Dec 26, 2018

Another Year Over, A New One Just Begun

Laizhang
Laizhang

They make 50¢ a day.They live in one of the most exotic, beautiful remote places in the world: East Tibet, SE Qinghai Province, China. 

They have no transportation, public or private and the nearest hospital is over a broken road, a 6000 m pass, and when women bleed to death it’s in the fields in unassisted births. If you are a child, 1 in 5 die from dehydration caused by diarrhea. Women and girls have low status.

On the other hand, in this beautiful place, it’s not hard to make a difference, giving free care to whoever walks in the door, tracking pregnant women with one of 40 Community Health Workers, giving gynecological exams on the the only ultrasound within 75 miles. 

We give asking nothing in return, a service, a free service. Years ago it seemed like the only option not it’s clear we plugged into their primary religious value: generosity, or jinpa in Tibetan. There was no other way; we could not distringuish the nomad who had 30 horses from the one who had 3, based on how they dressed. 

The accident of not knowing how to collect for services and meds led us to not only give them away, but also to tap into their primary cultural value. The result has been 130,000 patient visits in the last 10 years.

Our doctors are both MDs in the Chinese allopathic system. We have had high level doctors train them every year: Chinese, Canadian, Norwegian, American, Dutch, German. For nearly every one, the experience was a watershed moment in their life. 

Now approaching our 31st year, we look forward to further government partnerships, distance consultation, and futrther improvements to our clinic. 2018 was the year we installed running water. 2019 is the year we hope to partner with the government to fill the gap in epidemiology, and remote consultation. Our work is a brilliant model of cooperation and service. Please join us.

Dr. So Drogha with her new baby
Dr. So Drogha with her new baby
New patient waiting area floor and furniture!
New patient waiting area floor and furniture!
Some of our 40 community health workers
Some of our 40 community health workers
Lee Weingrad unexpectedly meeting monastery Abbot
Lee Weingrad unexpectedly meeting monastery Abbot
The Dharma Sagara Clinic at Dutsi til Monastery
The Dharma Sagara Clinic at Dutsi til Monastery

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Sep 25, 2018

A Watershed Moment

Regent Abbot Tashi, who gave the clinic land
Regent Abbot Tashi, who gave the clinic land

The Surmang Clinic is the oldest philanthropic clinic in a Tibetan region. For the 26 years of its clinic history, the idea of a water system was never far from our minds. There were several engineers who drew designs, but we always seemed to lack the ability to actually execute, until US Board member, Architect Ralph Allen and Canada Board member Lyle Weinstein came along.

In 2011, Surmang Foundation received a donation of two pumps by the Danish pump manufacturer, Grundfos, via the support of the Danish Chamber of Commerce, China. By late 2017, we’d received the last design, the one we intended to use, from Ralph and Lyle. Both had been to Surmang and understood the difficulty of capital construction there. 

By late 2017 we assembled a team consisting of myself, daughter iana Weingrad, son Joseph Weingrad and Russell Iser, a Master Plumber from the US.  All three –iana, Joseph and myself—have nearly perfect Chinese language skills.

The source of the water was to be the stream that runs by the monastery, a stream that feeds the upper reaches of the Dzachu, the “wild yak river,” what we call the Mekong River. At Surmang this stream is referred to by as “the heart’s blood of Demchog, or Chakrasamvara,” one of the two names of Buddha in the lineage of Surmang Tibetans.

As good as our plans were, we found that recent construction blocked direct access to the stream, so we met with Trungpa Rinpoche XII, Chokyi Sengay, the Abbot of Surmang Dutsi-til Monastery. 

The founding director of Surmang Foundation, Lee Weingrad, was the first non-Tibetan to meet Rinpoche back in 1992. Rinpoche agreed to let us connect to the year-old water main that had recently been installed by the Chinese government.  The foundation offered to continue its help of the monastery with a helicobacter infectious disease project in 2019. 

To do that, we needed a revised drawing to connect the water main to the clinic. Fortunately Joseph Weingrad had the skills to create such a graphic:

Within a few days a backhoe was summoned, the trench was dug and the pipes were laid. Connecting the pipe was the next task. Since we had purchased all the necessary equipment and supplies in Yushu, we had all the PVC pipe needed to join and lay the pipe. 

As the last pipes were joined, and the backhoe returned to fill the trench, the next morning with perfect timing, a local Lama blessed the project. 

