A helping hand
MAKING HEALTHCARE MORE ACCESSIBLE TO VULNERABLE COMMUNITIES
EARLY in the morning of April 28 this year, a beautiful baby girl was born at the recently set up Maternity Health Centre in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Kandura is not only the first-born of her parents Sukry and Sos Fatilas and their pride and joy but her birth was also a new milestone for Hospitals Beyond Boundaries, a Malaysian non-profit organisation that runs the maternity centre with a team of local health practitioners.
Hospitals Beyond Boundaries (HBB) is dedicated towards improving the health of vulnerable communities through sustainable healthcare efforts by building hospitals and clinics run by local communities.
What makes HBB interesting is that it came into being because of the efforts of a group of energetic, passionate and bighearted Malaysian youths, all under 30 years of age.
TURNING POINT HBB is run by a team of 13 youths from various professional backgrounds who share the same passion for helping the underprivileged and giving back to society.
The team is led by Dr Mohd Lutfi Fadil Lokman, founder and chief executive officer of the five-year-old organisation. Born into a family of medical practitioners, 30-yearold Dr Mohd Lutfi was inspired by the voluntary work done by various organisations such as Mercy Malaysia. However, an injury sustained during his first year as a medical student was the turning point for him to become more involved in voluntary activities, especially those relatedto healthcare.
“I did my medical degree under a twinning programme between Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia and Universitas Padjadjaran in Bandung, Indonesia. The incident happened during my first year at UKM. I couldn’t walk for months and it left me with permanent tinnitus in my left ear.
“The incident constantly reminded me of the importance of health and to make the best of whatever we have to help others,” says the government medical officer at the Institute for Health System Research.
“While in Bandung, I was involved in various types of voluntary work and I saw a huge gap between the rich and poor with regard to healthcare. I knew something should be done to help the underprivileged. So, I conveyed the idea to my friend Dr Wan Abdul Hannan, and eventually, HBB was born,” he says.
He was also inspired to set up the organisation after reading the inspirational book
by Traci Kidder.
Mountains Beyond Mountains Co-founder and chief operating officer Dr Wan Abdul Hannan Wan Ibadullah, 28, says the journey was not easy initially because they were just students when they started HBB in 2012. “Dr Lutfi and I discussed it during our fourth year after attending a medical conference in Mumbai, India. During the conference, we visited a hospital built in a slum area which was run by the local community. Inspired by what we saw, we too hoped to build hospitals and clinics where they were most needed and to have these facilities operated by locals.
“However, it was a huge challenge to convince people about HBB’s big mission because we were still students,” says Dr Wan. “Without the title of Doctor then, tell-
ing people that we needed funds to build hospitals for the underprivileged sounded to, some of the people we approached, to be just too good to be true.”
SOCIAL HEALTH ENTERPRISE
A firm believer in community empowerment and health equity beyond hospital borders, Dr Lutfi says HBB was born with the realisation that while many NGOs in Southeast Asia respond to wars, famines and disasters, the efforts made in building a society after these periods of turmoil are
“Rather than offering short-term emergency relief or interventions, HBB focuses on efforts that last a lifetime. Besides building hospitals or clinics where they are needed most, we aim to look at healthcare beyond disease, temporary treatments or curative measures,” he says.
“We aim to look at healthcare by including adequate shelter, nutrition and health education and by becoming part of the community and empowering them to take charge towards making positive changes in their lives.”
HBB’s first project kick-started in Phnom Penh where Dr Lutfi and his team set up a clinic to serve the Cham community, an ethnic minority that mainly live below the national poverty line.
Built using recycled industrial containers, the clinic has been offering general outpatient healthcare services to more than 3,000 people since 2015. The clinic is manned by seven locals trained by HBB. The team also runs the Maternity Health Centre.
“The centre was set up in March and is expected to be fully completed in September. However, since it started, we have had more than 30 expecting mothers coming for antenatal check-ups and have successfully performed our first delivery too,” says Dr Lutfi.
He says HBB works as a social health enterprise that uses market-based mechanisms to operate, with community empowerment, rather than charity, as its core.
“A social health enterprise works well in a situation where resources are scarce and confronted by cultural differences or bureaucratic measures. With this business model, we are able to create jobs for the locals and train them to take charge of the well-being of their own community.
“Besides depending on donors to fund our services, we utilise the cross-subsidy concept where we subsidise patients across different socio-economic classes. And all profits are reinvested to improve or extend our services,” he explains.
With this business model, we are able to create jobs for the locals and train them to take charge of the well-being of their own community.
Dr Mohd Lutfi
SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS
With the help of volunteers of different professional backgrounds, the youth-led organisation also set up a mobile clinic for the homeless and urban poor at Jalan Medan Tuanku, Kuala Lumpur.
The mobile clinic opens once a month and is aimed at promoting a healthy lifestyle among vulnerable communities whom they regard as KL Street Friends.
Besides that, HBB is currently busy working on a new project on the local front following Dr Mohd Lutfi’s global recognition as an advocate of change for the United Nations. He was named among 17 United Nations Young Leaders for Sustainable Development Goals at the Social Good Summit in New York in September 2016.
“We’re working on a project for the Orang Asli community in Tapah, Perak as part of our five-year plan to develop and execute effective sustainable development goals locally,” says Dr Mohd Lutfi who was also recently named as Forbes’ 30 Under 30 Asia 2017.
He says the project is a collaborative effort between HBB, Malaysian International Youth Council, Malaysian Humanitarian Movement, MYCorp and BluBear Holdings.
AGENTS OF CHANGE
In 10 years time, Dr Mohd Lutfi, Dr Wan Abdul Hannan and the rest of the team are determined to see more HBB-fronted hospitals in Southeast Asia by continuously empowering the local communities.
“To do that, we will continue encouraging the young generation to be agents of change by taking action and walking the talk. We at HBB want them to realise that although we are young, there is so much that we can do to make a difference in society as long as we have passion and commitment,” says Dr Mohd Lutfi.
“The feeling of giving back what you have (e.g. knowledge, skills, etc) for the benefit of other people is priceless and personally rewarding,” says Dr Wan Abdul Hannan.
“Besides, life is too short; do something
which is meaningful to others. The feeling when receiving a simple ‘thank you’ from a person whom you helped is just beyond words,” adds Dr Mohd Lutfi.
Dr Mohd Lutfi (left) attending to a patient during HBB’s monthly house visits. The HBB clinic at Phnom Penh was built using recycled industrial containers.
Dr Wan Abdul Hannan says that initially some people were doubtful about HBB because the founders were just students.
HBB’s first project kick-started in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Making a difference.
The team behind the plan to develop and execute Sustainable Development Goals for the Orang Asli in Tapah, Perak.
HBB secretary Dr Izza.
HBB project director Dr Inah.