Part 2: September 2023 (update)
Bridge to Health had a successful and very fulfilling outreach to the Kalangala District of Uganda on Lake Victoria this past July.
During this recent mission, Bridge to Health's dedicated team collaborated closely with Ugandan dental officers, and an assembly of volunteers. Following a three-year period marked by the constraints of the pandemic, this initiative marked a triumphant return to the field, allowing Bridge to Health to continue its important work.
Looking ahead, Bridge to Health has plans to retrace their steps, with an upcoming mission scheduled for February 2024 in the Kalangala area of Uganda, as well as a return to the Kisumu district in Kenya.
The outreach in Kalangala, Uganda will run from February 1-14, 2024 and the outreach to Kisumu, Kenya will run from February 18-29, 2024.
For more information, please contact Rayharna at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Cole shared some updated photos from his July 2023 outreach trip.
Part 1: June 2023
After several visits to Uganda and Kenya, hundreds of volunteer hours, and countless dental procedures performed for free, Dr. Brian Cole believes he gets more from his work helping patients in these countries than he gives — and he gives a lot.
“What we get back when we volunteer abroad is every bit as rewarding as it is important. It can change the lives of others and alter your perspective on work, life and health forever.” says the retired family dentist, who is based in Elmvale, Ontario.
He’s referring to the volunteer work that he does alongside the team at Bridge to Health, a registered charity founded in Toronto in 2012 that provides sustainable, cost-effective health care through educational programs, clinical service provision and medical devices that are relevant and appropriate for the needs of the community.
For volunteers from all walks of professional life, there are many reasons to share knowledge and provide care to people in need throughout the world.
Health is a powerful gift
Some people take time off to volunteer outside their profession, as a way to take a break from the pressures of everyday life. Others, like Dr. Cole, see volunteering as an opportunity to share the gift they have been given through their training and experience.
“There’s a comfort level that comes with knowing exactly what I need to do when I arrive in a place like Uganda or Kenya,” he says. “The hard work of setting up a temporary practice and coordinating the movement of thousands of people is done by the incredible volunteers. I simply show up and get to work. I can’t imagine a better way to put my knowledge to work so quickly.”
Dr. Brian Cole treating a child in a remote Bridge to Health office in Uganda. Photo credit: Dr. Brian Cole 2018.
The emotional rewards of giving
When Dr. Cole says that he receives more from his patients than they receive from him, he’s talking about the long-term emotional rewards of volunteering. Apart from the obvious impact that volunteer organizations make in the moment, there are lasting effects that have the power to change lives and perspectives forever. They include:
Improved mental health
Healthcare workers deal with all kinds of pressure on the job. Dentists are responsible for running a business, leading teams, and managing the finances. Volunteering at home or abroad creates the opportunity to step outside the daily routine while continuing to do valuable and important work. It can reduce stress and anxiety and helps combat depression by shifting focus away from professional stressors. And it’s a good reminder of why you chose to practise a caring profession.
Dr. Brian Cole and a local Kenyan dental officer after a day’s work near Kisumu, Kenya.
Many aspects of health care can be taken for granted in fortunate and wealthy nations such as Canada. One of the things that never ceases to humble Dr. Cole and the team of volunteers by his side is the outpouring of gratitude from the families who receive treatment. “It’s a reminder of how precious a gift we’re given as healers and the social responsibility that comes with the job.”
Volunteer work, particularly abroad, brings the value of health care into sharper focus and can renew a sense of purpose long after the volunteer has returned home. For professionals who build in time for compassionate work and share their knowledge with peers, the rejuvenating effects can make a world of difference. The simple act of exchanging knowledge is one way to extend the impact of the volunteer experience.
Are you ready to lend a hand?
Planning to volunteer abroad is easier when you know how to cover routine expenses and keep your business running while you’re away. Your CDSPI team can help you with advice* about taking a one-time or annual break by adjusting your financial plan well in advance and ensuring you’re protected while away from home. We’re ready when you are.
- It’s always the right time.
If you wait until all the bills are paid and the chores are complete, you’ll never get outside of the day-to-day grind. Volunteering helps to energize, recharge and shift your perspective – all valuable traits to help you manage your practice better.
- Do it for your health.
The emotional rewards of volunteering as a dentist abroad are in direct proportion to the amount of hard work you put into it.
- Find the right fit.
Anyone can change the world but it’s a lot easier when you surround yourself with like-minded people with whom you can collaborate.
- Start where you are.
While trips abroad are exciting, local communities in Canada may also need your help. Consider volunteering in remote or underserved communities with limited access to dental care.