A MAN who left North Yorkshire for West Africa to help alleviate the acute shortage of dentists has been recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.
In 2017, Simon and Grace Stretton-Downes headed to Liberia, a country which has only a handful of qualified dentists to cope with a population of 4.5 million people.
Having qualified as a dentist 38 years ago, Mr Stretton-Downes was previously at Malpas House Dental Practice in Northallerton.
Since his move he has worked in the Trinity Dental Clinic, part of ELWA (Extreme Love Wins Africa) in Monrovia, the country’s capital. As a trained nurse, Mrs Stretton-Downes works alongside her husband supporting medical staff and patients.
Mr Stretton-Downes is also training dentist practitioners to work in the clinic, and regularly travels to other hospitals and medical centres in the region.
Although their home is an idyllic location at the edge of Atlantic Ocean, the couple do not receive a salary but rely on voluntary support from friends and organisations.
Previously the couple were active members of St. Gregory’s Church, Crakehall which also supports their work. They have previously served in Ethiopia for nine years.
Last week it was announced that Mr Stretton-Downes was made an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours. When the email arrived several weeks ago, he thought it was a scam.
However, his wife had been aware of the honour for some time and reassured her husband it was genuine. At some point the couple will make a well-earned a trip to Buckingham Palace to meet the Queen.
The citation reads: “Dr Simon Stretton-Downes lead dental surgeon, Trinity Dental Clinic, Eternal Love Winning Africa (ELWA) Hospital, Liberia. For services to dentistry in Africa, particularly in Liberia.”
Serving in Mission UK director, Steve Smith said: “This is a wonderful honour and Simon deserves his OBE for the amazing work he is doing in dentistry at ELWA.”
To support them, or for more information on the couple’s work visit www.simonandgracestretton-downes–SIM UK/