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Sunday 8 February 2015
First of all, a warm welcome to anyone who is
reading this blog for the first time. I hope that you will find it
interesting and informative and that it will give you an idea of the
conditions the team faces face in Tanzania and of the benefit that
Bridge2Aid brings to the people of that country. Do let me have feedback by
emailing me on:
I have just returned from Heathrow, where I saw
Liz off on the first of three legs (that's the journey that has three legs,
not Liz !).
The story was that they were catching a Turkish
Airlines flight to Istanbul, where they will meet with the rest of the team
who flew to Istanbul from Manchester. However, as some readers may be aware,
Liz has just sold the Village Dental Practice in Knebworth and so I have a
suspicion that, after I left her, she made her way to one of the other
terminals to catch a flight to the Cayman Islands, never to be seen again
and with no trace here of the sale proceeds !
all met up at Costa Coffee (other coffee shops are available) in the
wonderful new Terminal 2 at Heathrow, where each of them had to open their
luggage to make way for head torches and batteries that Bridge2Aid are
giving to the Tanzanian doctors who will be trained. Some of the team Liz
knows from previous trips but there are also some first-timers who were
clearly a bit nervous about what conditions will be like when they get
Turkish Airlines Flight TK 1980 pushed back on
time at 11.40 and was airborne at 12.07, en route to Istanbul, where they
will meet the rest of the team, who were flying to Turkey from Manchester.
The first leg is 3 hours 50 mins and by the time they arrive in Mwanza, it
will be 22 hours since Liz left home !
They are flying via Istanbul as there are no
longer any direct flights to Dar es Salaam, the former capital of Tanzania.
The flight landed on time (as did the Manchester
flight) and I spoke to Liz whilst she was at the airport. Apparently they
had awful turbulence over the Alps, with drinks flying everywhere and people
screaming. By the time they at Istanbul, they were ready to kiss the tarmac.
Not exactly a Turkish delight !
In theory they only had a 1h 40min stopover in
Istanbul but it looks like the flight to Dar was delayed and took off an
hour late. I don't they will mind as they now have a 7 hr 25 min flight,
arriving in the early hours of tomorrow morning (now estimated at 04.49) and
are then due to fly up to Mwanza at 06.15 ! Quite a marathon !
Monday 9 February 2015
TK 603 from Istanbul landed at Dar es Salaam at 04.12 local time (3 hours
ahead of us); so, in the end, it was only half an hour late. They did not
have too much time but made it onto the FastJet flight up to Mwanza, an
airline which was founded by Sir Stelios Haji-Iaonnou, the founder of
EasyJet. Mwanza is where Bridge2Aid (the charity they are working for) is
based and where it has a permanent state-of-the-art clinic, which helps to
fund the charitable activities.
Once they arrived in Mwanza they checked into
the Victoria Palace Hotel, from which Liz sent me this photo from her room.
They had a few hours to rest before a briefing session for the leaders, of
which Liz is one, and then an 'orientation' session. Facts emerging from
this session were:
B2A have so far run 66 separate trips with 626
Whilst over there they have treated 29,260
patients but, more importantly, they have trained local doctors who,
between them, are now able to provide dental treatment to over 3 MILLION
people who, previously, would have had to put up with the pain or see the
local witch doctor because.....
..... the ratio of population to dentists in
Tanzania is 300,000:1
Liz met one of the B2A trustees, the ex Head of
UK operations for IBM, who will accompany them to the clinic tomorrow. They
have promised not to make it too gory !
They went out to a Chinese restaurant this
http://www.yunlonghotel.com/ ) and went to bed early as they have to set
off at 06.30 tomorrow. They will catch the ferry across the inlet, South of
Mwanza and then drive 3 hours direct to the remote clinic and will not check
into their hotel in Geita until the evening. I must remember NOT to ask Liz
how the 'holiday' was when she returns ! The other team have a FIVE hour car
Whilst writing this update I have had greetings from a reader
in Utah and from two friends who have just returned from the Cayman Islands,
where they read the first update.
