Friday, January 24, 2014

A network of supporter for Dr. Paul Thistle

LARRY GILLMAN/Special to the Examiner Toronto-born surgeon Dr. Paul Thistle has settled into his new position at the Karanda Mission Hospital in Zimbabwe. Local Peterborough volunteers who just returned from visiting the hospital will share their stories Jan. 29 at 7 p.m. at the Beth Israel Synagogue.

Toronto-born surgeon Dr. Paul Thistle has settled into his new position at the Karanda Mission Hospital in Zimbabwe and his Peterborough donors intend to join him.

For the last decade a small but passionate group of grassroots donors have raised money for the efforts of Thistle and his wife Pedrinah as they carried out medical work and teaching with a focus on maternal child health and HIV/AIDS at the Salvation Army Howard Hospital in rural Zimbabwe.

During his 16 years as chief medical officer at Howard, Thistle leveraged a massive network of Canadian donors to keep the hospital funded and equipped and helped pay many services for the community such as sending orphans to school. Peterborough donors alone sent an average of $30,000 each year.

All that came to a halt when the Salvation Army removed Thistle from his post in August 2012 under a cloud of controversy. Thistle's supporters say he was removed for blowing the whistle on corruption within the church, an allegation the church has denied, calling Thistle’s removal a routine personnel decision.

Thistle now operates as a surgeon at the Karanda Mission Hospital near Mount Darwin about 100 kilometres northeast of his previous site and about 200 km from the capital of Harare. There, an estimated quarter of a million people are served.

Last month three of Thistle’s long time Peterborough supporters – Brian Nichols, Larry Gillman and David Abramsky travelled to Karanda for the first time.

Gillman said the hospital is in a more remote area of the country than Howard and serves an area with poorer roads and even poorer access to water and decent farm land. During his three-week stay, Gillman said the hospital was lucky to get an hour of running water on some days.

“It’s a more isolated hospital,” Gillman said of his trip. “It seems to be in a more rural, poorer area.”

Rural Zimbabwe remains one of the poorest places on earth and continues to be ravaged by the effects of HIV/AIDS.

An estimated 10,000 children alone are infected with HIV in Zimbabwe each year, with 90% from mother to child transmission.

The three Peterborough volunteers saw that first hand when they organized a clothes and food drive for orphans in the surrounding villages and were inundated with more than 400 orphaned children.

“About 400 orphans showed up. Think about that, 400 just in the area of the hospital,” Gillman said. “It’s a clear sign of the problem when you see those orphans. That’s all HIV/AIDS.”

Karanda was established in 1961 to meet the needs of mission stations in the Zambezi River valley. The mission complex has a nurse training school for about 55 students and a primary school offering Grades 1 to 7 for children of the hospital staff.

Supporters such as Gillman were devastated when Thistle was forced out of his position at Howard and volunteers in Peterborough lost their connection to a place they held close to their hearts.

There were also financial implications as more than $40,000 in building materials raised during two high-profile Peterborough fundraisers in 2011 and 2012 went missing from Howard grounds shortly following Thistle’s ousting.

But that’s not going to prevent suporters from reaching back into the well and convincing Peterborough residents to once again support Thistle’s work, Gillman said.

“You can see Paul and Pedrinah start to get their tentacles out into the new community,” Gillman said.

“Paul and Pedrinah have taken their talents somewhere else. It’s a shame what’s going on with Howard, but people understand that. Howard was fraught with its own politics … it doesn’t negate the work that Paul and Pedrinah are doing to save lives.”

Nichols, Gillman and Abramsky will be holding a gathering Jan. 29 at 7 p.m. at the Beth Israel Synagogue to talk about their recent trip and they invite the public to attend. Supporters are also ramping up for another big fundraiser in late spring.
What: Stories from Karanda Mission Hospital in Zimbabwe

Where: Beth Israel Synagogue at 775 Weller St.

When: Jan. 29 at 7 p.m.

Who: Peterborough volunteers Brian Nichols, Larry Gillman and David Abramsky will talk about their visit to Zimbabwe last month.



Anonymous said...

Thank you FSAOF for your unrelenting and dogged efforts to keep the Howard scandal on the front burner. Interestingly but not surprising, not a word from IHQ or elsewhere on what plans have been fulfilled to stem the suffering and loss of life.


Anonymous said...

I don't believe we'll ever know the full extent of the corruption, not necessarily by only SA people, but under their watch. A half million would be my very conservative guess. The retirement home built by 1 officer must run into 50.000USD alone.
Retired SA Canada

Anonymous said...

Yes, It's a shocking indictment on the lack of integrity shown by the Salvation Army in this case. Shamed into action by the intrepid reporting of the FSAOF and the cry for justice by its bloggers, TSA promised restorative action for HH, but since the cessation of the articles on this website, the trail has gone cold, and I guess we will be none the wiser from here on in. I suspect that as the furore has died down, TSA's complacency will start to rise again, and nothing - but nothing - will have changed for the better. TSA will limp along until it's older members are PTG, and with younger people less committed to 'Army' and its antiquated ways, the social services part of the organisation will be the only survivor.
Where there is no moral integrity, there is no future spiritually.

Elizabeth Webley said...

Here in Australia The Salvation Army sold one of their properties complete with Church buildings to the Muslims for $2.2 million because the Muslims needed a larger place for their growing community.
Need I say more ??

Anonymous said...

To Peterborough

Who are the we? Fellow officers and maybe lay soldiers and outside donors who have followed this issue.

Wasn't $200,000.00 returned to the Canadian Government? As I understand what appeared on this website the government grant was refused. There was no need to refund if it was never even accepted.

And wasn't donated equipment to the tune of 30,000.00 retrieved from HH? On this website it said that Dr. Fenton never got his equipment back.

I'm sure the FSAOF has more accurate information. what do you mean "more accurate information" than what?

And how many tens of thousand was withheld once the HH misappropriation story broke? Who knows but do we cover up wrong doing for the sake of not losing donations?

Anonymous said...

To Elizabeth Webley - what does your comment have to do with the HH situation?

Anonymous said...


I do not believe for one moment that the Salvation Army sold their property because a Muslim community needed a larger place for their growing community.

What is more likely is that the decommissioned property became surplus to requirement, was put on the open market through an agent as mere bricks and mortar with the Muslims happening to have the funds and need to buy it.

All ethical, all above board, nothing underhand....unless you know something different?

Anonymous said...

Retired SA Canada

Be very careful about making not so veiled assertions about anyone being possibly corrupt when you do not know the personal family circumstances of that particular officer with the use of such a capital asset.

The family structural support is great and complicated. Add to that large amounts of funds being remitted back home from overseas by emigrates and you get a much more positive understanding on how people survive in averse circumstances.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know what the current state of HH is? Did the doctor arrive, etc? We seem to have been left in limbo.