Pioneering Edinburgh restaurateur Tony Singh has joined forces with one of Scotland’s oldest charities to back a £4.5million campaign to develop life-saving healthcare in a poor region of his ancestors’ native India.
Singh, an entrepreneur who has established award-winning restaurants and is well-known for his charity work, launched the appeal with EMMS International, an Edinburgh-based charity founded in 1841 as one of the first overseas medical organisations in the UK and now one of Scotland’s oldest charities.
EMMS International’s Duncan Centenary Vision is an urgently-needed sustainable development programme to improve healthcare infrastructure and health services at The Duncan Hospital in north India’s Bihar region, near the Nepalese border. A £4.5million fundraising campaign has already attracted £4million in philanthropic donations, and the final £500k is being sought through different fundraising initiatives. As well as inviting philanthropic and corporate donations, the drive promotes a Dine and Donate for Duncan initiative which will invite small donations from diners at partner restaurants throughout the UK in order to hit the target amount.
“EMMS International’s brilliant work in the north of India is close to my heart,” said Singh, a third-generation Scots Sikh whose great-grandfather Kesar Singh Kusbia came to Edinburgh as a refugee of India’s war of independence 1947 from Punjab, also in the north of the country.
“EMMS is so close to reaching its target amount to make such a profound and lasting difference to the health and lives of people in the Bihar region, and I hope I can help highlight the cause to help them push towards that magical £4.5million figure. Living in Scotland, it’s great to see that EMMS are truly international and have for hundreds of years supported people here in Scotland too, on low incomes with life limiting conditions access healthcare – and continue to do so today through their respite accommodation.”
Started in 2019, EMMS International’s Duncan Centenary Vision is being delivered in distinct separate phases and will support patients from both Nepal and Northern India. Already the vision has developed holistic palliative care at the Duncan Hospital and 13 related medical facilities in the region, and developed a clinic with life-saving equipment. Building work is underway to establish a new college of nursing and plans are being drawn up to create a new accommodation block, develop a solar-powered energy system, and create a career pathway for up to 250 female students to become healthcare professionals (which is already underway for 30 women and girls).
Restaurants, businesses and individuals across the UK are being encouraged to support the charity’s work in India. Laura Brown, Director of Fundraising for EMMS International, says: “We are grateful for the support of Tony Singh and are excited to work with him to help us raise awareness of the desperate need which exists in Bihar. EMMS are appealing for donations to help us raise the final £500k that’s so urgently needed.
“As well as asking for individual donations, we are also aiming to encourage 30 restaurants throughout the UK to demonstrate support by launching the Dine and Donate fundraiser, which we are sure would provide motivation and reward for their staff and customers alike.”
The Edinburgh-based charity positively impacts the lives of people in Scotland, Malawi, Nepal and India, offering respite to people with life limiting conditions in Scotland and developing health services and healthcare infrastructure for people in extreme poverty.
Founded in 1930, The Duncan Hospital, named after its founder Dr Cecil Duncan, a Scottish surgeon, now serves an extremely poor population of 8 million people from Bihar state. It provides essential clinical services and primary healthcare, prioritising the needs of the most vulnerable people including women and girls, people with HIV/AIDS, victims of modern slavery, and children under the age of five.
“This project is ultimately about saving the lives of people whose health system suffers from a chronic shortage of workers, poor infrastructure, and a heavy burden of sickness and disease,” says Brown. “The devastating impact of COVID-19 in Bihar has come on top of many other health challenges in the region, including malaria, tuberculosis, leprosy, and HIV/AIDS. Some 46 children die under the age of one in Bihar for every 1,000 live births and the maternal mortality rate is still as high as 149 per 100,000.