June 8, 2017. We are sad to report that Bulamu co-founder Jim Balassone passed away on May 6 at age 75 after a short battle with a rare lung disease. Everyone on the Bulamu team, including donors who were long-time friends of Jim, will be feeling this loss as deeply as we are.
Bulamu only exists because of the chance meeting with co-founder Gerald Atwine, an RN, when Jim was recovering from surgery in 2014 and found his spirits brightened whenever Gerald entered his room. Gerald had just moved to California and was bouncing between Airbnb rooms at the time, so when Jim invited him to move into his spare bedroom, Gerald was happy to accept. During the following weeks as their friendship grew, Gerald explained his vision for providing primary healthcare to the rural poor of Uganda, his home country. Jim was intrigued, and some months later he accompanied Gerald to Africa to assess the feasibility of this idea. It immediately became clear that there was a tremendous need, so they decided to plunge ahead. Jim would take on the administrative and fundraising chores, and Gerald would head up the program activities in Uganda, including on-site management of each camp. This partnership has proven incredibly productive, with over 17,000 patients treated since its first medical camp in April, 2016 and the June, 2017 camp just completed.
The Board of Directors is committed to honoring Jim’s legacy by building Bulamu into a high impact, cost-effective, sustainable healthcare delivery organization. We are now in the process of assembling an experienced Advisory Council, developing a fundraising capability, evaluating donor software programs, and assembling the organizational infrastructure necessary to achieve our ambitious growth plan.
Our Proof of Concept is now completed, and our focus has shifted to growth. Within five years, we expect to be treating more than 250,000 patients per year with a budget of $2.2 million. We believe there is no more cost-effective vehicle for each contribution dollar to make a profound impact on improving the lives of people in need.