Gamal Albinsaid: A Young Doctor Paid in Trash

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Photo: Gamal Albinsaid

While as a medical student at Brawijaya University in Malang, East Java, Gamal Albinsaid heard the harrowing story of a young girl lying lifeless on top of a pile of garbage at the young age of 3. Her name was Khairunnisa, or Nisa, and she had succumbed to diarrhoea that led to her life being lost. Being a trashpicker, her father was not able to bring her to a hospital due to a lack of funding and thus, Nisa was only able to make do with whatever they had available for treatment. Sadly, her life was unable to be saved against the diarrhoea that many of us can find treatment for it easily – but not for her.

The tragic story of Nisa created a deep impression on Gamal Albinsaid to a point where he was inspired to care and provide the less-fortunate with sufficient treatment. Now, the 27-year old from Malang, East Java is now known locally and overseas as “The Garbage Doctor”. Through the Garbage Insurance Clinic that he established, Gamal is able to provide free medical care to the less fortunate who are only required to pay using trash.

His noble venture has captured the heart of the world where in 2012, Gamal was chosen as a Young Changemaker by Ashoka (a global social entrepreneurship organization). Two years later, Gamal was given the “Sustainable Living Youth Entrepreneurs” award from the British Royal Family in the start of 2014. He won first place out of 510 contestants spanning over 90 different countries. His accomplishment won him a trip to London and a face-to-face meeting with Prince Charles himself.

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Photo: Gamal Albinsaid

Trained to Strive Since Childhood

Gamal Albinsaid was born in Malang on the 8th of September 1989, being the third of four siblings. He was raised under a family of entrepreneurs whereby his father was in the business of buying and selling cars that saw a rapid growth over time. Gamal and his siblings were taught entrepreneurial skills since they were little. A skill they utilized over the years to a point where they were able to finance their own education. As Gamal tells us about his parents; “My parents were financially secure, quite well-off, however they taught me to strive – they did not give me everything that I wanted even though they could afford it. They trained me to experience the inconveniences and struggles of life.”

Gamal calls this pattern of parenting that his parents instilled on him as “delaying gratification”. He recalls many memories of this. As Gamal puts it; “For example things as simple as my parents not buying me a PlayStation, DVD player, or any video game for that matter. When I was in high school, my friends had cellphones whereas I did not. Even though my parents owned a car dealership, I still commuted to school using an angkot (a minivan converted to be used as public transportation in Indonesia). This ordeal became a great influence in the way my siblings and I live our lives. We were trained to become entrepreneurs.”

While at school, Gamal was a bright student who regularly finished top 3 during his time in elementary school. However while he was in the third grade, Gamal fell sick. His asthma required him to stay in the hospital for a week and saw his ranking at school drop from top 3 down to 40th in his class. “That experience grew a sense of empathy within me to become a doctor. I was regularly sick with asthma, every one or two weeks it would return; I experienced the hardship and struggles of being a sick person. I became determined to become a doctor to be able to help sick people.”, said Gamal assertively.

Gamal has since focused on his studies and was accepted in the medical faculty of the best university in Malang. Gamal was also active in a few organizations including the student government association (OSIS) since high school and also a medical student association during his time in university. In addition, Gamal was trusted to become the coordinator of global health awareness organization for students and post-graduate medical students. “That was what trained me in my decision making process. There I learned about global culture, leadership and cultural adaptation. I learned how an organization gets its funding, and I grew my thought and international insight. The values I learned from that organization has trained me to position myself with other people, place myself with people that we lead, and influence other people to reach the goal that we dream”.

Accomplishing many feats at such a young age did not make Gamal arrogant. Both his parents have always been the source of inspiration in his life, to train his empathy, and keeping his feet planted on the ground. They have also been a great influence in his personal motivation and also his dreams. “A lot of people have motivation to do something, such as for self-actualization, or to bring benefits. I have a dream or motivation to make my parents proud and happy, and to repay their merit to me with accomplishments that I have accumulated in my lifetime. Accomplishments are not just in terms of achievement, but also in making the right decisions, and what we can do that will be worthwhile. My parents have sacrificed a lot; I feel such at fault when I only have fun, or if I use my time for things that are not beneficial. I believe that the way we treat our parents is truly a way to communicate to God how God treats us.” as Gamal explains.

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Photo: Gamal Albinsaid

Garbage Insurance Clinic

In 2010, moved by the death of Khairunnisa, Gamal created a program proposal to be entered into a competition. “The idea for the proposal came from a story from one of my professors. Her name was Mrs. Rita Rosita. In the university, she told a story of someone who created insurance with a premium of only 1000 Rupiah. My friends and I tried to modify the program by changing the premium from money, into trash.”, said Gamal.

