The Besari Clinic
Denise and Ric 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 and immediately they became fast friends. Over time they dreamed together of someday building a clinic in her village where there had never been any healthcare before. When Sita’s mother, Ama Gurung passed in June of 2006 and Denise’s good friend Dr. Marilyn Ream passed in July of 2006 their memory gave Sita and Denise the inspiration to pursue that dream. Now 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 and met with the village leaders in the area of Besari, in the mountainous region of Northwest Nepal to talk about creating a clinic. The villagers were thrilled with the prospect of having their first health clinic ever! They were so interested in the idea that they formed their own non-profit, donated community land for the clinic and agreed to donate time and labor to helping build it. In the spring of 2008 Sita and Denise held a fundraiser at Denise’s parent’s house in Spokane and raised the initial money to start the construction. Denise contacted a friend of hers, Carol Schillios, who has a foundation for her work with women in Mali and asked if her foundation would be the umbrella 501©3 for the clinic so that donations would be tax deductible. Carol met with Sita and 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 preferred a woman who could be a mentor to young girls in the area. Remarkably, just as we were investigating the staffing, the Michalko family in Spokane approached Denise about helping the clinic and their main interest was in helping to find a permanent staff. Sita then was able to find a young woman from Baseri who had dreamed of being a nurse but couldn’t afford the tuition. The Michalko’s 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. In 2009 Sita visited Nisha’s college and was very impressed with the facilities. This program is a demanding 3 year program which will be finished in the fall of 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! In the interim a local man who was a medic in the Nepal Army and worked for 10 years in the Army hospital in Kathmandu has agreed to fill in as the medical personnel. Sita had the medic 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 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. Also two other people, Harimaya Gurung and Dhane Gurung, who had been instrumental to 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) have been seen at the clinic for everything from maternal health care issues to burns, breaks and intestinal disorders. 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 our next steps will be to create funding for 2 full time medical staff people and perhaps one part time assistant. The villagers have agreed to take on trying to keep the clinic stocked with medicines and the care and upkeep of the facilities. We have agreed to pay for the staffing.
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 who is a friend of Sita’s has been a great supporter and dozens of others 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. Amma Gurung instilled great faith and humanity in all she encountered. Dr. Marilyn Ream, a physician in Spokane who worked in many rural clinics was bursting at the seams with compassion and love. Both were amazing healers in their own way.