Last year, what began as a casual conversation at Jonathan Golden’s, ’17, and Zachary “Zach” Rader’s, ’17, apartment at Georgia College, turned into deep thoughts about how they could help make the world a better place—starting in Rwanda, Africa.
Golden’s passion to help Rwandans in need of healthcare began three years ago when he was a Georgia College medical intern with the national cycling team in Rwanda.
When the cycling coach fell and split his head open, the closest hospital was a four-hour ride away.
“I was told to ‘deal with it’ by a Rwandan passerby,” said Golden. “So, I brought him into a bathroom, shaved his head and dealt with it.”
From this experience, Golden recognized the tremendous need for medical care among Rwandans, where it is common for them to walk from six hours to two days just to reach a medical clinic.
“We know that health care is bad over there,” said Golden. “Our immediate thought was, ‘Hey, we already have a connection through my dad, who owns a coffee company in Rwanda.’”
There are approximately 10,000 coffee bean farmers in Rwanda and two washing stations. The property where the washing stations are situated is owned by Golden’s father’s company Land of a Thousand Hills Coffee. Golden and Rader wanted to build a clinic there.
They began the planning for one building in Rwanda. Golden and Rader traveled there in February to begin a needs assessment.
“We met with medical and clinical directors from two district hospitals and the director of the Rwandan Ministry of Health,” the government organization in charge of hospitals and clinics in Rwanda, said Rader. “All of the parties involved were very excited that we were there to look into putting in clinics.”
Golden and Rader conducted free health assessments for Rwandans, and over 3,000 coffee farmers showed up.
“We just got some crazy statistics on people,” said Golden. “Sixty-nine percent of children under 12 never saw a medical provider in their life.”
With the needs assessment indicating their new-found discoveries in hand, Golden pitched the idea to his father’s company in December 2017. The coffee company was on board to grant them the land for a health clinic. A partnership was formed between Land of a Thousand Hills Coffee, The Government of Rwanda and Golden’s and Rader’s new nonprofit Do Good Health.
To start, there will be a health clinic. But, over time, they plan to add interactive electronics in the waiting room with a focus on prevention and, eventually, add a soccer field nearby.
“The root of what we’re trying to fix is lack of healthcare access, which is more reactive medicine, and we also want to incorporate exercise—the preventative side,” said
Rader. “You can treat many illnesses before they happen. I think my exercise science degree helped me realize that and gave me the foundation to start programs with preventative measures.”
The clinic has four primary wings: Outpatient, inpatient, pharmacy/laboratory/special testing/education areas and maternity and pediatric. Funding has been obtained for the first three wings. However, Golden estimates that $15,000 is needed for the maternity, labor and delivery and pediatric wing.
Some medical procedures at the clinic will be routine check ups with an entire blood panel, minor surgeries and newborn deliveries. Patients can be seen for a 33-cent copay.
The partners also have a mentorship team of six, including an obstetrician/gynecologist. This group will eventually become a board of directors.
“Right now we’re really at a testing period,” said Golden. “We have this great relationship with the government. They love our models. The national ministry representatives said that it’s what they want their health care to be for Rwanda.”
The Rwandan Government gave Do Good Health 99 lots of land to build more clinics on. These health centers will be located in areas where there are walks of more than five hours to the nearest hospital. Construction begins on the first three wings of the first clinic in August with a completion projected for January 2019.
“It’s hard to believe that within the last five months, we’re now ready to build part of a medical clinic,” said Golden. “Everything has gone super smoothly. We have everything ready to go on the maternity and pediatric wing,” said Golden. “Now, it’s just a matter of getting the funds.”
He and Rader are bringing over practitioners, physicians and nurses from the U.S. to train the clinic’s staff. This will increase employee healthcare knowledge, so they can also train their peers.
“We’re trying to do this with Rwanda,” said Rader. “We’re not just coming in to put up clinics, staffing them and doing all the work. We really want this to be Rwanda’s thing. We want Rwanda to take ownership of it, and we want them to get the credit for it.”
Clinics will be 100 percent staffed by Rwandans from the local area. The Rwandan Ministry of Health will staff 10 nurses on rotation and provide a midwife.
“When we put up the clinics, we’re giving jobs to the local builders, who will be going to that health clinic,” said Rader. “We’re getting all the materials from the area. We are trying to make it so that the surrounding community sees that its own community members are putting up this health center. Our goal is to make it interactive with the community and make it theirs, so they can say, ‘We did this.’”