Tuesday 10 February 2015
year Liz's team is based in Geita (see map), a town of about 40,000
inhabitants. The other team is almost diametrically in the other direction
from Mwanza, in the own of Tarime, very close to the border with Kenya. Avid
readers (are there any?) of this blog in previous years may recall that, on
a previous trip, Liz and her team were billeted at the gold mine in Geita,
run by Barrick mining, one of the main sponsors of the charity. This year
they are staying in the Lenny Hotel (see
puts me in mind of Lenny the Lion from children's TV in the 1960s (well,
lions do live in Africa) and the Premier Inn ads with Lenny Henry.
One of their two vehicles made it onto the ferry as the last
to board and so Liz had to wait a while to get across the inlet. They then
drove straight to the clinic in Kharumwa, which is about 55 miles from
Geita, along a well-maintained but non-tarmac road. Whilst there is a
Wikipedia entry for the village, I cannot find much about it on the internet
and Google maps places it in the middle of nowhere, which is, doubtless,
quite accurate !
The clinic is very nice but, as always, there is no running
water and no electricity; even the staff loo is just of the 'squat' variety.
They arrived at about midday and then set up and, after a lunch of chicken
stew, started to train the 6 clinical officers (5 men - 1 woman), who had
spent the morning learning the theory. This is a change to the previous
approach and it is hoped that the juxtaposition of the theory and the
practice will make it more likely that the theory will 'stick'. At one point
they were asked if they would mind if the health centre used the bed in the
corner and a few minutes later someone was having a blood transfusion whilst
they did dentistry around him.
They are being accompanied by Adi, an epidemiologist who is
working with B2A and who was asking the patients a lot of questions.
Liz managed to get through by 'phone and text as the WIFI is
a bit suspect at the hotel; she has received some email and so it must be
intermittent. We were going to try to keep up on Skype but that may not be
possible. The accommodation (as can be seen on the website) is rondavel-type
buildings, each comprising three rooms and Liz said that the first-timers
have been asking if the accommodation is always so nice. If you have read
this blog before then you will know that the answer to that is a big NO !
As always, Liz is on the look-out for wildlife and saw a
grey-headed kingfisher yesterday.
11 February 2015
today to readers in Jamaica, from whom I received an email.
FRUSTRATION REIGNS today as I received only a very brief text from Liz
from the team leader's 'phone as:
a) she cannot
get a signal on hers; and
internet is still down.
this is Africa and that communications are never easy, I am not quite sure
why were encouraged by the fact that the Hotel Lenny advertises that their
Internet Service Provider:
faster and convenient connectivity for effective communication with your
families and friends around the world."
On the back of
that Liz bought a Samsung tablet which she had been hoping to use to take
photos and email through updates; she is, doubtless, extremely
frustrated. Given that they are in quite a major town, I am not sure why her
phone worked yesterday but not today but I hope that normal service will be
Kharumwa today and found that the Health Centre (where they are based) was
actually upgraded to a district hospital in 2011. The only other reference
to the village was, ironically, that the Primary School had won a prize in
2012 in a competition sponsored by a Tanzania company called ChemiCotex -
the manufacturer of Whitedent toothpaste !
I thought that
you might enjoy the picture of the type of kingfisher that they saw in
12 February 2015
I awoke this
morning to find THREE text messages from Liz, actually written last night
but clearly not sent until today. I had texted Brian, the team leader, to
suggest that Liz try changing network but I doubt if that is why she managed
to get through as I would be surprised if there is more than one network !
The local B2A 'fixer', who accompanies them, asked the hotel to reboot the
server but that did no good and so the supplier is coming out today to have
a look at why the internet is not working. As Liz wrote "Don't hold your
They had a busy
day yesterday and saw 80 patients and went to see the District Medical
Officer, who welcomed them in his office at the Health Centre, where they
all signed the visitors book.
They were joined
by Mark Topley, the Chief Executive of the charity, who came out from Mwanza
with his god-daughter, who is helping out at the Hope Dental Centre in
Mwanza for 3 months.
Liz was training
the same Clinical Officer, Lawi who is very keen to learn but Liz said she
was exhausted as he cannot understand English very well and she has to
repeat everything VERY slowly.
Liz phoned today
when they had just got back from the clinic, having seen 108 patients (in
total, not just Liz!)
