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TOMM in 2016: a small charity facing up to big challenges

by Judy Brown

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High PeakTOMMThe Olive Medical MissionRebecca MarkwickNew MillshealthcareUganda

The Olive Medical Mission team

The Olive Medical Mission is stepping into a new future, with fresh vision, revived hope and a new team member helping to make things happen: Rebecca Markwick from New Mills. 

TOMM offers healthcare to sick and needy people in Uganda. It represents a beacon of hope and a model of good practice in an area where few people can afford food, clean water or basic medicine, and where typhoid and cholera are rife. The mission began in 2013 when Robert and Helena Brown from Chapel-en-le-Frith visited an orphanage in Kawempe. Linked to the orphanage was a derelict clinic. Robert and Helena undertook to become directors, rent the clinic and restore it as a healthcare centre. Their aim was to make health and hygiene freely available to all irrespective of race, gender or poverty. By employing local doctors, nurses and administrators, they would also help the community become self-sufficient. 

The TOMM team

TOMM had some remarkable successes, offering antenatal care; eyesight checks; immunisation programmes; mother-and-baby clinics; malaria treatment; and health education for schools. However, keeping it all going proved a nightmare. The main problems were money, time and the constant need for repairs. There were never enough donations, no state aid and not enough hours in the day for the Browns to manage the charity as well as pursuing their own full-time jobs at home. Funds had to go into repairing old equipment and damp dilapidated buildings instead of treating the patients. 

Robert and Helena realised the only effective solution would be to close the clinic and start all over again with a new purpose-built healthcare centre outside the city. To do that they needed partners, equipment and someone willing to dedicate their time to TOMM. 

An example of the TOMM team's fantastic work

That is when Rebecca Markwick came on the scene. Rebecca was an experienced nurse and care manager at Stepping Hill, who came across TOMM while visiting Uganda with a group from her church. She found the aims and principles of the mission inspiring: ‘Seeing the set-up, it became so obvious to me that I wanted to join TOMM. They work so hard to try and be the solution to some of the problems faced in Uganda, for example by offering care that is free to all at point of access, no matter what their background or religion or situation may be.’ The existing state-run hospital in Kampala, by contrast, appeared so squalid and overcrowded that it could not offer even basic nursing care to those unable to pay for treatment. Rebecca decided that as a voluntary fundraiser and administrator for TOMM she could make a big difference to people’s lives in Uganda. ‘I have a heart to see this project reach its full potential as a very real answer to the challenges that the people of Uganda face every day,’ she says. The team will build a new clinic to a sustainable design, re-employ current staff and train others, as well as providing high-quality treatment and care for patients. With Rebecca’s help, the campaign is already taking off. ‘This is our rainbow moment,’ say the charity’s directors Robert and Helena. ‘It’s like the sun coming out after a storm of difficulties.’

To see what’s going on, visit TOMM on Facebook, go to the website at, email or call 07731 518776.