Visit to Africa spurs creation of CareNow
Bjurstrom and Carrie Sharpshair, CareNow’s executive director, traveled through Africa last year visiting doctors, clinics, orphanages and pharmaceutical companies. “We got a really good feeling for the situation and reality,” he said. “We’re talking about really basic health care. Ultimately the objective is helping people transform themselves into thriving communities, rather than being too sick to work and too sick to learn.” Sharpshair said the group is providing basic health care to people who have none. “A small puncture wound from stepping on something could lead to a life-threatening infection. It’s amazing what $23,000 can do,” she said, referring to the annual cost of the mobile clinic along with a nurse and midwife in Zambia. She said her group has committed $45,000 over three years to health care and education in the Congo program in partnership with World Vision. The Lily Medical Clinic supported by CareNow in South Africa has about 30,000 visits a year from patients, including three children who received life-saving cardiac care last year, she said. It’s hard for people in the affluent communities of Los Angeles and Ventura counties to imagine how difficult it is in parts of Africa to obtain the simplest health care, she said. “We are a very, very privileged society living in a very privileged community,” she said. “Our human society half a world away is suffering tremendously.” Bjurstrom said many parts of Africa have lacked health care for generations, but that the world has grown more conscious of the problems recently, partly because of advancements in global communications and the worldwide attention given to the spread of AIDS. “There are villages where nearly the entire populations have died out,” he said. “When the teachers die of AIDS, there is no one to teach the children. When health care workers die, there is no one to care for the sick.” “The need is getting greater and greater as AIDS spreads,” Bjurstrom said. “All of the efforts together are not having the impact that we would like. There is more that needs to be done.” [email protected] (805) 583-7602 Information CareNow’s headquarters is at 5706 Corsa Ave., Suite 200 M, Westlake Village. Its Web site is www.carenowfoundation.org. The group will hold a major fundraiser June 3 at the Moorpark Country Club. Tickets are $125 for the banquet and presentation called “Safari Now, An Expedition into the Heart of Humanity.” For more information, call (818) 597-2451. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Since 2005, the group has developed a partnership with World Vision to help with basic health care needs in the community of Kipushi, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. CareNow has also collaborated with Action International to support a mobile health clinic, along with nursing services in rural areas near Lusaka, Zambia. And it’s working with the Lily of the Valley AIDS Orphanage to equip a new clinic for the orphanage and the surrounding community of Mophela in South Africa. “I think Ed and CareNow are just doing a terrific job,” said Mark Jaffe, the international service chairman for the Rotary Club of Westlake Village. “I joined Rotary because I wanted to help in this community and internationally, and I found it was a perfect way to make my dollars count, my time count and my efforts count. It gave me connections all over the world to make things happen,” said Jaffe, who maintains contact with Rotary members in South Africa who also support the Lily of the Valley project. Bjurstrom is a chemical engineer and former vice president of operations for Amgen Inc. He serves on the CareNow Foundation board along with physician John Horton and Donna L. Masterman, associate medical director in early development at Amgen and a former associate clinical professor of neurology at UCLA. WESTLAKE VILLAGE – A nonprofit foundation established in the Conejo Valley by a former Amgen executive is helping some of the poorest people in Africa find health care to deal with everything from simple infections to AIDS. “What I saw in Africa was people dying in their mud huts for lack of medication that cost $15 a month,” said Ed Bjurstrom, who founded the CareNow Foundation in Westlake Village after a visit to Africa in 2004 left him with the desire to take action. “The governments have the money to solve these problems. A huge amount of oil, gold and diamonds come from Africa,” he said. “How come the people don’t benefit from this? In the remotest parts of Africa, you can get beer and Coca-Cola with no problem.” Bjurstrom decided he could make an impact through CareNow by providing help to expand clinics and health care programs in small towns and villages where they were most needed.