COMBINED CHARITIES TO RESTORE CEYLONESE HERITAGE HOSPITAL

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The Green Memorial Hospital was the country’s first teaching hospital. Recently a couple of articles were published, criticising the work carried out by three ‘not-for-profit’ entities working together to reestablish this heritage hospital and regain its former glory. This is a response to some of the ‘mentions’ in that article.

Bit of History

First and foremost, something more must be said about the Green Memorial Hospital. It was established in 1847. It is indeed Ceylon’s first teaching hospital and went on to produce around 60 doctors before the Colombo Medical College was established. By 2004 the hospital was in a completely dilapidated state and closed down. There was a war going on for quite some time by then and the hospital was as much a casualty. It was the two Arnold brothers who came from London to help with the Tsunami of 2004, found the hospital in total neglect, and formed a charity to bring in funds from around the world.

With the establishment of The Bengal Medical College in Calcutta in 1835, it was Stewart-Mackenzie, the Governor of the 2nd executive council of British Ceylon, who began sending a small number of Ceylonese to study medicine in Calcutta in 1839. In 1847 an American missionary Dr.Samuel Fisk Green started a private medical school in Manipay in addition to operating a clinic to treat locals. Dr. Samuel Green was born on 10 October 1822 in America. As he came of age, he joined a prestigious medical college in America and passed out as a doctor by 1845. In a short period, by 1846, he wanted to serve in Jaffna. And a hospital was founded in Manipay in 1847, solely by Dr.Green, the young medical graduate from New York, United States, which was later renamed as Green Memorial Hospital in his honour.

With the two Arnold brothers forming a charity – Friends of Manipay Hospital (FoMH) – registered with the UK Charity Commission, arrangements were made to engage with the hospital from 2004, to commence rebuilding and refurbishing. Over the years, this work went on to engage with doctors and hospital staff and began treating patients. It also included raising money for equipment as well, which was a daunting task, given the cost of building and medical equipment today. As progress was being made with the donations that were flowing in from generous people, mostly known to the Arnolds, many good things began to take shape from the jungle state at Manipay.  FoMH was working closely with the Institute of Medical Sciences (IMS) in these years, where the doctors who served at the hospital were attached to, and the training of nurses and technical staff for the hospital by the IMS. Anybody visiting the hospital today can see and meet these good people who serve at this great establishment dedicated to service the poor with proper medical services with such dedication. The nurses and technicians are with proper training and backed with certification and recognition. The early batches of this technical staff consisted of orphans from the war who gained entry to this training when they reach the age of eligibility. Until then, these young people were taken care of in orphanages and embarked on a career in medicine when they came into adulthood. Not many orphanages are known to take children into a future supported with an actual working career. This is what IMS does in addition to running the hospital for the people.

By 2017, a new idea came up, where a small group of cyclists decided to raise money for the hospital and the fund-raising cycle rides began that year. FoMH engaged with the cycling groups from the beginning, where all funds raised were through the mechanisms of FoMH using their bank accounts and financial systems to channel the funds to the various needs of the hospital. The riders only organised the rides and rode from Colombo to Jaffna, while FoMH raised funds for arranging the rides as well. These were mostly personal contributions from the trusties and private donors until the funds from the riders and their donors came in. It’s been this way ever since, where FoMH puts in the finances upfront to make the advance arrangements and recouped, once the rider-collections came in. Over the years, ‘ride sponsors’ have also been putting up funds to promote and grow the ride efforts which today come under the banner of Ride4Ceylon (R4C).

This is how the three ‘not-for-profit’organisations combine, to restore a Ceylonese Heritage Hospital – The Green Memorial Hospital.

Funds Raised and Progress Made

With restoration work going on since 2004, and the fund-raising rides commencing in 2017, the stage was set to increase capacity in generating donations, so that more intense work could be taken on annually. Prior to this, most of the donations were from private circles of well-wishers known to the Arnold brothers who were delighted with the rides that brought in more funding to enhance the work they had undertaken on their own.

With the rides gaining momentum, quite a lot of awareness has been built over the years around the world and many individuals and organisations have rallied as donors around this entire effort. One must keep in mind, that this was an initiative taken by two individuals working at their full-time day-jobs, while dedicating all their spare time for this cause. For the most part, the work was ‘learn as you go’ which they achieved well and diligently. Looking back today, the journey seems an unbelievable one with so much achieved for the hospital and many friends made to bring in donations. Just to think, all this began from a war zone where only a set of building lay abandoned.

The Jaffna Diocese of the Church of South India (JDCSI) and the then Bishop giving permission to carry on with this work, is as important in sharing the achievements to date, and will be important into the future as well. Coordinating all this work of a full-blown hospital comes with its share of complexity, and to work between four organisations which includes the Church, adds to the workload of FoMH. No matter what the difficulties faced were, FoMH has pushed forward this challenge on a positive note at every turn with great expectations with the grace of God.

It is this positive attitude and hope that has become infectious in creating a following of donors and volunteers who believe in the cause. The reason these people take this position is because they see every year the progress made. As much as the funds coming in have been full of generosity, the work at hand has been equally demanding, and a fine balance has to be made in undertaking every new project that builds a hospital. A key part of managing the finances as a charity registered in London, is to adhere to the regulatory requirements that govern the activity, which is also one of transparency, as displayed on the official website of the charity commission. This also leads to the confidence of donors, in addition to seeing the work that is going on at the hospital.

Status Quo

The hospital today stands tall with staff and patients mingling daily while on another front, building and maintenance work is also taking place. All upgrades happen in relation to funds raised, where the two main trustees continue to make their share of donations in addition to those of donors, keeping to their promise to themselves when they undertook this cause in 2004.

The holistic scope of the cause undertaken by FoMH goes beyond the hospital rebuilding: re-establish GMH to its former glory (As a Heritage Hospital); Provide medical services to poor people free of charge (Serve the Poor); Rebuild lives of people of the North affected by the war (Creating Jobs and Careers);Bringing together a donor community and volunteers to catalyse development (Community Pictures) of today and then, speak thousands of words. This is about rebuilding a heritage hospital, one donation at a time to uplift an entire community.

(Ride4Ceylon Committee)