Sita Gurung, Denise Attwood, Ric Conner (Ganesh Himal Trading)
The Story of the Baseri Health Clinic, Baseri Nepal
How does a small, locally owned, grassroots health clinic in Nepal get a start! Here’s the story of how the clinic in Baseri Nepal did!
Denise and Ric (of Ganesh Himal Trading) met Sita Gurung in 1984 while they were trekking through her remote village of Baseri, Nepal. She was 14 at the time! Sita was an enthusiastic girl in the village who walked long hours to get an education. They became lifelong friends. Over time all of them dreamed together of someday building a clinic in Sita’s village where there had never been any healthcare before. In 2006 Sita’s mother, Ama Gurung and Denise’s good friend Dr. Marilyn Ream both passed away. Their lives and memory gave Sita and Denise the inspiration to pursue that dream. 24 years after their initial meeting in Baseri they decided it was time to build a clinic!
In the fall of 2007 Sita went back to her village of Baseri in the mountainous region of NW Nepal and met with the village leaders. She asked them if they were interested in helping to create a clinic. The villagers were thrilled with the prospect of having their first health clinic ever! They formed their own non-profit, donated community land for the clinic and agreed to donate time and labor to help build it. The team was forming!
In the spring of 2008 Sita and Denise held the first fundraiser in Spokane and raised the money to start the construction. Carol Schillios, of the Fabric of Life Foundation, who works with women in Mali met with Sita and Denise, discussed the project and lovingly agreed to have the Fabric of Life Foundation became the home of the Baseri Clinic funds!
In the meantime, the villagers chose a site that they felt was accessible to everyone in the surrounding area and started building in the fall of 2008. They agreed that they wanted this clinic to be available to anyone who needed help and that they would not turn anyone away. They designed a 4 room, one story building in the traditional architecture of the village and located a local water source. Trees were cut from their local community forest and milled by hand. Slate for the roof was cut from a nearby quarry (all by hand). By the spring of 2009 they were able to construct the main shell of the structure.
Over the summer of 2009 the villagers were busy planting and harvesting their local crops of millet, barley, corn and rice. Sita and I were busy planning out the future staffing of the clinic as well as where to source electricity (the village of Baseri has none). Sita and I dreamed of finding a local woman to staff the clinic. We wanted to find a woman who could be a mentor to young girls in the area. Remarkably, just as we were investigating the staffing, a Spokane family approached Denise about helping the clinic. They wanted to help with finding qualified permanent medical staff. Sita knew of a young woman from Baseri who had dreamed of being a nurse but couldn’t afford the tuition. The Spokane family jumped at the chance to fund her training. So, Nisha Gurung, a Baseri village girl, applied for and was one of 4 rural Nepali’s accepted to the field nursing program at the National Medical College in Birgunj, Nepal. She started the demanding 3 year program in the fall of 2009 and Sita visited her at the college soon after. Nisha has been a star student and will be finished with her program this fall, 2012. When Nisha finishes she will be qualified to do minor surgery, maternal and infant health care and primary medicine and at that time she will become the lead medical personnel for the clinic. She is thrilled since this has been her life long goal and she never dreamed she would have the money to complete the schooling!
While Nisha has been in college, a local man, who was a medic in the Nepal Army and worked for 10 years in the Army hospital in Kathmandu, has filled the position of medical personnel for the clinic. In 2009 he come to Kathmandu to meet with Sita’s friend Dr. Holly Murphy, an Infectious Disease Specialist, who is working in CIWEC Canadian clinic in Kathmandu. Holly worked with him to make lists of the supplies of medicines necessary for the village clinic and to make sure that everything needed would be ready for the clinic opening.
Also in the summer of 2009, Sita was busy with a fundraiser in Seattle that raised money specifically for the solar, toilet and water systems for the clinic. The fundraiser was sponsored by the Living Earth Institute in Seattle http://living-earth.org/ and raised almost $5,000 for the clinic. There was a fantastic program of traditional singing and dancing by Sita and others and many members of the Nepal Seattle Society came to support the clinic. Sita, contributes the proceeds from her traditional Nepali music CDS to the clinic project. With this money we were able to fund a solar panel, five small tube lights (the first light in Baseri!), a battery, the design and installation of a toilet system, a 5000 liter water tank and piping and have them installed in the clinic.
