Kenya Trip Notes from the Field: Terry Blum

By Terry Blum, MedShare Board of Trustees

Monday, February 20, 2012

I am Terry Blum and I have the privilege to serve on MedShare’s board.  This is my second trip with MedShare, and it is a wonderful journey in terms of learning and sense-making.   Quite frankly, I am not sure I can construct meaning from all that I am sensing from my eyes, ears, mouth, fingers and nose.  I am also sensing from my heart, making this whole experience so difficult to justly describe.  As someone who is quite cerebral in everyday life, this adventure touches below my head into my heart and reaches into the region of feeling and intuition.  The incredibly rich tapestry of the lenses of the people with whom I am touring, all of whom awesome in their own way, is coupled with the wisdom of those we visit.  I know I will not be the same when I return as I was when I left Atlanta in that huge airplane.

Spotted in Kenya

After wonderful bonding and familiarizing ourselves with the agenda, we got into the reason for MedShare today by first visiting St. Mary’s Nairobi and then Partners for Care.   I will report on Partners for Care which is part of the mHealth alliance which engages in mobile health initiatives among other things.

The group transitioned from St. Mary’s to Partners for Care with lunch at the incredible Safari Park Hotel, where Sam (communications director) and Samuel (director in Kenya) from Partners for Care joined us.  The grounds of the Safari Park are quite elegant and could have been a movie scene from colonial times or an upscale suburb anywhere.   The food and the group’s camaraderie are awesome, but the contrast with the needs of so many is evident as one passes by the slums of Kibera (2nd largest in the world after Soweto with estimates of 1-2 million residents), near St. Mary’s, or the living in Mararui (estimates of 26-30,000 people).

En route to the clinic, we rode on a really bumpy road that went on for quite a while.  Somewhere in the middle of the road, we crossed a functional bridge, which may or may not be completed connecting segments of the bumpy road.  We passed banana trees, construction sites, snakes, local markets and lots of scenery.  We came to a stop outside a building that was the initial Partners for Care destination for most of us.  The signage said,  What if?  Life Changing Center.   “What if?”  is a question of what it would be like  if there were no AIDS in Kenya.

"What If" signage in Kenya

While most of us went into the clinic building, Lindsey Barber and Charlie Evans went into Mararui, lined with drainage system that empties into the river where the drinking and washing water come from, with Peter from Partners for Care.  Peter took them to visit a friend’s home as well as take some measurements to show how the mHealth android works.  The device relays vital signs information and pictures to Dr. Vincent at the clinic. It is a triage device with Dr. Vincent gives instructions for caring for the patient or asks for more information.  Each entry is a new record, but the patient’s information gets integrated into a record stored on the server.

Partners for Care Clinic

Partners for Care was founded by Atlanta nurse, Connie Scheren, who came to the MedShare store for supplies for her medical team mission trip.  It has 8 programs in addition to the clinic.  As we walk past the goat on the corner into the What if?  building through the door with Clinic written on it, we found a world of hope and love.  In the space that was opened 2 years ago, there is a one room clinic, class room for their Second Chance program that prepares 20 students for the national graduation exam with 2 years of education.  There is also a computer room, with no internet access, that serves 20 adult students at a time.  Forty-five or so have received or are receiving training and 20 have found jobs.

PET cart that was sent to Kenya on a MedShare container

Going into the clinic run by Dr. Vincent we saw a PET, personal energy transport vehicle which was sent in a MedShare container.  Other programs include sports programs for the kids, with volunteer coaches, including a policeman who was tired of just arresting them, a home for orphans run by Pastor John who also help widows, distribution of 500 treated malaria nets to households with kids under 5,  the wonderful music group Temple of Worship that draws crowds for AIDS awareness and prevention.  There is also an 8k race that is run at the same time as a 5K in Atlanta (the Kenyans finish the longer race quicker!).

A Kenyan Doctor

The Marcibit program is really striking.  Partners for Care serves one of the most impoverished sections of Kenya.  350 people with jiggers, a kind of parasitic flea that enters the skin and reproduces so the people, especially kids, can’t walk.  The inflammation is incredible and 350 have been treated with  antibacterial soap and water after which the site is covered with Vaseline.  89 have been provided with shoes that can help prevent it.

The health programs are important as 473 Kenyan children under 5 die every day, 71 due to HIV/AIDS, 93 to malaria….90% of these deaths are due to preventable causes!  So Partners for Care is there to help reduce child deaths.