Gamal wanted to bring the project to reality because he believes that it will help a lot of less-fortunate people access proper health care. He started the program with 5 other friends, however 6 months later; the program was shut down. “At that time we were still inexperienced, we lacked leadership. But I was determined to rise again – I invited my friends to join but they were not up for it. I met with Mrs. Rita and she gave me guidance once again. In addition, I also asked for guidance from a different professor, called Mr. Arief Alamsyah, of whom I learned many skills and traits of leadership from. Subsequently, I started again in 2012 by creating a clinic, replication and the rest.”, recalled Gamal.

A few years later, after the clinic was established, Gamal owned a legal entity; two of his professors, Rita Rosita and Arief Alamsyah were then trusted to become Foundation Advisors. Gamal admits that Rita and Arief made a big impression on his career path choice after both his parents.

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Photo: Gamal Albinsaid

Through the Garbage Insurance Clinic (GIC), Gamal has been able to change the system of payment by utilizing a resource that was once deemed useless, whereby using trash to access healthcare. Unlike other health clinics, GIC takes its premium in the form of trash that its members collect. Now the number of members of GIC has reached 500. To become a member of GIC is also quite simple; every member must only collect organic or inorganic trash for 1 week until it reaches a premium value of 10 thousand Rupiah. Then, members are then eligible to receive insurance that can only be used at GIC.

Trash that is collected by all members can be recycled, forwarded to a trash pool, and some are even processed to become organic compost fertilizer. The money from the sale of the trash is then used to finance the operations of GIC which is now located in 5 different places.

The insurance that’s available to GIC members is a primary insurance which includes main medical care, diagnosis, laboratory check-up and medication at the clinic. Illnesses that are handled by GIC are not just limited to minor sickness such as coughing and colds, but also more major illnesses such high blood pressure, diabetes, infections, even heart conditions and mental disorders. GIC is supported by professional doctors and nurses who have also taken part in developing counselling programs, health promotion campaigns, and even prevention and rehabilitation programs as part of a holistic healthcare program. One of which includes telemedicine whereby they provide health counselling through the phone.

At the moment, GIC is run under the umbrella of Yayasan Indonesia Medika. This social business houses around 50 people from a variety of different educational backgrounds with an average age below 25-years old.

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Photo: Gamal Albinsaid

Replication in Many Locations

In the future, Gamal hopes that Garbage Insurance Clinic (GIC) will push similar enterprises in many locations. To further scale his impact, Gamal is in the process of preparing a replicable model of his innovative insurance model to be used in a number of towns in Indonesia. On a national scale, GIC is getting ready to be integrated into the insurance scheme of the national healthcare service (BPJS) to be able to expand his services to more people, specifically the less fortunate.

Gamal and his team have gained a lot of support from government instances, universities, NGOs and even corporations. “This is 3 different businesses, a medical care business, an insurance business, and also a trash processing business. We will conduct more modifications, we are being helped by the Cambridge Program Sustainability Leadership so that we are able to ease our replication and in 2014, there were around 54 social businesses similar to us that we have helped develop be it in the private sector, professional, or even in government.” explained Gamal.


These are the 5 points that Gamal focuses on in his development plan:

  1. Become a role model whereby GIC can become an example for other social businesses.
  2. Massive replication in numerous places, with targets in the hundreds all over Indonesia.
  3. Development of program modifications for services in education, research, and training.
  4. Introducing trash insurance to an international level. At this time, Gamal and his team are aiding in a replication program in Bangladesh.
  5. Sustainable development – making sure all replications will be sustainable in the long run be it financially or structurally (management).

Personally, Gamal hopes that his life story can become a source of inspiration for many other young people to do the same good that he has done. This Ashoka Young Changemaker of 2012 believes that every young person can become a changemaker. According to Gamal, a changemaker needs to find their source of pleasure, strength, and also meaning in their own unique ways. Gamal believes that once one has found these three things, every young person can bring change.

“Our youth is like the sun at 12:00pm, the hottest, and brightest it will be – a crucial period; but many of us see our youth pass by just like that. After being chosen as a Young Changemaker, I was taught to and guided to make sure that our youth days must be meaningful. Because our youth is full of pressure, a lot of social comparison, many demands, but Ashoka has helped me realize myself, have a long sense of continuity. Do not let other people undermine us just because we are young. People do not care how rich, how great, or how smart we are – people only care how meaningful we set our lives to be.”, concluded Gamal as he ended his story of change to Ashoka Indonesia.


Interview and Story by:

WILIBRODUS MARIANUS (wmarianus@ashoka.org) – Ashoka Indonesia Youth Coordinator.

Translated to English By:

BARIZI FIRDAUSI (bfirdausi@ashoka.org) – Youth Intern, Ashoka Indonesia.

 

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