The building was completed in the winter of 2010 and then a grand opening ceremony was scheduled for February. Sita, Denise, Ric and Cameron were all able to make their way to Baseri for the grand opening. Two other Nepali’s, Harimaya Gurung and Dhane Gurung, who have been instrumental in the construction of the clinic were also able to attend. The grand opening ceremony was held on February 26, 2010 with all of the villagers turning out and much music and fanfare and a ribbon cutting ceremony!
On February 28 the first 35 people came to receive care! By Sept 29, 2010 1600 patients (an average of 10 people a day) had been seen at the clinic for everything from maternal health care issues to burns, breaks and intestinal disorders. As of Feb 2011 over 3600 had been served! They have been able to save 3 peoples lives, one pregnant mother and child and one very dehydrated young boy! The clinic is supplied with basic lab testing facilities for urine and blood tests an otoscope for ear infections, stethoscopes, a blood pressure cuff, thermometer, and saline iv drip system.
News travels fast in the remote areas of Nepal and now people living in even more remote areas than Baseri have heard of the clinic and are coming seeking primary care treatment. It is obvious from the popularity of the clinic that we will need to increase the staffing so in the spring of 2012 we hired a young woman of Baseri as a part time assistant to help with record keeping. Our next steps will be to explore funding for 2 full time medical staff people. The clinic charges cost for medicine and a small fee for those who can afford it and a bank account has been opened in a nearby village. Their goal is to be able to replenish their medical supplies with the funds that they receive. The villagers of Baseri take part in the care and upkeep of the facilities. Our organization has agreed to pay for the staffing.
In the summer of 2011, Greg Starling, a board member of the The Nepalese Women’s Health Foundation contacted Denise about their interest in helping to fund women’s health care at the clinic. Sita met with their board member Dr. Devi Dawady, and they agreed to fund specific women’s health care issues at the clinic for $1000 for 3 years. With the first $1000 granted we have been able to create 1) an emergency fund for pregnant women who may need emergency transport to Kathmandu, 2) purchase prenatal vitamins that are made available to all pregnant women who come to the clinic free of charge and 3) begin to explore hiring a teacher for an adult women’s literacy program at the clinic.
At present, in the summer of 2012, the clinic is serving on average 10-15 people per day. Last February Sita went to the clinic twice and held meetings with the village board, the medic and the village people in an effort to determine how to make the clinic more effective and self-sustaining. Great progress was made and the village board is taking on more responsibilities. Records are being kept of the illnesses treated and medicines distributed, vitamins are being distributed to women who are pregnant and much more.
Sita has been working hard to put a strong foundation in place by talking with the village committee members and organizing a plan for the future and her hard work is paying off! The clinic is truly growing from the ground up! In September of 2012 when Nisha graduates from nursing school Sita has arranged for her to attend a 3 month training in intensive care at the Dhulikhel teaching hospital in Kathmandu. When she is finished she will return to Baseri and become their lead caregiver! The first woman health care provider in the first clinic in Baseri! A dream come true!
Nisha has decided that she would like to live at the clinic so our next phase for fundraising is to raise $2500 to build a 4 room addition to the clinic. Two rooms for Nisha and two rooms that we can use for guest physicians, health care educators and perhaps women’s literacy or economic development groups in the future. This project will hopefully be completed this fall.
On this journey we have had incredible help from many different people. We have one 5 year old who raised over $70 selling bracelets he made and 10 year old twins who asked people to donate to the clinic for their birthday present. A 90+ year old man, Mr. Biele, who is a friend of Sita’s has been a great supporter and has donated more than $10,000. There are dozens of others who have given generously to this dream. This clinic is dedicated to the memory of two amazing women who have held the light aloft for many of us to follow in their service and love of humankind. Aama Gurung, Sita’s mother, was a kind and powerful woman who is from the village of Baseri and led by example. She gave Sita the opportunity to become the first female to have a high school education in the area. Aama Gurung instilled great faith and humanity in all she encountered. Dr. Marilyn Ream, a physician in Spokane who worked in many rural clinics throughout the world was bursting at the seams with compassion and love. Both were amazing healers in their own way and a huge inspiration to others.
Aama and Marilyn inspired this dream and so many of our friends have worked to make it come true! Thanks to everyone who has helped. We’ll keep you posted along the way!
If you would like to make a donation:
For online donations, visit http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/denise-attwood/besarihealthclinicold
To make a donation by check, please make the check payable to “The Fabric of Life Foundation” and send to the address below. Please write Nepal/Besari clinic on the memo line.
The Fabric of Life Foundation
PO Box 547
Edmonds, WA 98020
Please write Nepal/Besari clinic on the memo line