Bulamu Healthcare International
Bulamu Healthcare is a San Francisco-area based non-profit that was founded in 2015 to provide primary medical care to the rural poor in Uganda. Bulamu has developed a uniquely cost-effective service delivery model, operating week-long “pop-up” medical camps that bring modern medical diagnosis and treatment to Ugandans lacking access to the most basic healthcare services. Bulamu’s first camp, in April 2016, treated 1800 Ugandans, the second in August 2016 served 2900 patients, and the third in February 2017 treated 4800 patients. Meanwhile, the average cost has dropped from $10 to $6 per patient served. Treatments offered include initial diagnosis, dispensing antibiotics and other meds, screening for cancer, performing outpatient surgery, providing health education lectures, and making direct referrals to the regional hospital for more serious cases.
The Bulamu model is so efficient because we are hiring local doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and technicians at wages of $10-22 per day for each camp. That team is leveraged with 10-15 U.S. Peace Corps volunteers, dentists and Western doctors willing to help, Christian pastors for counseling, and local village residents who set up and take down the tents, tables, and chairs. Bulamu also has a joint venture with the government-operated Mbarara Regional Referral Hospital to provide free cervical cancer screening both at the hospital and at one day outreach clinics in the surrounding area.
Bulamu (which means “well-being” in the local language of Luganda) was launched due to a chance encounter between the two co-founders. Gerald Atwine, 39, was born and raised in Uganda, the youngest of ten children in a rural town. His father, a high school teacher turned business man, was shot and killed during the brutal regime of the infamous Idi Amin when Gerald was only 9 months old. His mother, widowed and illiterate, somehow successfully raised her ten children. Gerald managed to get accepted to the University of Michigan, secure a student visa, earn his bachelor’s degree in nursing and become a licensed R.N. in California. There, he found himself in a Santa Clara hospital treating Jim Balassone, 75, a retired technology firm executive and adjunct university lecturer who was recovering from surgery. The two bonded, and Jim later traveled to Uganda with Gerald to explore the potential for starting an NGO that would use pop-up medical camps to improve the health of poor Ugandans. They soon had formed Bulamu, a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization, with Jim as chief fundraiser and Gerald in charge of program activities, personally overseeing on-site each of the medical camps while still continuing his nursing work in the U.S. Having demonstrated the proof of concept and excess of demand, the limiting item now in Bulamu’s growth is its ability to spread its story to potential donors with a heart for Africa and the resources to invest in this exciting, efficient delivery model. Where else can a contribution of $15,000 bring life-enhancing, and sometimes life-saving, medical treatment to 2,500 people?