Gerald Atwine next to a poster honoring Bulamu cofounder Jim Balassone
Bulamu, which means “well-being” in the local language of Luganda, was launched due to a chance encounter between the two co-founders, Gerald Atwine and Jim Balassone.
Gerald was born and raised in Uganda, the youngest of ten children in a rural town. His father, a high school teacher turned businessman, was shot and killed during the brutal regime of the infamous Idi Amin when Gerald was only 8 months old. His mother, widowed and illiterate, somehow successfully raised her ten children. Gerald managed to secure a U.S. student visa, gain acceptance to the University of Michigan, earn his bachelor’s degree in nursing, and become a licensed R.N. in California.
It was as an R.N. that he found himself in a Santa Clara hospital treating Jim Balassone, 75, a retired technology firm executive who was recovering from surgery. The two bonded, and a few months later Jim traveled to Uganda with Gerald to explore the potential for starting an NGO to improve the health of poor Ugandans. They soon had formed Bulamu Healthcare International, a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization, with Jim as chief fundraiser and Gerald in charge of program activities, personally overseeing on-site each medical camp while continuing his nursing work in the U.S. between camps.