Meet the Barkingside student the prime minister has rewarded for bringing healthcare to developing countries
PUBLISHED: 07:00 27 September 2017 | UPDATED: 14:59 27 September 2017
A 24-year-old man from Barkingside has been recognised by the prime minister for his charity work to improve healthcare in developing countries.
Rathaven Gunaratnarajah, of Waverly Gardens, has never let the demands of a gruelling medicine degree get in the way of his determination to fund healthcare projects in poorer communities.
In 2013, Rathaven, who is studying medicine at the University of Manchester, was inspired after he spent a week volunteering at the St Elizabeth Hospital, in Arusha, Tanzania.
He said: “I knew I wanted to help the people there.”
After staff told him that they needed a dedicated eye clinic, the then 20-year-old decided he would make it happen.
After returning home to Ilford, Rathaven created charity The Little Things, and started recruiting student volunteers to help fundraise for the clinic.
In just over a year, volunteers raised more than £35,000 and Rathaven flew back to Tanzania to oversee the installation of equipment.
He said: “It was amazing to watch people receive treatment in order to be able to see again.
“It was like watching miracles.”
Now, the former Ilford County High Pupil is the latest recipient of the Points of Light award which recognises outstanding volunteers who are making a change in their community and inspiring others.
Each day, someone, somewhere in the country is selected to receive the award to celebrate their remarkable achievements.
In a personal letter to Rathaven, prime minister Theresa May said: “Your work with The Little Things is improving access to vital medical equipment for thousands of people and is making a real difference in communities around the world.
“Your commitment is highly commendable, and you should be proud of how you have inspired others to volunteer for the cause.”
Overall, the Little Things has spent approximately £95,000 on their healthcare projects to date, which also includes providing a number of hospitals in Sri Lanka with necessary life-saving medical equipment.
Rathaven runs the charity with the help of student volunteers who assist in managing the numerous projects and raising awareness of the charity’s work.
Their previous fundraising achievements include organising adventurous events for students to partake in, such as skydiving, mountain treks and marathon football matches.
Now he has started leading next year’s appeal with the aim of supporting a hospital in rural Nepal that serves a population of 300,000.
Wes Streeting MP, Rathaven’s MP, praised the visionary student.
He said: “It is fantastic news that Rathaven has been given the Points of Light award by the prime minister for his outstanding work helping others in need.
“Healthcare in developing countries still remains a significant challenge, especially in the more remote areas in which The Little Things operates.
“Growing a charity from an idea to one which raises thousands of pounds and has a real impact on many lives isn’t easy, which makes Rathaven’s achievements all the more impressive.
“Massive congratulations to Rathaven and the other volunteers involved – I hope The Little Things continues to grow for many years to come.”
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