The SeaFit and SmilesAtSea partnership has been shortlisted in the Project of the Year category in the Third Sector Business Charity Awards.

This prestigious award recognises outstanding partnerships between UK businesses and good causes. SmilesAtSea, initiated by Smile Together Dental CIC, is a partner of the SeaFit programme. Together they have been offering free dental check-ups and emergency treatment to fishing communities from a mobile dental unit located on or near harboursides in Cornwall and Devon.

The SmilesAtSea tour was started by Smile Together in 2017, gained funding from the Seafarers’ Hospital Society in 2018, and was then adopted and expanded by the UK-wide SeaFit programme. Last year’s tour was the most successful yet, covering nine fishing ports in three weeks and treating 173 members of the fishing community.

SeaFit project delivery manager Carol Elliott said: “We’re delighted to have been shortlisted in recognition of the invaluable support we are providing to fishermen. Sadly, there won’t be an awards ceremony this year because of the coronavirus, but it doesn’t detract from the excitement for us and our partners.”

Finding an NHS dentist is a challenge for many people, especially those in rural communities such as Cornwall and Devon. In Cornwall alone, around 25,000 people are on the NHS dental waiting list. If you’re a fisherman and working at sea, it’s even more difficult to make and keep appointments, which is why the SmilesAtSea project set out to provide free dental checks and emergency treatment for local fishermen and their families where it’s convenient for them – right at the harbourside.

The SmilesAtSea programme is hoping its next tour can go ahead in September.

The SmilesAtSea programme is hoping its next tour can go ahead in September.

Joy Callender from Smile Together has led the SmilesAtSea project delivery since its inception. She said: “This is such a great accolade, which follows hot on the heels of us winning the national Dental Awards 2019 for Best Outreach or Charity Initiative. As a community interest company, our team is passionate about reaching even further into our communities, and this amazing partnership project enables us to make a difference to those who rarely get to see a dentist due to the demands of their work – in 2018, 70% of those we saw hadn’t seen a dentist for at least five years. Last year this number reduced, because the fishermen had been to see us the previous year!”

In the short term, Covid-19 has put a stop to upcoming SeaFit events, but it is hoped that SmilesAtSea 2020 will be late enough in the year to go ahead. “Our next tour has been provisionally planned for September, and we are hoping we will once again be able to support fishermen on the quaysides,” explained Carol.

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