The winters are brutal and the heating options are few in Achham District in far western Nepal, where a one-year-old girl named Priyanka Bhul accidentally tumbled into an open pit fire and suffered disfiguring burns.
Her injuries were not uncommon. But without medical treatment, her badly burned skin contracted painfully and hardened, restricting the use of her right hand for a long stretch of her childhood.
The cost of surgery to restore movement to her hand was $840, a tiny fee by Western standards but prohibitive to Bhul’s family. At the age of 12, she won a kind of cosmic lottery by crossing paths with an organization with the means to help, then-named Nyaya Health, a rural health initiative founded and run by some young Americans. Executive Director Mark Arnoldy is a 2010 graduate of the University of Colorado.
Nyaya had been working since 2008 to provide free health care to the rural community where Bhul lived, with the usual blend of foundation money, philanthropic donations and public-sector support.
But in 2012, the organization started doing something different. Teaming with the health care crowdfunding platform Watsi, Nyaya began posting photos and stories of people with health needs that went beyond the capacity of its basic care. Bhul’s story was posted online, and within three days, twenty-four strangers—most from the U.S., but also from Taiwan, Germany, Peru, Brazil, and Canada—had contributed to pay for the girl’s needed care.
Arnoldy said that so far Nyaya has raised $153,000 through crowdfunding, paying for the medical care of 200 people. He notes that Nyaya hasn’t yet encountered any shortage of donors through this method, and the organization is looking to expand its reach so that more people can be treated.
The crowdfunding healthcare model has won praise and attention for being direct— people like to know what they’re paying for. And the hope is that it can be scaled up, reaching many more people as more health care organizations in far-flung locales adopt the fundraising method.
Most recently, Nyaya has changed its name to Possible, explaining the transition thusly, “In everything we do, we believe in proving it’s possible to deliver high-quality, low-cost healthcare to the world’s poor.”