Georges Bwelle's dedication heals thousands
Trekking through mud, rivers and jungle to provide free medical care
November 3, 2013, CNN
For 21 years, Georges Bwelle watched his ill father slip in and out of consciousness, traveling to hospitals that weren't equipped to help him. In Cameroon, there is only one doctor for every 5,000 people, according to the World Health Organization. And even if they could see a physician, many Cameroonians couldn't afford it. Two out of five people in the country live below the poverty line, and nearly three-quarters of the country's health-care spending is private. Seeing his father and so many of his countrymen suffer, Bwelle was determined to do something about it. He became a doctor himself, working as a vascular surgeon in Yaounde's Central Hospital. And he started a nonprofit, ASCOVIME, that travels into rural areas on weekends to provide free medical care. Since 2008, he and his group of volunteers have helped nearly 32,000 people. Almost every Friday, he and up to 30 people jam into vans, tie medical supplies to the roofs and travel across rough terrain to visit villages in need. "We are receiving 500 people in each trip," Bwelle said. "They are coming from 60 kilometers (37 miles) around the village, and they're coming on foot." Each of these weekend clinics provides a variety of medical care. Many people are treated for malaria, tuberculosis, malnutrition, diabetes, parasites and sexually transmitted diseases. Others might receive crutches, a pair of donated eyeglasses or free birth certificates -- documentation that's required for school but that many impoverished families simply can't afford. In the evenings, the team will do simple surgeries with local anesthesia.