Narrow road, burnt grass, full load. We breathed a sigh of relief as our small pickup arrived at Cet Kana, laden with all things required to start a new health clinic. The place is gorgeous, with one of the better views in Gulu overlooking thousands of palm trees on an open, sparsely populated plain. The clinic is next to the current and future church. Current is a skeleton of palm tree timbers, covered every Sunday with tarpaulins. Future is the brick building, with half-walls only.
We were a bit shocked to find that the rooms hadn’t been opened for months. After thirty minutes of sweeping and rearranging, Felix our nurse, and Fiona our assistant co-ordinator unpacked the drugs and equipment. Desks and chairs were moved into the clinic room. The blood pressure machine was unboxed. Within a couple of hours, two dusty unused rooms had been transformed into a nice wee health clinic.
There are two big advantages to the health clinic location.The church owns the building so we don’t pay rent The Pastor and other church members have already been involved in weekly family planning clinics run from the building, so the church/health connection is already rolling.
But we are yet to see whether this will fly. Are there enough people in the area to justify a clinic (my biggest concern)? Can adults afford the 2500 Ugandan shillings (1 New Zealand dollar) we are asking to treat a child? Or the 5000 shillings (you do the math) to treat an adult? Can our nurse juggle the responsibilities of organising the facility, seeing patients and managing the money? After 3 months we’ll have some idea. After 6 months we’ll make the decision whether to continue or not. Taking a risk like this isn’t easy on the nerves, as it’s a big money and time investment. I keep reminding myself that even if the clinic “fails” to become sustainable, we still will have treated around 1000 patients more efficiently than most NGOs could manage. I also can’t help thinking that Jesus is into this kind of risk.
And its exciting. Seeing the first child handed over to nurse Felix to test for malaria was a small victory in itself. I’ll keep you updated with how things are tracking.
We are starting up 3 clinics like this with money already raised, and are aiming to start 2 more. If you’re keen to donate money towards starting the last 2, then message me at ugandapanda.com/contact-us/
A huge thanks to those of you in New Zealand, Australia and beyond who made this possible. You know who you are.