Last week, MedShare shipped our first container of medical supplies to Tonga. The tractor-trailer size container, which shipped from our Western Region, is going to benefit Niu’ui Hospital in Ha’apai and Prince Ngu Hospital in Vava’u.
Tonga Royalty Visit San Leandro to Celebrate Charity
By Jenna Humphreys
From the Kingdom of Tonga, Princess Salote Mafile’o Pilolevu Tuita and Lord Tuita, Consul General of Tonga in San Francisco, visit MedShare to celebrate the shipment of medical supplies to their country.
With an air of celebration and honor, an ocean container of more than 1,000 boxes of medical supplies was sent on its journey to the Kingdom of Tonga from San Leandro’s MedShare, a nonprofit which ships surplus medical supplies to countries in need.
The final destination for the supplies is Liahona High School in Tongatapu, the main island of the South Pacific nation, where further distribution will take place to two outer island hospitals.
Her Royal Highness Princess Salote Mafile’o Pilolevu Tuita and Lord Tuita, Consul General of Tonga in San Franciso, were honored guests at the shipping ceremony April 7.
Also in attendance were over a dozen local Tongans, some of whom are members of the Executive Council of the Tonga USA Association.
Three members of the MedShare Western Region Council, who were responsible for the fundraising that made this project possible, also attended. “We are blessed in so many ways,” council member Dr. Paul Hoffman said at the ceremony. “We feel fortunate and privileged to take part in this project.”
The container will arrive in Tonga within a month, making the country the 86th to receive supplies from this innovative company. Supplies will then be sent to Niu’ui Hospital in Ha’apai and Prince Ngu Hospital in Vava’u.
To start off Thursday’s event, Chuck Haupt, executive director of MedShare’s Western Region, summarized how MedShare works before taking the group on an interactive and engaging tour through the warehouse.
With the help of a young volunteer from Corpus Christi School in Oakland, the Princess and Lord Tuita placed packages of gauze into the appropriate sorting bins. They also met several of the long-term volunteers, a gesture that helps fulfill MedShare’s mission of developing deep and personal relationships with the countries involved.
Highlighted points during the tour included the fact that MedShare ships more than 100 containers of medical supplies a year. It sent 30 containers to Haiti in response to the earthquake there in January, 2010 and also sent supplies to Samoa within 36 hours after a tsunami that struck in 2009.
MedShare is different from other medical supply organizations in two ways. First, the materials donated and shipped would otherwise end up in the landfill, since hospitals and clinics throw out huge amounts of unused supplies. Extensive sorting eliminates expired supplies and assures that only materials in good condition are packaged for shipping.
The second unique feature is that the receiving countries pick exactly what they want, instead of getting pre-packaged supplies that may or may not be useful to them.
According to the World Health Organization, about 40 to 60 percent of supplies going abroad are either broken or inappropriate for the recipient. MedShare’s system of recipient-selected supplies eliminates this problem.
These were a few of the things Haupt explained while a rapt audience followed him through the warehouse.
“This is neat, this is nice,” one unidentified audience member commented.
The peak of the occasion was when participants made their way to the actual shipping container and watched the last two pallets be loaded in with a forklift. Haupt called in the volunteers from the sorting area, and took a “pause,” a moment to reflect on the importance of the work they’re doing.
Lord Tuita then spoke, saying that “There is a problem with providing services to such scattered islands… I’m very glad to have this opportunity (to receive supplies from MedShare).”
“How pleased we are to be the 86th country,” he said.
There was a photo shoot in front of the Tongan flag and loaded container before the truck left the parking lot for the Port of Oakland Port. Back inside, the Tongans expressed their thanks with words and a beautifully harmonized song.
Some of the women attending wore traditional grass skirts as an expression of honor in the presence of Her Royal Highness, the Princess.
The Princess returns to Tonga on Sunday.
We’d like to thank Patch for the great article, as well as UPS for providing a discounted shipping rate, the Western Region Council, and the LDS Church. Without the generosity from these groups, this shipment wouldn’t have been possible.
To view more photos of this ceremony, click here.