Another delivery to Dentaid – and a new connection with Uganda

Previous blog posts have documented recent visits to Aberdeen, Inverness and Dunblane to collect dental chairs that had been kindly donated to the MalDent Project. We have become well acquainted with the excellent staff at Leslie Commercials from whom we rent our vehicles and on Friday 24th January we were back again for a Luton van to take the dental chairs down to Dentaid in Southampton. We were given the red carpet treatment and loaned the same new Mercedes that Mike Broad and I had driven up to Inverness a few weeks previously.

I was accompanied on this trip by my good friend Stan Harvey, a retired HGV driver – great to have a professional trucker on the team! On arrival at Glasgow Dental Hospital, we were met by our first class team of porters, Paul, Robert and Bob, who helped us load the van.

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The loading commences

In addition to the three dental chairs, we also had five cages containing boxes of toothpaste and toothbrushes, which will be ideal for the work we have planned to develop and test supervised toothbrushing programmes in Malawian schools.

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Fluoride toothpaste and toothbrushes bound for schools in Malawi

The van was swiftly loaded, leaving space for a fourth dental chair which we were to collect in Birmingham, en route to Southampton.

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All smiles after the hard work is completed – ‘ready for the off’

We set off just after 2pm and enjoyed an easy drive to the Travelodge at Hilton Park Services, just off the M6 and 15 miles North of Birmingham, where we were staying overnight.

We set our alarms for an early start and left the Travelodge at 5.45am on the Saturday morning. Half an hour later we arrived at the Washwood Heath Health & Wellbeing Centre in Birmingham to collect the fourth dental chair.

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Early morning pick up – easy access to a deserted car park!

The security guard, Elmi, was extremely helpful and we soon had the donated chair loaded onto our skateboard trolley, ready to be loaded into the van.

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Elmi and Stan head for the van

Our grateful thanks are due to Sumit Chauhan and Jackie Sampson​ of NHS Birmingham East and North Community Health Partnerships for organising this donation.

We were back on the road by 6.45am and headed directly to Southampton. We stopped for breakfast en route and reached Dentaid’s new premises at about 10.45am. We were met by another good friend Stuart Bassham, Dentaid Warehouse and Engineering Manager, and soon we had the van unloaded.

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Stuart and Stan with two of the donated chairs outside Dentaid’s new HQ

Stuart then gave us a tour of the workshops in which all the donated dental equipment is serviced and refurbished.

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A very neatly organised set of tools – demonstrates the wide range of technical work undertaken by the Dentaid team
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The ‘heavy engineering’ room

The highly portable Dentaid dental chairs that have been designed for use by volunteer organisations, working in rural areas without electricity or other services, are fabricated from scratch in the workshop.

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‘Scratch building’ Dentaid portable dental chairs – fantastic craftsmanship

The international scope of Dentaid’s work is reflected in the ongoing projects listed on the workshop white board:

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All the smaller items of donated dental equipment and instrumentation are checked, repaired when necessary and stored in this dedicated area, which houses items worth a total of many thousands of pounds:

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Dentaid’s dental instrument store – thousands of items for distribution

After our guided tour, Stan and I enjoyed a baked potato and chilli courtesy of Jacqueline James, the Overseas Projects and Volunteer Manager. Jacqueline was running a governance meeting with some of Dentaid’s dental volunteers and we joined in with their lunch break. It was also a good opportunity for some discussion with Andy Evans, Dentaid’s CEO, about our ongoing joint work in Malawi.

We had previously agreed with Jacqueline that we would transport a Dentaid chair and some other dental equipment that had been ordered from Dentaid by a customer, Karen Adams, who lives in Lenzie, just outside Glasgow. As a result, we made good use of the van in both directions.

Our journey back to Glasgow was uneventful and we arrived home just before 10pm on the Saturday evening.

On Sunday, I delivered the Dentaid items to Karen in Lenzie. Karen has kindly written the final section of narrative in this blog post to give some background to how the Dentaid chair and equipment we have delivered will be used.

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Karen with the Dentaid chair and related clinical kit

Karen writes:

My daughter now lives and works in Uganda. In the last 7 years, since she has become involved with the wonderful people there, we have set up a small charity called ‘Rock Projects Uganda’ registered in Scotland SCO47717. We have a website under the name of Rockprojectsuganda.org and a Facebook page called Rock Projects Uganda.

Since starting the charity we have built  a school from nursery through to secondary. There are also dormitories for children who are orphans or live too far to travel to school each day.

The village where my daughter Caitlin works is situated 20 miles away from Kampala. Most of the people in the small village of Busiika have never been to Kampala . They are extremely poor and mostly work on the land to earn enough money to feed their families. Some of the children have been given the opportunity to be educated through our sponsorship programme. For as little as £20 per month a child will receive education, love and care and most of all hope for their future.

Malaria and typhoid are part of life there and many die because they cannot afford treatment for these diseases, along with HIV AIDS.

My daughter Caitlin has such a caring heart for the people there as did her dad who sadly passed away 15 months ago from cancer at the age of 54. He had  been very involved in the charity until he became ill. My family have built a small 10 bed hospital
in Busiika as a legacy to my husband Paul . This is something that he often talked about doing when he was well. Sadly he will not see it but we know how much happiness it would bring him. We also have the facility within it for a dentist.

The Dentaid dental chair is going to be well used.  Many suffer pain from toothache as there is no dentist for miles around. We are very excited for the future of the hospital as we look forward to its official opening in April this year. We would love to extend an invitation to anyone who would like to visit Uganda and use the dental facility to treat the people of this small village.

I would like to thank Professor Jeremy Bagg for delivering the Dentaid kit to me in Glasgow.  It will be leaving in a container bound for Mombasa next week. It will then be transported to Busiika to hopefully arrive in March.

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