Friends of Mungeli

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The Rambo Committee, Inc. & Christian Hospital Mungeli

The Christian Hospital Mungeli website is brought to you by the Rambo Committee, Inc.

Rambo Committee, Inc. is designated as a non-profit corporation under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code (26 U.S.C. § 501(c)(3)) and is organized under the laws of the state of Pennsylvania.

The purpose of the Rambo Committee is to support the work and mission of the Christian Hospital Mungeli.

Dr. Victor C. Rambo

The Rambo Committee is named for Dr. Victor C. Rambo, a physician educated at the University of Pennsylvania who devoted his career to medical missionary work in India. Dr. Rambo was Medical Director of Christian Hospital Mungeli from 1924 to 1947. Having learned ophthalmology to treat his patients at Mungeli, Dr. Rambo later conducted outreach eye clinics at nearby villages. Beginning in 1947, he served as professor and surgeon at the Christian Medical Colleges in Vellore and Ludhiana, while continuing to serve in Mungeli. Throughout his 50 years of service in India, Dr. Rambo was supported by numerous friends organized as the Rambo Committee.

Dr. Rambo was born in Landour, India, in 1894, the son of missionaries of the Foreign Christian Missionary Society. At age 9, young Victor left India to attend school in the United States. He later attended Fairmount College (now Wichita State University) in Wichita, Kansas, and medical school at the University of Pennsylvania. After his residency, Dr. Rambo married Louise Birch Rambo. The United Christian Missionary Society then commissioned Dr. and Mrs. Rambo to serve in India, and they arrived in Mungeli in 1924. Dr. Rambo would be medical director at Mungeli until 1947, and the Rambos would continue to serve in Mungeli into the 1960s. Under Dr. Rambo’s leadership, Christian Hospital Mungeli grew from a four-room hospital into a thriving 120-bed surgical hospital known across India for treating eye disease, and restoring sight to the curably blind.

To meet the needs of his patients in Mungeli, Dr. Rambo was initially largely self-taught in ophthalmology. He later obtained additional training in Philadelphia, Scotland, and Austria.

In 1943, under Dr. Rambo’s leadership, teams from Christian Hospital Mungeli began conducting “eye camps” in villages too far from Mungeli for patients to reach, and thereby pioneered the concept of mobile eye surgical hospitals. During the next 25 years, Dr. Rambo and his team would conduct approximately 150 eye camps at villages across India.

Dr. Rambo also devoted his talents to formal medical education in India. From 1947 to 1957, Dr. Rambo spent 6 months of each year teaching ophthalmology at Christian Medical College Vellore, in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, and the other 6 months working in Mungeli. Later, in 1957, the Rambos moved from Vellore to Christian Medical College in Ludhiana.

In 1962, Dr. Rambo was officially retired by his mission board. However, through the support of the Rambo Committee, his work in India continued into the 1970s. Dr. and Mrs. Rambo returned to the United States in 1974, after 50 years of service in India. Thereafter, until his death in 1987, Dr. Rambo worked with the Rambo Committee to raise funds for ongoing projects at Mungeli and around the world.

Over the course of his career, it is estimated that Dr. Rambo performed some 40,000 cataract operations in India. Among his public recognitions was the Kaisar I Hind Gold Medal for public service in India, awarded to him by Britain’s King George VI in 1947, as well as being made an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons, Edinburgh.

The Rambo Committee

The Rambo Committee started as a group of medical school classmates who supported Dr. Rambo’s work in India following his graduation from the University of Pennsylvania medical school. The Rambo Committee has funded humanitarian medical and educational initiatives in Mungeli and around the world. From sending equipment to funding the education of Indian physicians, the Rambo Committee sustained and amplified the efforts of Dr. Rambo and his colleagues.

The Rambo Committee’s history began when Victor Rambo was attending the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. Donations by Dr. Rambo’s classmates in 1923 would become the initial funding base of the Rambo Committee, and included funds used to purchase medical equipment that would accompany him to India.