The idea of the
clinical officers having one hour theory first thing in the morning seems to
be working because it means that, when the team arrive in the mini bus from
Geita, they can immediately put the theory into practice.
The bed in the
corner seems to be multi-use; today it served for blood tests and a bed for
a tired baby. Liz treated one patient who was on a drip as she had malaria
(the patient, not Liz!). Most patients have been in dental pain for over
a year and one woman said it had been going on for FIVE years. Five
HOURS is too long for me! Lots of patients keep being brought past on
stretchers, presumably with malaria or having had some sort of procedure.
is about 300 C (860 F for our readers in the US). Liz
said that finding fresh rat droppings in the toilet was not unexpected but
when they found them in the corner of the sterilisation room that was a
first! I don't think that my line "Don't worry, the snakes will eat the
rats" was particularly well received.
En route to the
clinic they passed through rice fields with scores of egrets. When they got
back to the hotel they found that their laundry had been mixed up; she has
acquired a striped nightie. The plan was to take everything down to dinner
and to swap.
spoken with the general manager of the hotel and the internet cable to the
hotel is down. There are hopes (?) that it may be fixed tomorrow. Just in
case, she is going to take some photos, ready to email them to me.
I passed on
greetings from everyone who has been in contact with me, including her new
boss and some friends who live in Lanzagrotty.
Today I went onto
the B2A website and saw that they have posted a few interviews (see
http://www.bridge2aid.org/news-views/blogs/ ) that were filmed whilst
the team were in Mwanza on Monday. Somehow Liz seems to have escaped being
interviewed, which is a shame. It’s funny seeing people, whom I met at the
airport on Sunday, now on film out there.
Whenever I write the daily updates, it’s hard to conjure up
in words what the routine is like over there, which is why I try to augment
the words with some pictures. The following two pictures, which I have found
on the internet, show:
a street scene in Geita town; and
the road outside of Geita town that they drive along to get
As you can see, it’s not exactly rural Hertfordshire !
Friday 13 February 2015
Yesterday evening I went
out for dinner with our friends, Tony and Janet. Janet grew up in Uganda and
went out to Tanzania with B2A in 2012. Looking at the picture of the roads
she added a new word to my vocabulary, which could come in useful in
Scrabble. That word is ‘murram’ and this is the sort of compacted soil that
is used for the roads – OK until the rainy season !
They finished at Kharumwa today, which Liz says is just as
well as the 1 ½ hours each way along the murram (put to use already) roads
was extremely tiring. The second clinic, thankfully, is only 45 km (28
miles) from Geita.
They saw 111 patients today but sadly had to turn away 25
patients as they ran out of time. I don’t know if any of the clinical
officers are actually based at this clinic but, slowly but surely, B2A is
ensuring that more clinics have doctors who can offer basic dentistry so
that patients do not have to suffer. And suffer they do, if there is no
trained doctor around; they saw one 9-year old boy today who had a swelling
due to a tooth abscess which had not been helped by the fact that the
local witch doctor had tried to lance the abscess by trying, three times, to
cure the problem by puncturing the poor boy’s cheek. Heaven knows what he
used ! Regular readers may recall that, just prior to Liz's first trip, a
witch doctor, rather peeved that his 'turf' was being invaded, had tried to
take out a tooth with a screwdriver, leaving the patient to bleed to death.
The District Dental Office, who is with them, took out the boy's tooth and
gave him some antibiotics to stop the wounds in his cheek from becoming
Liz treated a 14 year-old girl who needed three teeth
extracted. The clinical officer was busy giving a talk to the crowd on oral
hygiene and diet and so the girl’s father, who spoke English, pointed the
hand-held torch into his daughter’s mouth so that Liz could see what she was
doing. He kept asking questions and Liz thinks that will be the end of fizzy
drinks for his daughter !
Lots of potatoes, maize, bananas and loads of mango trees in
flower (cue photo). After the mention of egrets in the paddy fields
yesterday, I also found this photo.
No sign of the internet having been
repaired but Liz was singing the praises of
the hotel, which is easily the best in town. They don’t fancy going out,
though, and trying to find any other WIFI, as the town has a bit of a Wild
West feel about it.
