If there's one word to describe Gerard Kaberuka, it is caretaker.
Even as a young boy, Gerard was taking care of things. The oldest of five boys, he was tasked with raising his four younger brothers. He balanced work and school, all while taking care of his family. Years later, after his parents passed away, Gerard officially became the head of the household, caring for his extended family.
Taking care of people in Gerard’s nature, so it is little surprise that the 25,000 people in Ruhunda, Rwanda see him not only as the head of the local health center, but as the town’s unofficial caretaker.
In 2009, when he first took charge of the local health facilities, the system faced many challenges: poor family planning, a relatively high HIV infection rate, and women delivering babies in unhygienic conditions with little pre- or postnatal care. Gerard had few resources, intermittent power, and little equipment.
So when Coca-Cola approached him two years ago to consult with him about their new EKOCENTER site, Gerard immediately saw an opportunity.
“Here’s what we need,” he said. “Power, water, and equipment.” The EKOCENTER team listened.
Gerard can now proudly stand with his team beside the new solar power unit installed by EKOCENTER partner, Philips (see photo above). “Before, we couldn’t provide full healthcare at all times due to blackouts. We had to deliver babies in the dark, using flashlights,” Gerard said. “Now we can deliver healthcare twenty-four, seven.”
The clinic now receives hospital-grade clean water, thanks to the purification technology installed by Pentair, as part of a sustainable economic model developed in partnership with the local government. The water, used for drinking, cleaning wounds, and sterilizing instruments, meets the highest quality standards.
Brand new electric beds, wheelchairs, and an ultrasound machine now line the clinic walls. They are all part of an initial shipment valed at more than $300,000, donated by the Coca-Cola Foundation and MedShare, a nonprofit dedicated to recovering and redistributing surplus medical equipment and supplies.
Beyond the walls of the clinic, Gerard says the entire community is transforming. Local land prices have doubled. People now have a vibrant place to meet, play football at night, watch some TV, get connected, or simply meet their friends.
Gerard’s attitude does not allow him to be complacent; he admits there is still many more gains possible for his health center and his community. Forty percent of the patients he treats are suffering from malaria, and 5 percent of children in the community have malnutrition – diseases that can be prevented with a strengthening health system.
Like a true caretaker, Gerard’s mind is set not only on the present but on the future. Encouraged by the progress he has seen, he believes addressing these long-term problems is possible. As we leave, he references the sign in his office, and repeats his favorite quote; “Sow the seeds of hard work, endurance, and determination. Then reap the rewards of success and achievement.”
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