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25-Year-Old Starts NGO To Help Refugees And The Underprivileged Get Medical Treatment

Over 3,000 families have been impacted since the birth of non-profit organisation, Doctors On Ground.

Cover image via Arissa Jemaima & Doctors On Ground (Provided to SAYS)

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It's easy to forget the privilege many of us have when it comes to receiving medical aid

Not everyone has the financial stability, let alone the ability, to simply walk into a clinic or hospital whenever they're sick.

Doctors On Ground (DnG), a medical non-profit organisation, seeks to bridge the gap that many marginalised communities in Malaysia face with medical care.

The brainchild of the organisation is Arissa Jemaima, a 25-year-old student who is passionate about public health and human rights

As a student of international relations and international law, Arissa would often volunteer with NGOs around Malaysia.

"Most of the time, these projects were all on a touch-and-go basis: you send aid once with no intention or plan to follow-up on the assistance. Where is the element of sustainability and transparency in that?" she lamented, which inspired her to start her own organisation.

DnG is made up of a diverse team of medical and non-medical volunteers, who are both professionals and full-time students

Working alongside Arissa is chief medical officer Dr Jeevitha Brama Kumar and DnG's primary medical officer Dr Aravind Giri, who frontlines the medical missions mobilised by DnG.

Since its inception in April 2021, DnG has organised over 50 healthcare and community-based projects across Peninsula Malaysia and Borneo, and over 3,000 families have benefitted from its aid.

Due to the pandemic, DnG initially began with home consultations and community clinics in Selayang.

The aim was to help Rohingya and Myanmar-Muslim families who often have difficulty accessing and financing their healthcare, especially those who suffer from chronic illnesses that require long term follow-up and medication supplies.

With the help of ordinary Malaysians and other generous funders, the non-profit organisation was able to carry out its missions, procure medications, and even pay for hospital bills for those requiring urgent healthcare.

Since its launch, the organisation has gained a tremendous amount of support, from specialists and medical doctors to medical students alike

"What sets us apart from others is our element of sustainability. We do not delve into one-off projects for the sake of publicity, but rather stay for the long haul. That means going down to the ground on a regular basis and doing the hard work, like following-up on chronic and complicated cases," Jeevitha shared.

One of the NGO's most recent trips was to Sabah after it had received calls to work particularly with the rural and stateless communities in Borneo

"It was understood that humanitarian work in Sabah among other NGOs is very common, but after a recce trip, we quickly realised that there was no consideration towards sustainability due to inconsistent assistance and a considerable lack of funding," the chief medical officer added.

On their own expense, Arissa and Jeevitha took a trip to Borneo, where they later teamed up with a local youth-led NGO called Doktor Komuniti Kita (DKK).

As the organisation was part of the umbrella giant, Komuniti KITA – a joint collaboration between other Sabah-based NGOs – the DnG Sabah partner had enough ground support to simultaneously run missions in multiple areas.

In addition, these initiatives were equipped with the medication and supplies to cover the target areas.

As for future plans, DnG aims to secure its physical state bases in Sabah, Pahang, Penang, and Selayang (Selangor). With all this under its belt, one may wonder what the next year or two would look like for the non-profit.

Here are other ways Malaysians have been leaving an impact in their communities:

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