I have had an
email from the Lanzarote Tourist Board (AKA our friends) berating me for calling
the island 'Lanzagrotty'. Apparently they are currently enjoying an
unprecedented effusion of colour as long-buried seeds and bulbs have come
out in flower.
Saturday 14 February 2015
Day ! The lengths that Liz goes to in order to avoid being taken out for a
meal ! Brian, the team leader, has apparently sent his wife a bunch of red
roses - what a romantic !
Today they moved
operations to the Nyang'hwale Health Centre. Nyang'hwale seems to be the
name of the district and so I am not too sure where the clinic is. Liz told
me that the B2A guy has managed to send through some photos of the previous
clinic to the team in Mwanza and I have 'borrowed' one of the photos from
their Facebook page. It could well be the clinical officer giving the talk
to the crowd that I referred to yesterday.
They arrived at the new clinic today to find that there was a
large swarm of bees on one of the walls of the new building in which they
were supposed to be based and so they had to use a different building and
put the tables out on the veranda. Some men arrived to spray the room and
they should be in the main building on Monday (tomorrow is a rest day).
Apparently they are quite aggressive ( one always hears of African 'killer'
bees ) and so it was important not to get anywhere near the swarm.
They saw 72 patients, 5 of whom had travelled from the
previous clinic 35 km away! As always, there was no running water but there
is a well 2 km away and some enterprising boys were running a business,
collecting water from the well. They charged 20p to cycle there and then
walk back with three large containers of water.
Liz treated the
headmaster from the local school, which has 600 pupils. Apparently each
class has over 100 pupils (!) and they are building an extension for the
older children. The government pays for free education up to the age of 15
and then the family somehow has to find the money for 6th form. Liz was
training Jacob today, who has two daughters, both of who are training to be
She also treated a lady who fell over 6 months ago and broke
her arm. She could not get to a hospital and there was nobody to set the arm
properly and so it healed at an odd angle, making it very difficult for her.
The next time I find myself waiting at the surgery or in A+E in Stevenage, I
will try and bear her in mind.
She has given up ever being able to use her tablet to
communicate; at least she can read books on it !
They visit the
local market tomorrow; I must try and find a suitable picture.
Sunday 15 February 2015
found this picture of Geita market - not exactly Tesco but then they're
probably not having to close down stalls and I'm sure that their profits
were not misstated by £250 million !
One reader wrote
to me yesterday to suggest that The Sterile Room Rat Droppings
really ought to be the name of a heavy metal band.
By the way, it's
TEN years now since founders, Ian and Andie Wilson, opened the Hope Dental
Centre in Mwanza and the first team of volunteers went out to train Clinical
Officers. They have now returned to the UK and champion the cause from here.
Ian will, doubtless, be hoping that Sunderland defeat Bradford in the FA Cup
Spoke to Liz
just after she had got back from a swim in the hotel pool (described as
being 'enormous' on the web site), where a party was going on with a
thudding disco. They were probably the first white people ever to have swum
in the pool.
It is overcast
now and about to rain but they managed to get out to the local market this
morning which has loads of pineapples, bananas and avocados, although Liz
has not seen any of the latter growing. She managed to resist buying more
garish African batik-patterned material but Su had succumbed.
I have just been
contacted by Katie, the sister of Debbie, one of the nurses in Geita. She is
reading the blog in that most exotic of locations, Birmingham. Do get in
touch as always welcome feedback.
Oh dear, looks
like Sunderland are out of the FA Cup !
Monday 16 February 2015
evening I went down to the local Health Club (no, really, there's no need to
applaud). Someone had left the poolside shower running for a few minutes.
Mindful of the blog entry for Saturday, I wondered how many return trips to
the Nyang'hwale well that would equate to !
the B2A website I found this picture of Liz treating a patient at the first
clinic. Liz is wearing some scrubs that she had made from batik material
that she bought on a previous trip - very fetching! This must have been
taken before the battery ran out on her head-torch. Typically, when they're
not actually working out on the veranda, they try and get as close to the
window as they can as, clearly, there is no electricity and hence no lights
in the clinic.
