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From Education to Heath Care: Grassroots Partnerships are Changing Development in Africa

Construction of the new health clinic in Bududa, Uganda.

Construction of the new health clinic in Bududa, Uganda, which will serve the people of five additional communities.

Members of the Aid for Africa alliance believe that good works grow through partnerships. One long-term partnership is between Aid for Africa members Arlington Academy of Hope (AAH) and Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children (FIMRC).

After building a life in Arlington, Virginia, Ugandan immigrant John Wanda wanted to build something else — a school for his native village of Bumwalukani. Having come to the U.S. with their daughters, John and his wife decided to bring to Uganda the education principles of their daughters’ Arlington school. With the help of supporters through their U.S. charity, the Wandas did just that. Today, the village elementary school they envisioned ranks in the top 1 percent of some 19,000 schools in Uganda and is a model for the rest country. AAH also supports 600 elementary, high school and university students.

But education requires more than reading, writing and arithmetic. When the school began, it soon became apparent that the students needed health services and a health clinic. That’s when the Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children, or FIMRC, joined the effort.

FIMRC’s mission is to build clinics and provide community outreach and preventative health education programs in developing countries. They were invited to Bumwalukani to built a clinic to support the students. FIMRC staff also trained community health educators and provided volunteers to staff the clinic. Those efforts led to expansion of services to the families of students and then to the community at large.

In recent years, demand for clinic services began to outstrip capacity. The clinic provided services to 14,000 people last year, according to Meredith Welsh, FIMRC’s executive director. “But we didn’t have enough space or the ability to expand on the current property,” she said.

To meet the demand, FIMRC recently began construction of a larger clinic about one mile away from AAH’s school.

“We were fortunate to have land donated for our more expansive clinic,” said Welsh. She said that the new clinic will provide more services, including 24-hour care, maternity facilities, consultation rooms, and a separate area for patients with infectious diseases. Providing health services to the students of the school will also remain a priority, according to Welsh.

The new clinic has expanded the partnership between AAH and FIMRC to include the Ugandan government and funding from the 30/30 Project, Construction for Change and T-Mobile. Once completed, services will be phased in slowly to ensure sustainability. Welsh says the clinic will serve more than three times as many people as the original clinic.

This grassroots partnership is changing development in rural Uganda.