2016 HEALTH AWARD HONOREE
Founder, Simbu Children Foundation
Papua New Guinea
In 2004, Jimmy Drekore met a 10-year old girl at a hospital. She was abandoned after she was brought in for treatment of injuries sustained in a car accident. She’d been living in the hospital, entirely alone, for seven years. Jimmy met other children just like this girl, with no one to love them or advocate for their medical care. Determined to help, Jimmy called upon his community in Simbu Province, Papua New Guinea to help them and other children in need of medical care. He pulled together a team of volunteers to support his dream of helping children and got to work. In 2013, he left his paid employment and dedicated himself as a full-time volunteer to the work of the organization.
Papua New Guinea has one of the “most rural” populations of any country in the world, with only 18% of its people living in urban centers. This, combined with Papua New Guinea’s status as a developing country and its relatively low number of healthcare professionals, means it can be hard to access high-quality medical care.
As of the early 2000s, there were only five physicians per 100,000 people and midwives only attend 1 in 1,000 live births. The neonatal and under 5 mortality rates remain relatively high and the country has the highest incidence of HIV and AIDS in the Pacific region. Today, there are still only 2 CT scanners in the entire country and these 2 machines must serve the entire population of 7 million people.
With odds like these stacked against them, it can be nearly impossible for vulnerable children to access the medical care they need to survive and thrive.
Jimmy founded Simbu Children Foundation to focus on providing medical treatment to disadvantaged children in his native province of Simbu. Project “Brave Hearts” provides funding for pediatric cardiac patients and a guardian to travel to the capital in Port Moresby for CT scans and/or heart surgery. The Foundation initiated and funded medical research into Osteomyelitis, a bone infection caused by bacteria that is prevalent among children of Simbu Province. This research led to the development of a much more effective treatment regimen that now allows children to recover from this painful disease in a fraction of the time it took before.
Simbu Children Foundation also focuses on preventing parent to child transmission of HIV through education and practical support. If HIV-positive mothers cannot afford formula to replace breast milk, the Foundation will purchase formula and help the mothers travel into the nearest town to collect it.
Since the founding of Simbu Children Foundation, Jimmy and a network of volunteer fundraisers that spans Papua New Guinea and Australia have provided financial and organizational support for all of the Foundation’s medical care programs. They have also launched projects to provide facility repairs to a local hospital and a power project for a local orphanage.