Centre opens in memory of student

A MEDICAL centre set up in memory of an Essex student who died while on safari has been officially opened in a remote part of West Africa.

Elliot Furniss

A MEDICAL centre set up in memory of an Essex student who died while on safari has been officially opened in a remote part of West Africa.

Catherine Bullen, 22, died suddenly from severe gastro-enteritis in 2002 at a medical centre in Namibia and ever since her parents Roger and Linda have pledged to honour her memory by providing vital healthcare for people in the region.

The couple, from Mersea Island, have just returned from an emotional trip to Otjimanangombe village in rural eastern Namibia where the new centre has been opened, paid for by the Catherine Bullen Memorial Fund.

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Mr Bullen said it had been a difficult but rewarding trip for him and Linda and they were now determined to reach their next target and pay for an ambulance to service the centre and the surrounding area.

He said: “It was very emotional. The people there were over the moon - it was such an event in the area. A lot of them thought they would never see it in their lifetime.”

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He said the centre, in an isolated area with a population of about 7,000 people, would help to treat the spread of diseases, such as TB, and provide a safe place for women to give birth.

Accompanied by the deputy British High Commissioner and representatives from development charity Komeho, Mr and Mrs Bullen presented the clinic to Penehupifo Pohamba, wife of President Hifikepunye Pohamba, and Dr Richard Kamwi, Minister of Health.

During the ceremony, Dr Kamwi surprised everyone by announcing that provision was to be made in the 2009 budget to build a large new health centre staffed by a doctor and five nurses at Oshivelo to replace the small outdated clinic where Catherine died.

The newly-opened facility, which has accommodation for three nurses, cost £100,000 to build and equip - £20,000 of which was raised by the fund and £80,000 of which was provided by a generous grant from the Rooney Foundation.

Mr Bullen said he was confident his daughter, who was a fifth year medical student at Bristol University, would be delighted to see their hard work pay off in such a productive and long-lasting way.

He said: “She was quite a caring person. She would think what a marvellous thing this is and would be truly amazed at what we have done in her name.

“The next step is to raise money for the 4x4 ambulance to be based in the region. The total cost is about £26,000 and we have got about £17,000 so far.”

To learn more about the Catherine Bullen Memorial Fund or make a donation, log on to www.namibia-aid.org.uk.

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