BARRHEAD - In May, Raine's Clinic in Malawi, Africa, officially opened after three years of hard work by many people.
Unfortunately, Raine Kooger, a Barrhead registered nurse and the woman the clinic was named after, did not live to see it happen.
Raine tragically passed away on April 6, 2019. She was only 44.
"It was her dream," Jason Kooger, Raine's husband said.
On its official opening, May 3, the clinic served 108 patients. Since its launch, it continues to serve upwards of 100 patients a day, providing otherwise unavailable urgent medical care to the people of the Longwe region.
Malawi is a landlocked country in southeastern Africa, bordered by Zambia, Tanzania, and Mozambique. It is one of the least developed countries in the world, with a low life expectancy and high infant mortality rates.
"Raine was always interested in mission work," Kooger said, adding the couple met when Raine visited Ontario as a teen on a youth church exchange. In 1993, Kooger moved to Barrhead, and two years later, they were married.
He said Raine started her career working for the Blue Heron Support Services Association (BHSSA) after high school.
In 1998, Raine went on her first mission trip to Romania.
Not long after returning home, Raine switched jobs, taking a position with the Barrhead Clinic.
When she was at the clinic, Raine decided to become a nurse after what Kooger said was a "few gentle pushes from Dr. Marvin Wray", former Barrhead medical director.
"It was a long haul, working, having a young family and going to night school mostly through Northern Lakes College, but she got it done," he said, noting the process took about seven years.
After getting her nursing credentials, Raine took a position at the Barrhead Healthcare Centre.
It was about this time when the big 2011 earthquake hit Haiti, and Raine made the first of what ended up being several mission trips to the nation.
"All of our kids went on the missions, usually one at a time," Kooger said, adding that Raine wanted to teach her children about the importance of serving and the need in the world.
He added that Raine purposely worked casually at the hospital to allow her the flexibility to go on mission trips.
Before going on each of the trips, Kooger said, Raine would collect as many medical supplies as she could, a lot of it being expired medicines that she gathered up from her old clinic in Barrhead, as well as one in Spruce Grove, to use at the Haiti clinics.
But in 2017, when Raine got involved with Blazing Faith Ministries in Edmonton, she started her love affair with Africa and the people of Malawi.
Blazing Faith Ministries is a Christian-based mission ministry operated by Darcy and Brenda Cummer, that runs a feeding program and is now Raine's Clinic.
Raine met the couple again through the church, Kooger said, noting Darcy is originally from Barrhead, and she accompanied the couple on a couple of missions to the country where she worked at a clinic at a United Nations-run refugee camp.
About three weeks before she was scheduled to make her third trip to Malawi, Raine passed away.
"She always said if we ever got a lot of money, we should set up a clinic in Malawi, and that is what [with the help of the Cummers and Blazing Faith Ministries] we did it," Kooger said, adding work on the clinic started that fall, starting with fundraising. "It took three years because nothing moves very quickly in Africa."
One of the biggest obstacles they needed to overcome was getting electricity to the clinic.
"It's been a struggle and will continue to be one, but we hope that to make it sustainable over the long term," he said, adding the clinic has 16 staff members and costs roughly $9,785 to operate. "That fluctuates a little as the clinic has to pay for everything in U.S. dollars."
As for how people can help, Kooger said the best way is to make a donation through Blazing Faith Ministries (blazingfaithministries.org) and earmark it for Raine's Clinic.
They have also held two local fundraising events at the Kooger's church, Barrhead Bethel Pentecostal, the latest being in late October, in which they raised $42,000.
The clinic will be holding its grand opening next spring, and Kooger and his three children hope to be in attendance.
"It will be great, and I am sure very emotional to see what Raine's vision spawned," he said.