Vice President Edward Sekandi with Bulamu Health officials Prof. Richard Chandler (R) and co-founder Gerald Atwiine. All Photos/Watson

The Bulamu Health International has provided solace and relief to thousands of vulnerable and sick villagers living in poverty and unable to meet many basic requirements such as healthcare and nutrition.

However, by offering free medical care/aid on a wide scale to so many patients living in remote areas such as Arua, Sheema and Mbale, Bulamu Health International has managed to save countless lives. And, by introducing initiatives such as the Angel Programme and Village Health Teams the organization has ensured that critical cases are handled and patients monitored respectively, with the ultimate goal being the provision of free medical care for the average Ugandan.

Like all organizations, Bulamu Health International is run on a set of principles and standards that all staff members, both old and new, must adhere to. Principally, the organization is guided by the ideology: ‘The right of every human being to free medical care.’

However, while that may be a rallying factor for staff, the spirit of charity and compassion brings together all those involved in its activities. Indeed, despite the challenges faced by the beneficiaries, a visit to the Bulamu Health camp brings a smile and hope to the multitudes who flock the centre, a place where hope, love and joy are kept alive!

In most Ugandan communities when something is free, expect many to show up by the thousands, more so if the offer lasts for only one week! And against such a background, the just-concluded Health Camp in Sheema the Bulamu team attended to more than 7000 patients over five days; a daily undertaking of about 1500 patients.

Such a feat would be unable to pull of with meager resources but given the resolve of the medical personnel, non-medics such as volunteers and well-wishers were also at the ready with a helping hand.

So, in order to internalize the charity works of Bulamu Health International, earlier last year EagleOnline caught up with co-founder Gerald Atwiine, who said there was need for Ugandans to give to the less privileged.

We sought out these kind hearts and asked about what drives them to be part of such a great cause.

Justine Musiime- Physiotherapist/Gym-instructor/Director, Siima Nursery and Primary School

A volunteer, Justine Musiime strongly believes in the need for action for health and equity in order to reduce the inequalities in health, especially when dealing with disadvantaged groups. When she isn’t in the field volunteering Ms. Musiime is actively promoting healthcare initiatives by collaborating with specific individuals and organizations.

“When I saw Bulamu doing something like this I needed to take part. I have been working here as a supervisor and I have gotten to meet a lot of people that I wouldn’t otherwise meet as well as working in fields I wouldn’t have been or even experiences like witnessing a baby being born. The staff and patients are also usually co-operative,” Ms. Musiime says.

She encourages the unemployed and youths to look for opportunities to volunteer.

“Bulamu gives many youths a platform to learn new sets of skills like leadership training, people management and communication skills and also how to apply them in the field,” she adds.

Victor Walugembe -Software Engineer

Working with the Bulamu Information Technology (IT) department for two years now, Victor Walugembe said he is thrilled by volunteering.

“My second camp was actually the best experience I had in this organization. Yes, some people are harsh and indifferent to our program but it is always an overall great experience. I like to help people and therefore look for ways in which I can do it and I definitely found it here at Bulamu,” Mr. Walugembe said.

He says that volunteering has had a great impact on his life, even allowing him to learn new skills including how to keep the body in perfect health and also ensuring a clean environment.

And, despite knowing the advantages of being able to put food on the table by having money, Mr. Walugembe believes volunteering is still important.

“I know everyone needs money but I urge people to spare at least a day or two to volunteer; it doesn’t kill to give back; we all need to work and get money but volunteering is a really healthy experience,” he says.

Dr. Tumushabe Mutungi – Resident, Toronto University-Senior Registrar, Obstetrics and Gynecology

“I come from a place (Canada) where women’s medical care is very accessible and yet where I was born that is not the case. Therefore, I have decided to use the little I know to help by applying the best use of my skills,” Dr. Tumushabe-Mutungi says.

When she isn’t studying, Tumushabe volunteers both in Uganda and Kenya and in the process learns new skills. She also strongly believes that there should be enhanced training of physicians to become specialists in all aspects of medicine.

“Bulamu is doing great work by reaching out to a lot of people and if you are in a position to help, you should and you will also benefit,” she said.

According to Dr. Tumushabe-Mutungi, Bulamu Health International should implement long-term sustainable programmes in the remote areas in order to develop the communities.

