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Impact Ecuador: Why MedShare Matters

 

The following entry was written by 2018 Impact Trip team member, Mendal Bouknight. Serving as a MedShare Trustee and Secretary of the Board, Mendal Bouknight is a dedicated advocate for MedShare’s global mission having been introduced while President of the Piedmont Healthcare Foundation in Atlanta, Georgia. Piedmont is a founding partner of MedShare. During his career, Mendal served in senior leadership roles with Emory University; Clemson University, his alma mater; and The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta.  He currently resides in Greenville, South Carolina. You can see Mendal’s previous post here.

 

The Underlying Reality: WHY MedShare Matters

Our partners in Ecuador, the Junta, are like every other country/community MedShare touches. Between the donations MedShare delivers and those donations actually touching someone and benefiting them are complexities of culture and politics.

Ecuador’s system for caring for the needy and underserved falls to our partners, the Junta. Funding for Junta comes from the national lottery. And when that lottery is thriving is still only accounts for 70% of the cost needed. Layer on the fact that the country’s new political leadership has withheld distribution of lottery proceeds (currently the Junta is owed $140 million by the government) as they attempt to determine priorities for the country.

We heard stories of the challenges Junta had in distributing resources to northern Ecuador following the earthquake of 2015. Much had to do with local authorities and the drug cartels in that region of Ecuador which borders Columbia. These kinds of economic and governmental difficulties –difficulties that are so far-removed from our day-to-day experiences in the US– continue to be barriers to progress and stronger health systems. We were able to see first-hand the complexity of the challenges faced by our partners abroad and better understand their needs within that context.

 

Summary

Our partners in Ecuador are as resilient as they are grateful for all MedShare provides. They are devoted to their work with the Junta and to what they do for their fellow Ecuadorians. For every country and community MedShare serves, we are reliant on devoted people like Ernesto, Isabel, and Sister Annie. We are reliant on the physicians, the businessman who operates several of the hospitals we visited, the nuns in Alausi, the caretakers at Damien House, and the commitment and culture of industry leaders at Ingenio San Carlos.

MedShare benefits from the leadership and talent of our staff. Charles Redding is respected by the Junta and known for his leadership. Cristi Wells, while new in her role, displayed her resourcefulness and her professional skills throughout the trip.

Our ability as a Board, volunteers, business partners, and as a staff to continue our noble mission must always have, front and center in our work, institutions like Junta de Beneficencia de Guayaquil. For without them, our generosity could not be realized.

 

 

MedShare continues our invaluable relationship with Junta de Beneficencia de Guayaquil in Eucador. To cap-off another impactful fiscal year, MedShare made two donations of medical supplies and biomedical equipment to Junta, with more to come!

Ecuador Impact Trip: Caring Communities

 

The following entry was written by 2018 Impact Trip team member, Mendal Bouknight. Serving as a MedShare Trustee and Secretary of the Board, Mendal Bouknight is a dedicated advocate for MedShare’s global mission having been introduced while President of the Piedmont Healthcare Foundation in Atlanta, Georgia. Piedmont is a founding partner of MedShare. During his career, Mendal served in senior leadership roles with Emory University; Clemson University, his alma mater; and The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta.  He currently resides in Greenville, South Carolina. You can see Mendal’s previous post here.

 

Visit to Damien House

Damien House clarified for me the fact that leprosy (Hansen disease) is not contagious. And the more important outreach we could give with a simple touch and hug to the residents living there would be powerful. The moment our party walked through the door, we each reached out to those who greeted us and provided the subtle human interaction their families and their culture had isolated them from experiencing.

 

Embraced in 1988 by a nun from America, Sister Annie Credidio, of the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, B.V.M.  Sister Annie has made the people of Damien House her purpose. And with young American volunteers and the support of the Junta and MedShare, the men and women of Damien House are embraced in an understanding and compassionate community.

The Community of San Carlos

Employing as many at 3,700 people and embracing the entire family and community around, Ingenio San Carlos is a successful sugar cane enterprise that has existed and thrived for 120 years. To their credit, this family-owned business understands their success is founded in their investment in their people and their families.

Our party was the honored guest at a celebration where new wheelchairs were presented to more than a dozen residents with severe physical/ambulatory disorders. For one family where four adults were afflicted, the one sibling not impacted and caring for her siblings was overcome with gratitude and praise.

We were hosted at the local school, funded by San Carlos, visiting various classrooms, seeing the access these students have to current technology and the exposure they have to the arts. We were serenaded by a young girl with a beautiful voice and then by four young cellists performing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.”

We then toured the hospital provided by the company and saw the improvements in care over time thanks to Junta and MedShare.  From their Emergency Department to their diagnostic facilities to their on Obstetrician who delivers 25 babies a week, you see the importance quality healthcare means to a community of 13,000 + relying on this one industry for everyone’s wellbeing.

