bad swelling on both sides of his face, but tragic that he ever got into that position in the first place.

The truth is, that if, by accident of birth, you hadn’t been born in the UK, or a developed country, this could be you as a parent,  sat with a very sick child in pain on your lap – this could be your child.

Toothache is really common. So common that we don’t think about it much, such is the level of access to safe and free treatment we are fortunate to have.

But what if that wasn’t the case?

What if your child had toothache and no hope of help?

With not even the most basic dental service available for the majority of people living in the rural areas of places like Tanzania, there are countless cases like this out there. And more than half of people with toothache will develop complications like this without access to basic treatment.

This is the treatment we provide. It’s what we train and equip government Health Professionals who are already embedded in rural villages to do, day in, day out. And we need to do more – we need your help to do that.

I want you to click here and join with us and our ‘What if?’ campaign.

Simply enter your email and over the coming days we will tell you just how you can help and be part of making tragic cases like this little boy, a thing of the past.

Thank you.

Amarillo – great fun for a very good cause.

From The Dentistry Show – well done to Jem Patel and team for managing to make us all look so good.

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