This Month’s ‘Profiles in Service’ spotlights a man’s commitment to his community driven by his own experiences in dealing with the health of his aged and ill father. Georges Bewelle knew he had to do something to improve the lives of the people in his community so, he became a Doctor, and the people of Cameroon are the better for it. Through his Non-Profit, people in rural areas now have access to ‘free’ health care services, including surgeries, every weekend.
The Joppatowne Lions Club salutes Dr. Georges Bwelle for his tireless devotion to raising the levels of health care and quality of life throughout his community.
Dr. Georges Bwelle
Surgeon & Humanitarian
For 21 years, Georges Bwelle watched his ill father slip in and out of consciousness, traveling to hospitals that weren’t equipped to help him. “There were no neurosurgeons in Cameroon,” Georges Bwelle said. “We would have taken him out of Cameroon if we had the money.”
Instead, Bwelle spent years escorting his father to overcrowded clinics and hospitals, getting whatever treatment they could get. The situation hasn’t changed much since Bwelle’s father passed away in 2002.
In Cameroon, there is only one doctor for every 5,000 people, according to the World Health Organization. For comparison’s sake, the ratio in the United States is one doctor for every 413 people.
He became a doctor himself, working as a vascular surgeon in Yaounde’s Central Hospital. And he started a nonprofit, ASCOVIME, that travels into rural areas on weekends to provide free medical care. Since 2008, he and his group of volunteers have helped nearly 32,000 people.
Almost every Friday, he and up to 30 people jam into vans, tie medical supplies to the roofs and travel across rough terrain to visit villages in need and perform free surgeries.
My Definition Of Success:| As a young boy, I always wished to grow up and be successful… provide for my family all the luxury I didn’t get growing up, build a mansion for myself and my parents, sports cars etc. But after my dad’s accident leading to 21 years of neurological illness, long waiting hours at the hospital to see a doctor, his inability to afford specialized health care and finally his death, I started to see life in a brand new light. My idea of success gradually shifted from amassing wealth to alleviating suffering and poverty amongst the underprivileged… sharing all I got, my talents, skills, my time and money to put a smile on the faces of those who lack even the minimum and vital necessities. I used to base my idea of success with relation to other people’s success stories, what your parents and/or spouse expects of u, what is portrayed as success by the media and popular cultures. But today, success to me has come to mean job satisfaction. I have contextualized success into the perspective of what’s really important to me as opposed to what is expected of me. Success to me is not only about riches and fame, it’s about changing lives and making a positive impact on the lives of the people around us, making them smile. I might not be there yet, but I certainly am in the right direction. And that’s satisfying, that’s success.
I Am Driven By | What drives me is my love for humanity and a strong desire to reduce suffering. I will do everything in my power to make life better for the people around me, especially the poor and underserved. I can’t help in every aspect of their lives, but I use my skills and work really hard to make money to afford the didactic material and medications I use to provide specialized health care to the people who can’t afford it. That’s why when others are sleeping at night or enjoying a vacation or a weekend off, I have this drive to work even more. Motivated by my dad, I have this emotional reason for wanting to change not only my status but especially that of others. I want to bring change to the world through health and education, and am starting with the villages around me, one at a time.
My Highlights | In am so very proud of my kids. I spend so little time with them, but they are very supportive because they have grown to understand that daddy has to work real hard to support all the other kids who don’t have the same luxury of health care and education as them. They have grown to be such responsible young girls and I am so proud of them.
Career-wise, the highlight of my career was when I got voted into top ten CNN heroes 2013 for my humanitarian activities with my association ASCOVIME. This recognition made me realize that my efforts and my services to the community did impact lives. My dream to carry out humanitarian activities that started in 1998 with just two volunteers, which had grown over the years with hundreds of volunteers in Cameroon and internationally was being recognized internationally. I felt very proud and thankful to God for His graces and favor upon me.
A Key Talent | I am a leader. I am focused, innovative and engaged in whatever project I want to carry out. I therefore advise my readers to learn to be leaders and not followers. Do not only be innovative, but have a strong desire to give life to your ideas. Invest yourself into your project, set out specific objectives because it is through these specific objectives that you attain your main goal. Seek advice and help from your role models as no one human being is complete in himself, but always learn to trust your instincts.