Ecuador Impact Trip: Passionate Gratitude

 

The following entries were written by 2018 Impact Trip team member, Mendal Bouknight. Serving as a MedShare Trustee and Secretary of the Board, Mendal Bouknight is a dedicated advocate for MedShare’s global mission having been introduced while President of the Piedmont Healthcare Foundation in Atlanta, Georgia. Piedmont is a founding partner of MedShare. During his career, Mendal served in senior leadership roles with Emory University; Clemson University, his alma mater; and The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta. He currently resides in Greenville, South Carolina.

 

Impact Ecuador

Reflecting on what impacted me the most from this five-day experience, it is the passionate gratitude expressed to our party on every front and the fortitude and conviction of those touched. With every visit, heart-felt words came deep from within those MedShare has supported.

Words of gratitude are what should inspire us all to further engage in assuring MedShare’s vision and mission are realized.

Strength in Partnership

Wherever MedShare has the opportunity to serve and impact, essential is a local partnership that is respected, strategic, and prepared to implement. In Ecuador, MedShare is grateful for the long-standing partner, Junta de Beneficencia de Guayaquil (the Junta).

We saw the gratitude and commitment of our local partners with the Junta. Our welcome session with our host set the tone and stage for the next five days. Ernesto Noboa, Junta’s Director, provided an inspired overview of the Junta’s proud history along with the challenges of the current political and economic challenges.

Our host for the trip, Isabel Valdez de Escala, International Relations Manager, proudly showed us her office and the globe presented to her by MedShare in 2017 for her service. Isabel made sure every need of ours was met and every opportunity to experience was available.

Gratitude at Every Visit. . .Teddy Bears, Touches and Serenades

With all of life’s challenges and complications faced by the people of Ecuador, those touched by MedShare brought home how powerful our gifts are to them through their expressions of gratitude.

As we toured the patient wards at Hospital Luis Vernaza and Hospital Leon Becerra and the children’s hospital, Hospital de Ninos, front line staff, patients, and administrators praised the Junta and MedShare for what a difference we bring to them.

Our three-hour (one way) travel through the banana, cocoa, and sugar cane plantations and up through the clouds along paved and gravel roads of the Andes to the town of Alausi provided deep and meaningful memories as we visited the Hogar Calderon Ayluardo girls’ school (orphanage) for girls ages 6 to 17.

Home to nearly 100 girls, this facility, operated by Ecuadoran nuns, is a haven. Ecuador lacks a structure for foster-care resources. Many of the girls are placed there when families can no longer care for them in the home, others may be there as a result of abuse in the home.

The dormitory facility we toured with rows of beds neatly made and a teddy bear on each pillow was an emotional moment as I realized each night instead of a loving parent to give comfort and assurance, this teddy bear was their surrogate for warmth and love.

The praise from the nuns for Junta and MedShare coupled with the smiles and the warm greetings of each young lady was evidence of their gratitude. And our party was entertained by one young girl from the Amazon region who performed for us a native dance and invited each male in our party to join her on the floor. The spirit of this moment spoke volumes!

 

See Mendal’s next post here.

Ecuador Impact Trip: Caring for Communities

The following entries were written by 2018 Impact Trip team member, Pat Shepherd. She is an Administrative Director at Sutter Health and leads Sutter’s Supply Chain Services for their Bay Area Operating Unit. She has been a tireless advocate for MedShare’s mission and has established an infrastructure within Sutter in support of our hospital recovery program. This is Pat’s first Impact Trip with MedShare. See her last post here.

 

San Carlos

On this final day of our trip we visited Ingenious San Carlos, where there is a sugar cane factory, a hospital, and school all run by the sugar factory management.

We were honored during a ceremony where wheelchairs were distributed to those with severe neurological or ambulatory disorders.  The gratefulness expressed by the recipients and their families was overwhelming and brought us to tears.  Some had wheelchairs that were extremely old and falling apart and others had no wheelchairs at all – their family members had to carry them around.  A device that is so common and easily obtainable in the US was a treasure to these patients!

We later toured the hospital and school supported and run by the sugar cane factory.  An arrangement reminiscent of an old coal mining town in the US about 100 years ago.  We had to puzzle through this arrangement too, but clearly the services were high caliber in contrast to the surrounding areas. At the school, we visited the computer lab and witnessed the students learning English and music.

The company-run hospital was clean and organized.  We toured the pharmaceutical storeroom and were informed that MedShare had a hand in securing much needed medications.

 

Heading Home

We are on our way home with time for contemplation.  My takeaways were two…. I was completely naive about the complexities of delivering supplies and equipment to underserved populations.  To be effective it literally “takes a village”.  There are no distribution centers to ship product to, and in fact, there are very few countries where shipping a container is safe.  The need for partnerships in recipient countries is essential to both identify the specific needs and to deliver product to the final destination.

My other “aha” was that the benefit of donations can be indirect.  The girls school in Alausi is a prime example.  Supporting the organization of Junta frees up some of their resources which allows them to create a healthier community by educating girls.  One has to take a holistic view.

I am so grateful that I was offered a chance to go on this trip and feel so “wise” for accepting it.  “Thank you”,  MedShare, for including me.