If you’re wearing a hat, tip it now.
A Malaysian doctor was honoured by the UN at the 71st General Assembly, when he was selected as one of 17 UN Young Leaders for his healthcare organisation. The amazing Dr Mohd Lutfi Fadil Lokman co-founded, and serves as CEO of Hospitals Beyond Boundaries (HBB), which sets up hospitals and clinics in vulnerable communities. And he’s only 28.
Dr Lufti, who works as a medical officer in the Ministry of Health, was chosen as a UN Young Leader for Sustainable Development Goals based on HBB’s contribution towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Lufti and the other UN Young Leaders were chosen from a pool of 18,000 nominees from around the world. The 17 match the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda, and were honoured as part of a UN Envoy on Youth flagship initiative to engage more young people to work towards eradicating poverty, protecting the environment, and ensuring prosperity for all.
Other Young Leaders from Asia include Trisha Shetty and Ankit Kawatra from India; Vincent Loka from Indonesia; Samar Samir Mezghanni from Iraq; Shougat Nazbin Khan from Bangladesh, and Safaath Ahmed Zahir from the Maldives. Brings a tear to the eyes, it does, to know that the rest of us have a shot at surviving the future with this lot leading the way.
Back to HBB. It is based on the simplest of ideas: that it is inherently more sensible to treat people at source, instead of sending them to faraway hospitals to get treated, only to return them to the conditions that made them sick in the first place. And another: that community empowerment is more sustainable in the long run than charity.
What HBB does is establish healthcare facilities that are run by local youth as social enterprises, who are then trained and employed as community health workers alongside existing doctors. So far, HBB has trained and served over 3,000 people in Cambodia and Malaysia.
Their pilot project served the Cham community in Phnom Penh, who were disproportionately wiped out in the Khmer Rouge purges in the '70s (read more about the Cham genocide, but at your own risk). The survivors and their descendants still lack adequate access to education and healthcare today, as an ethnic minority in an already exceptionally poor country.
Accordingly, HBB Clinic Phnom Penh was set up to offer maternal, child and general outpatient healthcare services to the Cham in Phnom Penh, and empower the community to manage their own healthcare. Even the design of the damn thing is sustainable, being built from used containers.
Stories like this are not in any way meant to make the rest of us feel like useless sacks whose closest brushes with heroism are DCU vs MCU debates. But maybe they should, sometimes.