After 26 years of planning, the clinic water system was finally completed. We told everyone that we would be back next summer to install a modern shower and composting toilet. 

The day before we left, Joseph Weingrad filmed an interview with Laizhong, with one of the oldest members of the Surmang Community. She broke our hearts when she said, “the clinic is like a mother and father to me.” That interview will be available soon. 

The next day, August 2nd, we returned to Yushu. Everyone was happy since we’d completed a project that we’d talked about 26 years before. Its completion firmly brought the clinic and health care into the 21stC.  

It would be impossible without your steadfast support,  the donors of GlobalGiving.org

Dr. So Drogha with her new daughter
Dr. So Drogha with her new daughter
Final water plan by Joseph Weingrad
Final water plan by Joseph Weingrad
Joseph and Russell Laying the pipe
Joseph and Russell Laying the pipe
Pipes in place
Pipes in place
victory!
victory!

Links:

Jun 22, 2018

Build it and They Will Come

where we serve
where we serve

Our Clinic building was started in 1993. I'd never built anything before in my life.

Dharma Sagara Clinic is an odd building for China, and an even odder building for Tibet. It’s like no other. It’s high passive solar gain, techno-geek for grabbing the sun’s heat and keeping it and releasing it at night when it’s cold. And it does get cold at night at 14,000', 4000m. The windows all face south. The walls are two courses of brick with volcanic ash in between. The floors don’t touch the earth. It withstood the 2010 Yushu earthquake that brought down two very large 400 year-old monastery buildings.

My original instinct was “how are we going to raise the money to build it when it’s in a closed-to-foreign-travel region of China?” (a prohibition since lifted, ed.) I decided that I had to get an agreement with the Chinese Government to build the clinic. That process took almost a year '92 -'93.But by the end of '92,  we had an agreement. You'd think there would be some difficulty in getting their cooperation. In fact they were happy to sign. The donated construction funds came about 3 months after the ink dried.

It took 3 years for the building to be completed.

When it was done – summer of 1996— we had neither doctors nor a plan for its use in any grownup sense of the word. I knew nothing about outputs and indicators, logframes or GANNT charts, sustainability or the “n’s” of infant and maternal mortality.

In the winter of ’96 I visited the Beijing office of UNICEF, looking for funding. The China Director of Mother and Child Health, Susie Jollie, asked me a perfectly reasonable question, “how do you know that whatever funding you get will result in health benefits for mothers and children?” I asked her if she’d seen the movie, “Field of Dreams.” It’s about a farmer in Iowa, played by Kevin Costner. He’s approached by the ghost of the 1912 Chicago “Black Sox” who threw the world series. They wanted to return to earth once more to do it the right way.

 

"How do I know they will play if I build the field?" Kevin Costner asked.  “Build the field and they will come” was the answer.

And this is what I said to Suzie Jollie, "build the field and they will come." And come they did. We’d started a Community Health Worker corps in 2006. We got an Siemens Ultrasound in 2008. In 2011 we had maybe the first ever Rural Health Festival. The assembled CHWs reported that in the previous year there had been no infant or maternal mortalities. Down from world-record-high infant and maternal mortality.

In the year ending 2017, we’d treated about 1200 patients per month for free including meds. That’s 120,000 patient visits since 2008. Contrary to what one might think about a growing clinic, our cost basis remains the same – for one obvious reason that we have one administrator, myself. One meds and equipment procurement officer, myself. And one primary representative to the support community, myself.

Within China and outside China our base of support has grown, because of the simplicity of our project design and because we're not connected to any Church, corporation, government or big nonprofit.

Our constant overhead and growth allows us to do the things we put off for years, such as:

--new flooring upstairs

--new double-pane windows

--new waiting room furniture

--a water system.

--last year we put a metal roof on the clinic

But we need help. I’m writing this to assure you that we have built the field and they have come. The only complaint I’ve ever heard from the Tibetan women is “Why didn’t you come 10 years earlier? There’d be many women and children who died, who would be walking the earth now!” Unfortunately of all my powers, having a DeLorean and going back in time is not one of them.

We are looking for about $10,000 this summer to complete the above projects. Please join us. Help us complete the field of dreams for Tibetan women and children.

Lee

corporate culture
corporate culture
$2000 completes 2nd fl of clinic
$2000 completes 2nd fl of clinic
$2000 furnishes waiting room
$2000 furnishes waiting room
Dr. P treating a patient
Dr. P treating a patient
we will get a new water system
we will get a new water system

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