Lonnie Hackett is not yet a college graduate, but already he is the founder of a healthcare nonprofit in Zambia that provides free medical treatment to children.
To further his work, Hackett has received a $10,000 Projects for Peace grant that will help him grow his humanitarian organization, Healthy Kids/Brighter Future. Philanthropist Kathryn Davis set up Projects for Peace to support motivated undergraduates who are implementing community projects around the world.
When he was a college freshman, Hackett, who grew up in Bangor, Maine, traveled to Zambia for a summer volunteer trip. He recounts being shocked by the levels of illness and poverty he witnessed there, particularly in the squatter settlements around Lusaka, Zambia’s largest city. A year later, he launched Healthy Kids/Brighter Future to help some of the city’s most vulnerable children. Many Zambian children suffer from serious illnesses, ones that are easily preventable or curable. One in nine will not live to see their fifth birthday.
With help from a board of doctors, academics and lawyers (is that right?), Hackett has set up a nonprofit model in which 100% of donations flow directly to his health projects. Along with the $10,000 peace grant, Hackett has raised an additional $9,000 from other donors this year to continue providing healthcare in N’gombe, one of Lusaka’s most impoverished settlements.
From June to September, Healthy Kids’ team of 15 paid Zambian nurses, doctors and other healthcare workers are planning to see 3,000 students at 15 of N’gombe’s poorest public schools. (Last summer, with $10,000, they treated 1,400 students at seven schools.)
The team will buy an arsenal of medications, including antibiotics, deworming pills, cough syrup, tuberculosis vaccinations, flu shots, anti-parasite pills and tetanus vaccinations. At the schools, Hackett’s healthcare team will give medications to children and look for such diseases as tuberculosis, malaria and HIV, referring them to a government health clinic for more tests if necessary.
“We are able to treat most of what we see,” Hackett said. Some of the diseases are relatively easy and cheap to cure. Medicine for schistosomiasis, a small waterborne parasite that is widespread among children, costs just twenty cents. On average the check-ups cost about $4 per student, Hackett said. “We can do a lot with quite a little.”
The other part of Healthy Kids/Brighter Future’s work is educating teachers about preventative medicine, sanitation and basic healthcare so they can help their students stay healthy. With his current $19,000 budget, Hackett will also be able to offer 70 teachers a full week of medical training, paying them for their time.
Hackett is building a solid foundation in N’gombe with the hope to eventually expand the reach of Healthy Kids/Brighter Future. N’gombe has 35 community schools with 10,000 students, and there are many more needy students beyond the settlement in Lusaka and Zambia. “We’re working in this community [of N’gombe] as a model,” Hackett said. “It’ll allow us to track and see the impact in a concentrated area, so we can attract more funding, pitch it to bigger NGOs and scale it up.”