Dr. Justine Nabukeera – Rubaga Hospital

Dr. Justine Nabukeera has been working as a volunteer with Bulamu Health International for two years, and says the organization has helped her improve on ethics, communication and social skills among many other aspects of life.

“Working as a volunteer gives you an opportunity to serve a lot of people with different backgrounds. This would not be the case if you were stationed in one place where you can’t be able to meet or even extend help to such people,” Dr. Nabukeera says.

She adds: “Volunteering can affect us positively in all aspects that is why citizens should put time aside for voluntary work; it builds you as a person and you also feel happy when you see a smile one someone’s face.”

Dr. Wesley Twinomujuni aka Waxy

As a doctor Twinomujuni credits Bulamu Health International for its efforts in improving health care in Uganda. He says that since people now know and value the Bulamu, the organization should consider setting a hospital to run alongside the health camps.

“The camps are limited to just one week and therefore inaccessible by patients from other districts,” Dr. Twinomujuni says, adding that the organization has helped him improve his skills as a Doctor.

“I have encountered different diseases that we study about and you will discover that diseases that are dominant in Northern Uganda are not the ones threatening the western regions of the country. So you learn how to manage these various diseases as a doctor,” Dr. Twinomujuni says.

Apart from advancing his career, Dr. Twinomujuni also says he has learnt other skills like, networking, communication and giving back to the community.

“Giving back to the community is not for everyone but there is a feeling (of satisfaction) you get like when you treat a patient and they get better,” he says and encourages other people to have a heart to serve.

Rachael Nantege -Pharmacist

“I love helping people and this is my second year. I have learnt good leadership skills and how to handle people of various origins,” Ms. Nantege says.

She believes that there should be patient follow-ups, especially for those with chronic illnesses, and also calls for more volunteers to join the noble cause.

“Not everyone is involved but they should in order to improve healthcare in Uganda. You look at the people at these camps and you can tell that some of them have been waiting for the arrival of the camp,” she adds.

Jordan Cowan – Peace Corps Volunteer, Public Health (USA)

Volunteer Jordan Cowan (foreground) with other Bulamu co-volunteers

Despite partnering with a local NGO (Hope Again) as a medic in Kyenjojo, Cowan, a strong advocate of reusable pads also called ‘Rumps’, finds time to join the Bulamu family, where he volunteers and teaches many young school girls on the efficiency and convenience of reusable pads. After attending four camps, Cowan values the work of Bulamu and the free treatment that many usually miss due to high costs.

“I want to show people that it is okay to help others and I would also like to see Bulamu partner with other local organisations in order to bring a lot more support and services during these camps,” Cowan says.

Farouk Opondo Mario Jr – Administration Assistant – Bulamu

Farouk Opondo has been with the program right from the start and explains that through Bulamu, many Ugandans get free medical care at provided by the organization. Although he is involved in wholesale trading and real estate, Farouk Opondo strongly believes you don’t need to get paid to help or work with the less privileged.

“ You don’t always have to look at the pay or benefits that you will get out of any venture but sometimes it requires you to take a leap of faith: look at me, I started volunteering here at Bulamu without any pay or allowances but now I am part of the administration,” Farouk Opondo says.

Veronice Nakisekka – Administration assistant – Bulamu

Veronice Nakisekka says she has a heart for the less privileged people, making her travel to different areas of Uganda with her team in an effort to make the country a better place. She strongly encourages other Ugandans, especially the youth to come on board since it is a very fulfilling experience. “It feels good when help someone else and being a part of such an organization: I feel like I’m doing something to change the world when people meet you and thank you,” Ms. Nakisekka says.
Jordan Mujuni – Student, Makerere University Business School (MUBS)

A university student, Jordan Mujuni feels that the undertaking by Bulamu Health International is a noble cause and urges Ugandans to come together and help those in need.

“Ugandans who are more privileged should come out and get on their knees in order to help those that are in need or helpless since these are our family members and fellow citizens,” Mr. Mujuni, a supervisor at the Bulamu organization, says.

According to Mujuni, he has worked with different kinds of people and this in turn has helped him learn how to manage/handle people as well as tolerance.

“One word for the youth is that they should not be proud and get involved in more charitable organizations for at the end of the day you get blessed,” Mr. Mujuni says.