Our visit was truly inspirational….we were sung to with a Jambo (welcome) song which included Hakuna Matada, reminding me of the Lion King and the Circle of Life!  They also sang a song “Smile”…happy for you… will lift you up, hold your hands, loose your pain, so you smile again. They ended our visit by singing “That Little Light of Mine” in English and Swahili….We left on our bus singing “That little heart of mine, let it shine,” knowing the love in the hearts of the Partners for Care.  The passion and inspiration of the Kenyans who spend so much energy to do their work to serve their own people is a memory I will always cherish.  They are rich in spirit, and thanks to them there is a little more light shining for many.

This post is part of a series we’re doing over the coming days while MedShare staff and Board of Trustee members travel through Kenya from February 17 – 27. We invite you to share the experience with them by reading their stories; to access them, click on the “Africa Trip“  icon in the right sidebar. Safe travels, team!

Kenya Trip Notes from the Field: MedShare’s Lindsey Barnett

By Lindsey Barnett, MedShare’s Senior Program Manager

From the moment Meridith and I stepped off the plane, a flood of excitement and gratitude rushed through me to be in this place – well, excitement mixed with a strong desire to shower and rest my eyes after an almost sleepless 24 hours. :) There’s so much to appreciate about Kenya and the countries surrounding this region, from the lush landscapes to the cheerful lilt in the voices of new friends who welcome you with warmth and graciousness. As we visit this incredibly diverse group of partners over the next week, I can’t wait to hear the thoughts, questions and ideas that come from those in our group – people who are coming together from across the U.S with a rich blend of knowledge, experiences and a deep-rooted passion for making a difference in our global community.  As we’re traveling, we’d love to hear from those at home who may have questions or seeds they’d like to plant during this opportunity to probe a little deeper in the field – could make for some really interesting dialogues with our Kenyan partners.

Send us your thoughts and stay tuned….

This post is part of a series we’re doing over the coming days while MedShare staff and Board of Trustee members travel through Kenya from February 17 – 27. We invite you to share the experience with them by reading their stories; to access them, click on the “Africa Trip“  icon in the right sidebar. Safe travels, team!

Kenya Trip Notes from the Field: MedShare CEO

By Meridith Rentz, MedShare CEO and President

We’re on our way……

Lindsey and I are on the flight from Atlanta to Amsterdam.  I want my body to think it’s 6:00 am (Nairobi time) but not much luck.  My mind is racing with anticipation and excitement and last-minute worries.  It’s much too hard to sleep as I consider all that we’re about to see, feel, touch, smell, hear…..experience.  We are going to have the gift of learning about the impact of our MedShare work up-close and personal.  What works?  What doesn’t?  How can we improve?  How can we have sustainable impact?

Once we arrive in Nairobi, Lindsey and I will do final preparations before our wonderful MedShare group arrives.   Bob, Liz, Sandy, Laureen, Ginny, Pat, Charlie, Tina, AB, Angie, Terry, Tom, Ed and Jennifer……hurry on up, we’re ready for you!

This post is the first of a series we’ll host over the coming days. MedShare staff and Board of Trustee members will be in Kenya from February 17 – 27, and they’ll be sharing their stories and first-hand accounts on the MedShare blog. We invite you to share the experience with them by reading their stories; to access them, click on the “Africa Trip”  icon in the right sidebar. Safe travels, team!

CEO Corner: “We Must Continue to do More”

Meridith Rentz, MedShare CEO

Dear friends,

During my first month here at MedShare, I enjoyed spending quality time in each of our current distribution and volunteer centers (Atlanta, GA and San Francisco Bay Area) as well as those regions where we are evaluating expansion including the Mid-Atlantic (to include New York City, Baltimore, and Philadelphia) and South Florida (to include Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, and Boca Raton).

Everywhere I go, the message from our donors, partners, volunteers, staff, Board and council members is brilliantly consistent as they share with me stories of the amazing work MedShare has done for a country, hospital, clinic or project about which they care deeply. They all express great admiration and gratitude for the unique MedShare model that A.B. Short and Bob Freeman created 13 years ago….and they all convey with great urgency that we must continue to do more. The world needs “more” of what this MedShare team delivers.

The MedShare Board and staff have heard this plea for “more,” and we are working to respond in partnership with strong leadership groups in both the Mid-Atlantic and South Florida regions. Dan Goldberg is leading our efforts in South Florida and has joined the MedShare Board. Sandy Tytel, Chair of our New York Council, and Seth Zachary, Trustee, are leading up a great group of Council members in New York. While we have much work ahead of us, there are already great things happening. For example, over the past few weeks we have received several hundred quality hospital beds from North Shore Long Island Jewish Health System. From Ghana to Ecuador and beyond, many of our worthy recipients lack adequate hospital beds; this donation will help MedShare meet those needs. We look forward to continuing this strong partnership with North Shore LIJ and building additional new relationships with health care facilities and suppliers in both markets.