Today was REALLY hot, particularly for the nurses in the
sterilisation room. They were in the main building today (without the bees!)
but this has a corrugated iron roof which merely traps the heat. They were
also out on the veranda, which was slightly cooler. One patient nearly
fainted as he had not eaten for two days because of toothache and then had
walked for an hour to the clinic in the sun !
The clinical officers had their examination today and the
team will decide tomorrow who passes and who has to re-sit.
They treated 102 patients today; it was mother-and-baby
clinic day and so there were lots of cute babies. Lots of the mothers
arrived on bicycles that would make Boris bikes look positively sporty. They
had to help one woman as she was trying to pump up a tyre with her baby
trapped to her back.
went onto the B2A site and found this picture, taken at the first clinic, of
one of the nurses (sorry, I don't know her name) with one of the younger
Lunch today was
provided by local people and was an excellent chicken stew with bananas,
spinach and roast potatoes.
clinic is so much nearer, they got back early and managed to cool off in the
pool (is this a B2A first!) floating around in rubber rings.
As I was sitting
on the train at King's Cross this evening, I got an email from Elaine
Gaffney, who is on the other team at Tarime, near the Kenya border. She had
finally managed to get internet access. All seems to be well with them,
although the hotel was described as Okay.... ish !
Tuesday 17 February 2015
Late yesterday evening
I received an email from Judy Beckerson, veteran (meant in the sense of
'long-serving') of many previous B2A trips to Tanzania with Liz and others.
She sends her regards to the teams in Tarime and Geita and I will pass on
greetings to Liz, when we speak tomorrow.
Today we welcome readers in Marrakech, Morocco,
where two friends from church are souking up some winter sunshine (no that
was NOT a typo).
I sent a request to Liz for a theme for today’s
photo and she mentioned the many 'bicycle taxis' that pervade the streets of
Geita; essentially a large cushion on the rear luggage rack (see left)
Liz supervised Paulo today and was pleased to
report that all she had to do was to hold the torch whilst he did all of the
work. In fact all of the Clinical Officers (COs) passed their exams. With an
average of 10,000 patients per CO, that means another 60,000 people who will
now have access to basic dental treatment. Clearly, given the lack of
running water and electricity in the clinics, this treatment will be limited
to extractions and oral hygiene but this is a major step forward,
considering the ‘alternative’ treatments offered by the witch doctors.
Today they saw
98 patients and Paulo alone saw 15. The AVERAGE time that patients had been
in pain worked out at about FOUR YEARS ! They had to put off 30 patients who
will come back tomorrow.
across the road in front of the jeep and Liz saw some black-headed herons
(below). All of the mimosa trees are in flower, which is pretty.
they were in Geita, waiting in the Jeep, a man offered 100 cattle to buy
Rachel, one of the nurses – no offers, though, for either Liz or Su !
This evening, as it is to be Brian’s last trip with B2A, they
are planning a surprise for him..
If you get the chance, do read the report on the Geita
clinics by B2A's Chief Executive Officer, Mark Topley, which, inter alia,
has a photo of Su !
morning I received positive feedback from a reader in Palo Alto in
California; interesting to see who is out there reading it !
I had just decided that today’s ‘local colour’ photo would be
one of the Busisi-Kikongo ferry (pictured here) when I received a text from
Liz saying that she was waiting in the queue of vehicles to get on board the
ferry. Today, after presenting the COs with their certificates, they said
goodbye to the clinic and to the Geita area and made their way back to
In total, during their time at the two clinics, they treated
568 patients but – MUCH more importantly – they left a legacy of 6 Clinical
Officers who now know how to extract teeth, and have the equipment to do so,
and can give instruction on basic oral hygiene, as well as knowing when to
refer patients to the Hope Dental Centre in Mwanza.
They arrived back in Mwanza and checked into the Isamilo
Lodge (www.isamilolodge.com) where they met up with the members of the team
from Tarime. As usual, they then had a Thank You meal in the evening. Some
of them (not Liz and Su, this year) will have to be up at 06.00 tomorrow
morning to go off on their mini-safari in the Serengeti for two nights.
