A Springwood dentist recently returned from the Democratic Republic of Congo armed with plans for a new training facility that could cost up to $1 million.
Graham Toulmin has been a regular visitor to the troubled African nation for more than 20 years, helping to build three dental clinics in an effort to improve the lives of people in the world’s poorest country.
A further trip in March involved in depth discussions and planning with local authorities over the need for a training institute to support the exisiting clinics. But Dr Toulmin’s most difficult challenge is now to secure the funding from Anglican Aid to begin the project.
While $1 million would allow completion of the project in its entirety, Dr Toulmin, recognising the difficulty of securing such a large grant, said work could begin for as little as $50,000.
He said the Congolese authorities had shown a great deal of excitement about what the training facility could do for their country.
“The Congolese know that they’re on the bottom of the barrel; life has been tough for them for a lot of decades . . . But now, since 2004 there’s this sense of optimism . . . There seems to be a feeling that the hope is in the youth and people just want life to get better,” he said.
“So the place is moving ahead . . . If we get in now and start this training course, they are really happy for anyone to help the country.”
With the ability of the Congolese to remain so positive despite the difficult hand they’ve been dealt, Dr Toulmin said it was always a pleasure to return. He said he was so familiar with the people and the conditions that it almost felt like home.
“They’re an absolute hoot,” said Dr Toulmin. “They do it tough, but they’re always laughing. People are happy and it’s just a great place to be.”
Dr Toulmin expects to learn in May whether his application to Anglican Aid has been successful. For more information, visit dentalsafariafrica.blogspot.com.au.