Lana Vanderlee and Andrew Mitchell

Co-creators of BABU (Bringing About Better Understanding)
Lana and Andrew in a hospital

When AHS graduates and current PhD students Lana Vanderlee and Andrew Mitchell went to Nepal as volunteers, it didn’t take long for them to discover a serious problem.

“Very sick children and babies were waiting hours and sometimes days to receive specialized care,” says Vanderlee, a PhD student in the School of Public Health and Health Systems. “At times, health-care workers didn’t have the equipment to treat severely ill children. Due to a lack of health education, many families wait until their child is very sick before taking them to hospital."

“We wanted to help change that.”

Vanderlee and Mitchell, a PhD student with the Department of Kinesiology, asked Dr. Shanta Chandra Shakya, who was building a private children’s hospital in Kathmandu, how they could help. Shakya told them the new International Friendship Children’s Hospital (IFCH) would need donations of new and used medical equipment as well as volunteer health-care workers.

Volunteer medical students

Dr. Shakya wanted to bring volunteer medical students to Nepal who were eager to exchange knowledge and expertise with local health-care professionals.

So, Vanderlee and Mitchell, along with colleagues Hamid Izadi and Eric Cheng, created a non-profit organization called Bringing About Better Understanding, or BABU, a Nepali term meaning “little boy.” To date, BABU has co-ordinated donations of ventilator equipment, surgical supplies, dental equipment, and hand hygiene supplies. The organization has also sent more than 70 health-care volunteers to IFCH and other facilities in Nepal.

“The people of Nepal have welcomed us with open arms,” says Mitchell.

Complete strangers have become friends - doctors and others - who are not driven by financial reward, but rather a genuine desire to make life better for kids.

The success of BABU has challenged its creators to think globally. "Colleagues in Belgium were eager to partner with us, and now BABU Belgium takes vaccination programs into schools and orphanages in Kathmandu. We are thrilled with the difference BABU is making in Nepal. Who knows where we can take it next?"