Today, both Dr. Kellermann and Jean shared their hearts and their humor on a place that changed the direction of their lives and passion. Just like our club in Soroptimist, the success of any great deed comes to fruition due to the foundation of relationships.This is why our club takes great pride in the work we do here and around the world.
This incredible journey began for Dr. Kellermann and his wife, Carol back in 1992 when they went to Africa on a medical missionary. That single trip not only changed their lives forever but also the lives of the Batwa and the many around the world who now call the Batwa people their family. Which goes to show you the power of ONE.
The Batwa pygmies, conservation refugees from the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, were indigenous forest nomads in southwestern Uganda for millennia. In 1992 they were evicted from the rainforest when it was made a World Heritage Site to protect the endangered mountain gorilla. As hunter/gatherers, the Batwa had no title to land and were given no compensation. They see their God in the trees, the animals, the earth. The forest was a “gift” to them from their God and now their gift was taken away from them. As one of the most impoverished people groups on earth, their existence became a major struggle for survival.
When the Kellermann’s arrived, 38% of the children died before they turned 5 years old. The death rate among children in the USA is 0.8%. The average life expectancy of a Batwa was 28. Their average annual income was $25 a year. Poverty is the root of all ills; low life expectancy, disease, lack of education, violence, just to name a few. Thanks to the efforts of many, these stats are much different today.
The Kellermann’s and others began their work with a mobile clinic; a van which they’d set up beneath large trees. Drums would play from area to area letting villagers know of their arrival. Back in 2003 they’d see 500 people a day, most of which were children suffering from cerebral malaria. Their experiences with the people were then shared here in the states with many through the telling of their stories. Those stories have generated a small army of individuals who now share the like vision of hope for Africa
From these humble beginnings so much has come to be. In 2001 the Bwindi Community Hospital, a far cry from the open air van hospital, was completed. This hospital provides first-rate healthcare and medical services to a large area of southwest Uganda. It is not only for the Batwa for but for all; 250,000 people in total.
The Batwa Development Program is where the Batwa learn to help themselves through education, income generation, home building, agriculture, and more.
The Uganda Nursing School – Bwindi UNSB is an affiliate of the Uganda Christian University. Graduates of the three-year program receive a Diploma in Nursing, the equivalent of an RN designation. It is the only RN-level nursing school for a population of nearly one million people. UNSB is closely associated with Bwindi Community Hospital (BCH). UNSB was created through the collaborative efforts of a U.S./Ugandan team consisting of major donors James D. Jameson and Stephen M. Wolf, Dr. Scott Kellermann, the UNSB/BCH management team, the Kellermann Foundation, and Rotary International.
Nurses trained at UNSB will be able to work independently throughout this remote region, greatly improving health care to a large, desperately underserved population in one of the poorest corners of Africa. In Bwindi, southwest Uganda, there has been only one Registered Nurse for a population of 40,000 people. UNSB graduates will help change the face of healthcare in this isolated region.
The Batwa still need our support and each of us can help. Visit the Kellermann Foundation and learn how you can become involved. We are all encouraged to go to Africa and provide our individual talents. Our jobs are then to return home and share the “Lens of Hope” for Africa’s future. Funding continues to be a need-especially for the education of the children. To educate a child at Bishops Primary Schoolcosts $750 a year. To educate a nurse is $4,000. Small investments for such a big outcome.
Today our club continued its commitment by providing Dr. Kellermann with a check towards “our” child’s scholarship. We know the power this one girl can make and we look forward to hearing more about her future.
Thank you to Dr. Kellermann, Jean, and all those who provide services to those in need. A special shout out to our Rotary friends in Lake Tahoe. The dedication of Blackie and your club has led to many great things from our special community. And to Dorothy, Blackie’s bride, we miss you greatly but keep your smile in our hearts. Congrats on all you are accomplishing!