By the late 1920s, the Rambo Committee was an actively functioning organization based in Philadelphia and was led by Mr. Harry Tiedeck. During the course of his career, the Committee raised funds to support Dr. Rambo’s work in numerous ways.

For example, beginning in the late 1920s, to help meet the need for additional physicians in and around Mungeli, the Committee began supporting the medical education of promising local students.

Over the next five decades of Dr. Rambo’s career, in coordination with the missionary arm of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the Committee continued to send medical supplies and equipment, medical literature, and funds to support the education of Indian physicians and to make possible Dr. Rambo’s attendance at international ophthalmological conferences.

Among other things, for example, after his mission board had completed the renovation and expansion of the hospital at Mungeli in the early 1930s, the Committee purchased hospital beds, surgical equipment and other supplies from a defunct Philadelphia hospital and shipped it to India. In the 1940s, the Committee purchased two Dodge trucks specially equipped to carry the medical team and supplies to eye camps. Also, the Committee ultimately financed the education of approximately three dozen physicians, who practiced at Mungeli and across India.

In 1961, the Committee’s leadership changed, and Raleigh and Joanne Birch took the helm. For the next 50 years, Raleigh Birch served as President and Joanne Birch as Executive Director. The Committee’s mission at that time was “Sight for the Curable Blind.”

In 1970, the Rambo Committee incorporated in the United States under the name, “Rambo Committee, Inc.,” and it then had an annual budget of approximately $50,000, and a mission focus of “Sight for the Curable Blind.”

In the 1970s, in addition to support for ongoing work in India, the Committee also began supporting efforts in Africa. For example, the Committee funded the efforts of Dr. Rambo’s son, Dr. Birch Rambo, a medical missionary in Zaire. In the late 1970s, another clinic, Good Samaritan Hospital, in Nigeria, was opened with Rambo Committee funds. Run by Dr. Ezekiel Abanishe, the facility included a Rambo Eye Clinic.

After 50 years of service in India, Dr. and Mrs. Rambo returned to the United States in 1974. Thereafter, the Committee and Dr. Rambo continued to support Christian Hospital Mungeli. In 1982, for example, in coordination with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the Church of North India, the Committee began sending funds to help support an ophthalmologist and business manager and renovate hospital buildings at Mungeli. After Dr. Rambo’s death in 1987, the Committee continued this support. During the hospital’s most difficult days, (1980-2003), the Birch’s leadership and the funds of the Rambo Committee, Inc., provided enough support to pay the salaries of a limited staff and keep the doors of the hospital open. Raleigh and Joanne Birch and many supporters remained faithful in their mission to keep Christian Hospital Mungeli alive.

In 2003, the Birches learned that a doctor couple working in Nashville, Tennessee, was willing to serve in India. With the Birch’s insistence, this couple was sent to Mungeli. Since then, the Hospital has been self-sufficient, and the funds of the Rambo Committee are now used for the Hospital’s development, rather than for its day-to-day functioning.

In 2010, the Rambo Committee changed its leadership and focus. The board was reconstituted and new officers elected. The new board adopted a singular mission focus: to support for the work and ministry of the Christian Hospital Mungeli, including its management of the Rambo Memorial English Medium School (since 2004) and the School of Nursing (established 2011).

In 2011, the Board of Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) gave formal recognition to the long-standing relationship between the Rambo Committee and the church. The primary endowed funds of the Rambo Committee are now invested with Christian Church Foundation, the investment arm of the church. A bequest from the Buche family remains with the Presbyterian Fund, a lasting memorial to the interdenominational outreach of the Rambo Committee over the years, an outreach that continues today.

Board members:

  • Executive Director:   Rev. Landa Harris Simmons, Williamsburg, VA;
  • Chairperson:   Steve Minson, Wichita, KS;
  • Secretary:   Larry Evans, Esq., Savannah, GA;
  • Treasurer:  Nancy McDaniel, Marietta, GA;
  • Jane Cahill, Pekin, IL;
  • Larry Rosser, Cincinnati, OH;
  • Jim VanderMeer, Bainbridge Island, WA.