There are many ways you can help us as we develop our plan for these new regions. Whenever MedShare is invited into a new region, we must develop strong partnership with local hospitals, medical supply manufacturers and distributors, volunteers, donors, and other nonprofit organizations. If you have ideas or recommendations of people or organizations we should contact in any either South Florida or the Mid-Atlantic, please send them our way. You can reach me at mrentz@medshare.org or via Twitter @mrentz.

We also have several fun events coming up to “introduce” MedShare to the community in Boca Raton (October 26th at SPIN Ultra Lounge featuring The Beach Boys) and New York City (December 8th, The University Club, 6:15 cocktails, 7:30 dinner). We’d love for you to join us.

Thank you for your support and feedback as we work to provide expanded MedShare services in order to save more lives and support more communities.

In Service,

Meridith

This letter is an excerpt from our October e-newsletter. For more – including a first-hand account of a Trustee’s trip to NYC, our Clinton Global Initiative Commitment with icddr,b and Americares to strengthen health systems in Bangladesh, and how to get your family and friends involved – click here.

Trustee and Council Chair Mary Bersot Named Finalist for Community Leadership Award

Mary Bersot, MedShare Trustee and Western Regional Council Chair, was recently named a top-three finalist in the “Volunteer of the Year” category of the 2011 Community Leadership Awards presented by The Invest in Others Charitable Foundation and InvestmentNews.  As part of this honor, she traveled to New York on September 14 to attend the group’s fifth annual awards ceremony, and had the opportunity to ring the NASDAQ bell the following morning.

Mary Bersot, Trustee and Council Member, representing MedShare in NYC's Times Square

Mary has been involved with MedShare since 2008, when we expanded to Northern California. Her leadership and fundraising efforts were instrumental in making this expansion successful during a recession, and she continues to build community awareness of our mission to responsibly recover and redistribute surplus medical supplies to those in need around the world.

We’re thrilled to share Mary’s account of this incredible honor and trip, in her own words:

“It isn’t often that an individual can take the spotlight and represent an organization such as MedShare in front of 600+ people, and then in Times Square. I recently had that privilege, however, when I was selected as a finalist for the 2011 Community Leadership Awards presented by Invest in Others and InvestmentNews in the Volunteer of the Year category. Clearly, it wasn’t me that was nominated. It was MedShare, and I was honored to represent this incredible organization.

First, I didn’t expect to be one of the three finalists and was surprised and honored to be included. On September 14th, my husband and I went to New York for the Invest in Others’ fifth annual awards ceremony to honor financial advisors who make a difference in their communities. We were also invited to ring the opening NASDAQ bell the following morning with the other finalists and sponsors. I have been in the investment business over 30 years and my dream has been to ring the bell and launch another trading session; I had no idea that I would feel such emotion and pride at being part of MedShare.

Upon entering the dining room the night of the awards ceremony, I was in awe when I saw the photo of the recipient country flags on the wall of MedShare’s Western Distribution Center on the main screen. This photo was chosen as part of the colorful backdrop as we met the other finalists, and I couldn’t help but recognize the sharp contrast between the lavish ceremony and the folks we serve both at home and abroad who couldn’t imagine such a fine event. Those flags helped me stay focused on why I was there.

I am just as happy making labels for the boxes of supplies bound for Haiti as I am taking a bow in front of 660 people. What those attending the reception didn’t see were the thousands of volunteers and staff behind the scenes that have made it possible to ship over 700 forty-foot containers full of much needed medical supplies to countries around the globe. One person can’t possibly take credit – it’s truly a collective effort. The contribution MedShare makes to global health is enormous, and as the story was told throughout the event more and more people expressed a genuine interest.

It was overwhelming to think that I was recognized by my peers at the event, and the next morning I found myself as excited as a kid entering Disneyland when I walked onto the NASDAQ set. I didn’t really care if the market was opening higher or lower – I was just excited to be there. We had our individual photos taken at the podium, which were then projected outside on the 3 story NASDAQ tower in Times Square. We rang the bell as a group and went outside, where we had our photos taken again. I had no idea that behind me would be MedShare’s logo projected two stories high for all of Times Square to see! I felt such pride and excitement. Now I know what it means when someone mentions their fifteen minutes of fame!

I am proud to be part of an industry that gives back and to have had the opportunity to share the MedShare story with the many remarkable people I met. My hope is that the recognition MedShare received those two days continues forward so many, many more lives can be saved.”