Liz managed to Skype me later in the evening and it was odd
to see her (lightly tanned) in the lobby of the hotel. She managed send me a
few photos as well, now that she has internet access. Click on any pf these
below to enlarge. She had been keen to send me a picture of the motorbike
She gave her clogs to one of the COs, Mbuke, to work in and
also passed on some old scrubs. Seen in one of the photos are Jacob and
Shaban, with the new kit they have each been given by B2A.
They could not see all of the patients but Jacob, who is
based in a clinic (only!) 20 km away, will see those who can make it to his
they had the formal de-brief session and the two teams can compare their
experiences. I see, from the B2A website, that one of the COs in Tarime
failed, which shows, as always, that this is no rubber-stamp exercise and
that the charity takes the transfer of knowledge extremely seriously. As
Brian, the leader of the Geita team, left at 06.00 to go on the mini-safari,
he left copious notes with Liz.
At 12.50 they
take the FastJet flight from Mwanza to Dar, where they will check into an
airport hotel for a few hours as the flight to Istanbul is not until 04.35
tomorrow morning. I am not quite sure why they didn't get the later flight
at 17.00 but, whichever way, they were destined to have a long lay-over in
Dar, not Liz's favourite city ! I have calculated that the elapsed time,
from the hotel in Mwanza to home, will be 33 hours !
FORGET THE PREVIOUS ENTRY
is NOT one that I had envisaged posting, namely the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul
blanketed in snow. Yes, Istanbul was hit yesterday/today by a snowstorm that
shut the airport, causing Turkish Airlines to cancel over 370 flights,
including yesterday's flight to Dar.
has just left, some 2 hours late and so, if they also then leave 2 hours
late, they will miss the connection to LHR at Istanbul on the way back. I
have spoken to Liz a couple of times to update her as it is easier for me to
find out the information. If they can change flights then they will
not now arrive at LHR until very late tomorrow evening, but more snow is
forecast in Istanbul, that well-know ski resort ! Adds a whole new meaning
to the phrase 'cold turkey'.
On top of this
she is feeling unwell and she reports that it might be cheaper to buy shares
in the company that manufactures Immodium !
Liz emailed me
at 21.40 (00.40 out there) to say that they were just going off to the
airport to see what the airline can do for them; presumably they will get
them back to Istanbul on the flight they are due to be on. It will then just
be a case of when they can get on a flight back to Heathrow.
flight FROM Istanbul landed at Dar at 05.02 local time (02.01 GMT).
It looks as if
they turned it around super-fast and it took off again at 06.21 (03.21 GMT)
which is pretty amazing.
It is now due to
land in Istanbul at 12.22 and the flight to LHR is scheduled to depart at
13.00. I did not receive any communication and assume that they are on
board. ..... WATCH THIS SPACE !
They landed at
13.16 local time, which must mean that they were circling for an hour !
The updated time
for the flight from Istanbul to Heathrow shows that it pushed back at 13.56
and so I assume that it waited for passengers to transfer from the inbound
flight. Unfortunately, I will now need to check with the airline.
I checked with
Turkish Airlines and they advised me that Liz was on the plane to Heathrow.
Imagine my surprise, therefore, when she 'phoned me to say
that she was in a chaotic terminal at Istanbul surrounded by lots of VERY
angry people. She has no idea when they will be able to get back but doubts
very much if it will be today !
Liz phoned to
say that they have managed to get on the last flight to Heathrow tonight at
20.15. This lands at 22.15 and so, by reckoning, by the time that they get
home, it will be about 40 hours since they left the hotel in Mwanza. Mind
you, I have just been in touch with the B2A CEO and he says that one his
friends, who left Mwanza on Tuesday, is only due to get home later today !
Liz's call reminded me of the last helicopter evacuation flight to leave
Saigon in 1975.
Liz texted me at
20.08 (18.08 GMT) to say that she is now on board the plane. She also
said that she thinks they have been quite lucky (the delay is, in fact, only
7 hours) as they have been overhearing some real horror stories.
The plane pushed
back at 21.06 (almost an hour late) and is due to arrive at Terminal Two at
22.26 and so it will, doubtless, be tomorrow when they actually