The Characteristics of Success | I am humble, I am down to earth, I am simple, I am goal oriented and… they also say am funny. All these help me to stay focused on the end results and not dwell on problems and obstacles. A good friend once said to me that the only problem about a problem is that there is no problem. A problem/obstacle can only be as big as you make it. I always try to simplify my difficulties. I don’t make anything about me and I always try to put others first. Because I am usually very optimistic, I always find a way around obstacles… well, 90% of the time. I have to achieve my goal, even if it’s just a smile on the face of the patient. Laughter can be very soothing.
Also, being in the theater all night can be very tiring. But I have patients out there, who have trekked 30 km, counting on me to relieve the pain they have been suffering from for years due to lack of funding for a surgical procedure. Sometimes, my team and I carry out as many as 45 surgical procedures in one night. What keeps us going all night? DETERMINATION AND MUSIC. I love listening to music while I work. It soothes me and keeps me awake, alert and relaxed. We all have fun in the theater taking turns playing our favorite songs. Surgery has to go on.
Principles I Live By | Perseverance. Don’t ever quit. Have an unwavering faith in yourself. We all have moments of doubts. Even the most successful people usually ask themselves if their dreams will ever materialize. But what separates the successful people from those who don’t achieve their goals is an unwavering faith in themselves. I started from very humble beginnings, working in a small village in Cameroon where my patients could not afford drugs worth $5. I will consult them and then pay for their medications with my salary, because I didn’t want any of them to suffer like my dad did. Did I ever get discouraged? Yes. Several times, especially when I couldn’t afford the drugs myself. Did that stop me? Never. I had my moments of doubt but I didn’t let it bring me down. Instead, it motivated me to prove my optimism right. Even if I couldn’t offer them their treatment 100% of the times, my patients left the hospital happy because I gave them hope and I made them smile. Seeing the smile on their faces made me want to give more of myself. Today, I earn much more, I have funding from other people and organizations, I have received honorary and cash awards and I am thus able to make many more people smile.
Performing At My Peak | I focus on the reason why I do what I do… changing the lives of the people around me. There are billions of people out there that need help. I desire to elevate their status, put a smile on their faces even if it’s just for a few days. Giving up is never an option for me especially where health care and education are concerned. Haven worked for years with the poor, I have seen so many complicated medical situations with patients looking up to you as a savior. You treat, thinking you’ve seen it all, but the very next weekend, you meet an even more complicated situation. This motivates me a lot and I don’t quit until I hit my full potential.
A classroom full of pupils
The Legacy I Would Like To Leave | A string of ASCOVIME schools and hospitals in the rural villages to give greater opportunities to the poor and under-served populations
Dealing With Doubt | My faith in God helps me through my self-doubt, fear and negativity. I know that when nothing seems humanly possible, God will help. He always makes a way. I was once in a situation where I almost lost a patient. ASCOVIME was out on a health campaign in the North Region of Cameroon. There was a young boy with a tumor growing out of his nostril which I had to surgically remove. Surgery went perfectly well. But as I was doing the last stitches, with no warning and for no apparent reason, the boy’s heart stopped. I experienced such fear and self-doubt like never before. All I could do was call on God as the anesthetist tried to reanimate the patient. After about 30 minutes of reanimation and absolute fear and persistent prayers, we felt the pulse. The heart had started again and the child started breathing and regained consciousness. Once again, God had come through me. I am eternally thankful to God for this miracle.
On Inspiring Others | How do I find great people? I put my work out there, on social media etc. People appreciate what I do and they contact me most of the time. I present the reports on my activities to individuals and organizations. I encourage them to accompany me on my humanitarian missions. Seeing the work Ascovime does on the field serves as a huge motivation for those who share my dream and vision. I encourage and appreciate innovative ideas from the people who work with me. I decentralize the work and give responsibilities to them, integrating them fully in our activities.
The Best Advice I’ve Received | Keep moving onwards. God will help.
(The Legacy Project: http://thelegacyproject.co.za/2015/02/dr-georges-bwelle-surgeon-humanitarian/)