Who We Are
Suraiya Ataur Medical Center (SAMC) is a non-profit medical clinic situated in the village of Chondipur, Bangladesh. It was established in 2014 to serve the basic health needs specifically of women and children of the village and surrounding rural areas. Many families live below the poverty level. The distance and cost of the closest health facility other than SAMC makes access to it a challenge.
SAMC also provides critical education on nutrition, reproductive health and hygiene. Classes and workshops are held in the clinic and in the adjoining school for women.
Our center is staffed by female salaried professionals. The medical doctor is available eight days a month, while a physician’s assistant is available for services four days a week. Three staff members help with the administrative duties and young girls from the nearby school offer volunteer services. Serious medical cases which are beyond the scope of our center’s services are referred to a local hospital in the area. Currently, the clinic sees 800 patients monthly and the numbers continue to grow.
SAMC medical services are essentially free. A nominal fee of five BDT, equivalent to less than five cents in USD is charged per doctor visit, which includes any prescribed medications.
SAMC has a motto crafted by the women of Chondipur who feel a sense of deep kinship with their clinic: “SAMC – Where every patient and donor are family.”
History of SAMC
The medical clinic is rooted in the vision and work of Maulana Hedayatullah (1881-1945) and his beloved wife Sayeda Mehrunnesa (1901-1951). Maulana Hedayatullah was a noted scholar, teacher and healer. He had spent 15 years of his adult life away from home absorbed in intense study and meditation with teachers in Northern India.
Maulana Hedayatullah ministered tirelessly to the villagers of northern Bengal and in his lifetime grew a large following. He travelled extensively. Often his wife joined him in his work of healing through herbal medicine, spiritual practices and prayers.
Both husband and wife believed ardently in the critical need to empower women through education. They worked hard to overcome patriarchal traditions. To a conservative audience, they used scripture and common sense to explain that female education would empower families and the society as a whole. Their value of education extended to their five daughters and two sons. This tradition of honoring equal education for all genders was central to their teaching. Every child of the Hedayatullah family was expected to complete schooling regardless of the child’s gender. The care, attention and time that the Hedayatullahs invested in the education of their children provided a valuable model for the villagers to educate their own children - both sons and daughters.
To nurture and promote this vision of equal education, a makeshift school for women was created by the couple in the 1920s. This eventually grew into a school for women, which was formally established in 1967 supported by villagers and funded primarily from the sales of mangoes from the nearby orchards of the Rahman family.
Upon Maulana and Sayeda’s deaths, the responsibility for the school fell on the shoulders of their eldest son, Mohammad Ataur Rahman, who chose to become a diplomat. Along with his wife Suraiya, they travelled all over the world. Ataur Rahman had the distinction of becoming Ambassador of two countries in his lifetime: first, representing Pakistan and second, in 1971 when the country split in two, he became the Ambassador of Bangladesh. In 1971, Bangladesh gained independence from present-day Pakistan after a 9 month civil war. For over four decades they supported from overseas the village school and a number of other village projects from their personal funds, assets and connections. Throughout their career they spent every single vacation in their ancestral village taking care of the needs of the school and other community ventures.
In 1991, both Ataur and Suraiya Rahman passed away in the same year. Their children, Kamal, Jamal and Aysu took over the responsibilities of the school. From 1992 to 2000 the Interfaith Community Sanctuary in Seattle sustained and grew the school through fundraising and donations. Because of the generosity of well-wishers in Seattle, the school for women in Chondipur is today a flourishing institution, fully accredited and supported financially by the Bangladesh government.
From 1993 onwards, Interfaith Community Sanctuary continued to raised funds annually. These generous donors eventually created a project called “Friends of Mohdipur” to continue to fundraise for the school, and eventually became known as what is now the Suraiya Ataur Medical Center.
Around 2012, Aysu decided to finally nurture her dream of expanding the vision of her grandparents and build on the work of her parents. Aysu, who is a medical doctor, felt inspired to open a medical clinic for women and children. Thanks to the continued support of our local community within the Interfaith Community Sanctuary, we were able to begin raising funds for this new project.
In 2014, Aysu’s older brother Kamal who owns businesses in Dhaka, Bangladesh acquired land adjacent to the school, and commenced work on building a medical clinic. He and his staff continue to provide financial help and operational expertise.
Since 2014, Interfaith Community Sanctuary has been extraordinarily active in supporting and expanding the medical clinic. Through regular fundraising and generous donations, the clinic is able to serve an ever-growing number of women and children not only from Chondipur but also from neighboring villages.
Enthused and excited by the palpable benefits of the clinic, village elders in Chondipur requested the Rahman family to build a nursing school. This institution would offer much needed professional training and employment to girls graduating from the school, and to other women in neighboring villages. Land has already been purchased in close proximity to the school and clinic, and construction of the nursing school has started. There are ongoing talks with health officials to secure government accreditation. It is anticipated that this phased project of the ambitious nursing school will take two years to complete.