-Mary Bersot, MedShare Trustee and Western Regional Council Chair

This article is an excerpt from our October e-newsletter. For more – including a letter from CEO Meridith Rentz, our Clinton Global Initiative Commitment with icddr,b and Americares to strengthen health systems in Bangladesh, and how to get your family and friends involved – click here.

MedShare Celebrates 700th Container Shipment

MedShare staff, volunteers and supporters celebrate the 700th container shipment

On Friday, September 2nd, MedShare celebrated a milestone achievement: we shipped our 700th container of humanitarian aid. This shipment paid tribute to A.B. Short and Bob Freeman’s founding vision, and celebrated the success of our past 13 years, during which we’ve shipped over $93 million worth of medical supplies and equipment to 88 developing countries and territories around the world. In the process, over 2 million cubic feet of space has been saved from landfills, as well as millions of lives around the world.

The container was sent from our Western Region Distribution and Volunteer Center in Northern California, and will benefit beleaguered hospitals in Misrata, Libya.

Turn-out at the ceremony was fitting for an event of this magnitude: Mr. Homdi Soliman, Operation Director of HOPE International Relief & Development Agency and sponsor, Dr. Heshaam Fallah, a Libyan-American physician with Kaiser Permanente and project coordinator, the Chief Medical Officer from Sutter Health, Kaiser Permanente representatives, a Council Member from the City of San Leandro, MedShare Trustees and Regional Council members, and many of our volunteers were in attendance. Mr. Soliman and Dr. Fallah spoke about the grave healthcare situation in Libya, and Mary Bersot, Trustee and Western Region Council Chair, shared her appreciation to our staff and volunteers.

“It has been an exceptional experience working with MedShare and all their staff throughout the Libyan conflict. With their extraordinary service and vision, we were able to help save the lives of thousands of men, women, and children,” said Homdi Soliman, Operation Director of HOPE.

The container was sponsored by HOPE International Relief & Development Agency (USA)based out of Columbus, Ohio. I-GO Aid Foundation, based in Malta, Libya, will coordinate delivery of the supplies and equipment to hospitals in Libya. The 1,000 boxes of medical supplies we sent were supplemented with biomedical equipment and durable medical goods, including hospital beds, gurneys, exam lights, exam tables, a ventilator for pediatric and adult patients, surgical packs, syringes, gloves and oxygen masks. Hospitals throughout Libya are dealing with a humanitarian catastrophe, as they are running short on critically needed medical supplies. This marked the fourth shipment we’ve sent to hospitals in Libyacollaborating with these partners.

We must give credit where credit is due: MedShare wouldn’t be celebrating this milestone achievement were it not for our wonderful community. For those that support MedShare through your gift of time, in-kind or financial donations or community advocacy, we thank you for all that you do, and ask that you continue helping us bridge the gap between surplus and need. With your partnership, there is no limit to what we can achieve, and we look forward to celebrating our 1,000th, 2,500th, and 5,000th container shipments with you!

To view more photos of this shipment ceremony, click here.

This is an excerpt from September’s e-newsletter. To read more – including a letter from CEO Meridith Rentz and the story of a medical mission team in South Georgia – click here.

MedShare’s Mary Bersot Honored for Contributions to MedShare in New York

We mentioned earlier this week that Mary Bersot, MedShare Trustee & Western Regional Council Chair, was named a finalist for the 2011 Community Leadership Awards presented by The Invest in Others Charitable Foundation and InvestmentNews.

Mary was honored for her significant contributions to MedShare last night at the Invest in Others Community Awards in New York. While not selected as the top winner, she was one of just 3 people selected nationally as finalists as “Volunteer of the Year.”

Hundreds of entries for the Community Leadership Awards are received each year, and 2011 brought nominations for nearly 300 advisors from over 100 different broker/dealers and custodians. Finalists were determined by a diverse panel of industry leaders and InvestmentNews editors, and were selected based on their level of involvement, contributions, and the impact of their efforts.

This morning, Mary had the opportunity to join The Invest in Others Foundation in ringing the NASDAQ Stock Market Opening Bell:

The Invest in Others Foundation Rings the Nasdaq bell on September 15, 2011. MedShare's Mary Bersot (front, in the white shirt) joined them.

Invest in Others Charitable Foundation visited the NASDAQ MarketSite in New York City’s Times Square following the Invest in Others Community Leadership Awards, which were held Wednesday night at Cipriani 42nd Street. Invest in Others is a public charity established in 2006 to celebrate financial advisors across the industry for their philanthropic efforts. (via)

Congratulations, Mary!