The West

Paramedic brings hope to Nepal villagers

In a remote and hilly part of Nepal, impoverished villagers are finally getting the basic health care many Australians can take for granted, thanks to a WA paramedic and his supporters.

Nathan Burns has led efforts to open a health centre in the eastern Nepalese village of Kerausagara, where the nearest medical care is a six-hour trek away.

A year ago, _The West Australian _ revealed the story of Mr Burns' charity Backpacker Medics, which takes volunteer paramedics to Nepal to provide medical care and education.

After a flood of donations, support and hard work over the past year, the Moonlight Community Health Centre has now opened its doors.

The centre, which was built by villagers and is manned by four staff aided by Australian volunteers, is funded by donations and fundraising events in Perth.

Mr Burns, who recently returned to Perth, and six volunteers saw about 200 people in five days, with people trekking from miles around to be treated in the new centre.

Backpacker Medics' work has attracted attention in Nepal. The country's Irrigation Minister Narayan Prakash Saud officially opened the centre at a ceremony attended by 1000 people.

But for Mr Burns, it was the birth of the first baby to be born in the health centre which, in a country where deaths during childbirth are high, was a real milestone.

Sharmila Bhujel, 19, had her daughter in the centre.

"Building and opening the centre was great, but what ties it altogether is this, changing these peoples lives," Mr Burns said.

"She had proper care. She stayed at the centre all night, then gave birth.

"It gives me hope for the future. Here's a kid born in the centre that from day one is going to be involved in the centre getting both education and health care.

"The possibilities are endless for her."

The charity's next challenge is raising the money to keep the health centre running, as well as buy additional equipment.

"We need to pay for our staff and the running costs of the centre, which is about $600 a month. That's our main concern now," Mr Burns said.

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The West Australian

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