The story behind Tshemba Foundation, a doctor’s refuge

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Johannesburg, March – To say, speaking to Neil Tabatznik, founder of Tshemba Foundation, is inspirational is a vast understatement. Not only has he led an incredible life, but he is also dedicated to making a difference in the lives of those less fortunate.

“Tshemba was started about three years ago, and the concept was to bring medical practitioners to the most underserved areas in South Africa. The idea is not so much to build structures, as our experience of building structures has led us to Tshemba. Structures are not what’s needed, it’s the personnel. The shortage of doctors and medical practitioners in these rural areas is bordering on obscene,” says Neil.

The road to Tshemba started with a visit to a game lodge in the Hoedspruit area. Neil and a friend were on a game drive when the ranger asked Neil to build a school for his children. The community, at that point, already built a room and found a headmaster but it was nowhere near a proper school. Neil built the school, which is flourishing, and sat down with the area Chief to find out what the “real” need is. A clinic, the Chief responded.

It was during the research to build a clinic that Neil realised that the infrastructure was partly in place. They visited a beautiful clinic with full dental suites, but they were unused – there were no dentists.

“It the most tragic thing. Imagine someone gets sick and dies of something that if it had been in an urban area, it would not have occurred to anybody that their lives might be at risk.”

Hence, the Tshemba Foundation, a refuge for doctors, was built.

“It’s built for doctors who have a wealth of knowledge and experience; this is their chance to give back. We built this stunningly beautiful and comfortable lodge in a big five conservation area where doctors can rest, relax and take in the peaceful wonders around them while being safe. Our idea is to provide doctors with a refuge after they’ve spent the day working in gruelling and obstacle-ridden conditions. Practising medicine without the necessary equipment is much more challenging than what they are used to,” comments Neil.

“We have an MOU with the Mpumalanga Department of Health who allows us to place our doctors and nurses in their hospitals and clinics. However, we must stay cognisant of the number of volunteers we accept at a time as the Tintswalo Hospital only has six permanent staff doctors. Hence, we look at what we do as organised volunteering that you don’t have to pay for to attend,” he continues.

Tshmeba Foundation is not only about servicing less fortunate people in dire need of medical attention, but also about helping doctors find their love for medicine again and pass their legacies on to the next generation.

Pledge your services to the Tshemba Foundation and help both those in need and yourself. Call +27 (64) 507 5527 or visit www.tshembafoundation.org for more information or to schedule your visit.