Friday, July 06, 2007

Swedes donate two ambulances to Kalimpong

Gift for poor patients, from 16000km away

Siliguri/Kalimpong: A team of nine Swedes drove two Volvo ambulances to Kalimpong today, having traversed 16,000km through 12 countries on their way from Strangnas on the east coast of the Scandinavian country.
Both the ambulances will be run by local organisations on a non-profit basis, giving free service to poor patients. While one will remain in Kalimpong, the other will return to Siliguri.
Ambulance Expedition 2007 follows similar overland expedition-donations to Ethiopia in 2003, Nepal in 2004, and Morocco in 2005, said the leader of the Swedish team Kjell Borneland. Apart from the 65-year-old general manager of Swed-Asia Travels, the team includes volunteers from various fields.
“We started from Sweden on June 9, crossing Europe, Turkey, Iran and Pakistan before entering India,” recounted Borneland.
“There was a bit of tension in Turkey,” said Kenneth Ingemarsson, who was in charge of the team’s safety. “Then, we got stuck in Lahore for a whole day as the streets were waterlogged after heavy rain. But I’m glad we reached safely.”
The plan to donate ambulances to this region can be traced back to the friendship Borneland shares with Mahesh Muktan, who runs an NGO, Himalayan Organisation for People’s Education (HOPE), in Kalimpong. The two had first met in Nepal, where they set up an organisation to serve the poor.
The ambulances, which cost Rs 80 lakh each, are fitted with special suspensions, stretchers, oxygen and other medical equipment. Both, however, are left hand drive.
Asked if the vehicles will be allowed to run on Indian roads, an official of the regional transport authority said his department would have no objection if the customs had cleared it.
The ambulance in Siliguri will be operated by the Umasuresh Memorial Charitable Trust, while the one in Kalimpong will be run by the municipality there. The Swedish team has also donated a van to the hill town, which will be operated by the Parimita Charitable Trust, which runs, among other things, the Jamgon Kongtrul Eye Centre at 8th Mile, Kalimpong.