Last year our founder Selam Kifle moved back to Ethiopia. This brought with it both excitement and challenge. Splitting up the organization’s leadership across thousands of miles and many time zones came with headaches and re-adjustment. But putting Selam’s vision and passion to work on-site at the Richard Oslund Memorial Clinic (ROMC) accelerated progress towards opening a full-time clinic. Her bold move was critical to achieving this major goal.
Selam hit the ground running when in October, 2010, not long after her arrival, the ROMC began regularly scheduled clinic hours. The clinic opened, providing basic first aid, limited infection treatment, limited vaccines, well child check-ups, contraception and health training to the surrounding community. Opening the clinic for regularly scheduled hours was a major milestone for ROMC.
I had an opportunity to visit Ethiopia in February 2011. We do our best to maintain communications across the continents, but nothing can substitute for being there in person. During my visit, I observed the clinic in operation, visited with families in their homes, and attended meetings between the BNCO and the government.
About two dozen local residents attended the day clinic at ROMC and received health care consultation during my visit. An upset stomach, skin abrasions, and tooth decay were a few of the medical issues presented, with a handful of vaccinations rounding out the clinic day.
The orphans and caregivers welcomed Selam and me into their homes. I asked them questions about themselves as well as how they were making financial ends meet. They described situations where caregivers performed hard manual labor such as carrying wood, bricks, or rocks for about US$1.00 per day or US$30 per month. If a caregiver is fortunate to have a partner who also earns US$30, that US$60 covers the cost of basic food for a family of five. Of course, not every caregiver has a partner despite supporting a family of five or more. One woman we met was supporting eight children. None of the eight children were her own but were children of her sisters, brothers, or neighbors. Other living expenses, including rent, transportation and medicine, often exceed most caregivers’ monthly income. The need is so great.
I had an opportunity to join Sisay, BNCO’s government liason, for a meeting at two different Ethiopian government agencies. With the government, we discussed the plan for continued free land use by BNCO. The ROMC land was generously donated by the Ethiopian government on the condition that the ROMC upgrade services from a low-level clinic to a medium-level clinic within a year of opening. Selam and the BNCO board worked together to develop and execute an upgrade plan.
The upgrade plan had to meet the needs of the Ethiopian community and the Ethiopian government while ensuring fiscal responsibility in spending the funds donated by generous BNCO supporters. A doctor, three nurse midwives on rotation, a druggist, a lab technician, support staff, as well as beds, chairs, an autoclave, and other medical supplies were budgeted. The upgrade plan included health and nutrition education, family planning, immunization, patient and community health data collection and maternal and new born care. Based on our calculations, the clinic requires approximately US$2000/month to operate at this level. Fundraising is the primary source of income to financially support the clinic. Your donations are greatly appreciated and critically needed.
Although it took slightly more than a year, and included more than a few hiccups, we achieved this critical goal of certification to operate at a Medium level. This status ensures that BNCO will continue to be able to use the land on which ROMC is built. We are grateful to the Ethiopian government for providing us use of the land, and look forward to future collaborations.
We are now planning the next BNCO fundraiser, which will be on March 3rd 2012 in Bloedel Hall at St. Mark’s Cathedral. We hope you plan to attend. Proceeds will support our operations in Ethiopia. Mark your calendars, and watch for more details as we get closer. We look forward to seeing you there. Thank you.
BNCO Board President