Notes from the Field: Annual Main Thing Trip

The following update is from Tom Asher, Past Chair of ‪MedShare‬’s Board of Trustees.

Our bus with the MedShare team on board pulled out of lovely Antiqua at 7:30 a.m. and quickly climbed the winding roads through the Guatemala mountains. Two hours later, we peaked a hill only to see magnificent Lake Atitlan stretched ahead of us surrounded by mountains and dormant volcanos. It was reminiscent of Lake Como with villas at the water’s edge. A 30 minute boat ride dropped us in the village of Tzununo where a new clinic served by MedShare was scheduled to open that day.

As soon as we disembarked, a helicopter hovered overhead, followed soon by a motorcade of soldiers and police. Out stepped the Honorable Jimmy Morales, president of Guatemala. Three hundred (300) villagers gathered excitedly under a tent to see their nation’s leader, witness the ribbon cutting ceremony and to hear generous compliments of Kimberly-Clark Corporation (United States) and MedShare, among the suppliers of medical supplies to the village’s new healthcare facility.

Charlie E, Pres Morales, Charles R & Tom A.png

(Pictured from left to right: Charlie Evans, MedShare Board of Trustees Chair; President of Guatemala, Jimmy Morales; Charles Redding, MedShare CEO & president; and Tom Asher, Past Chair, MedShare Board of Trustees.)

After the formal ceremony, President Morales took the time to personally thank MedShare CEO, Charles Redding and Board Chair, Charlie Evans for MedShare’s contribution to his country.

And so ended a beautiful day in a remote lakeside Guatemalan community and appreciation of one of the best gifts that MedShare donors and volunteers could possibly give to these grateful villagers; the gift of health.

Tom Asher

Down in the Dumps…

On March 6, 18 MedShare Board members and other donors traveled to Guatemala to learn, first hand, how MedShare helps resolve critical healthcare needs in the developing world.

Travelers started in Guatemala City with a tour of the only pediatric hospital in the country. There were about 200 patients sitting in the waiting areas; no one is turned away. When we later saw MedShare products in the warehouse, it was even more gratifying to have seen who they were helping.

The following update is from Dr. Carl Kihm, a podiatrist who leads regular medical mission teams in Nepal.

Guatemala Trip Members
For decades, the poor of Guatemala City have been drawn to the city’s gigantic dump for a treasure hunt. Collecting reusable and recyclable materials (such as copper, glass, plastics and cardboard) does not necessarily yield great profits. A long but successful 11-hour day at the dump might yield $2-3 depending on your finds and the market. It’s hard to believe that these earnings are still above the daily international poverty line of $1.90/day… And many other people have it worse.
Unfortunately, many of these impoverished men and women are illiterate, have no education and many are tied into gangs and drug use. The residents in/around the dump are not used to the too-easily and far-too-often forgotten blessings we experience in the US. They are not guaranteed healthcare, electricity, running water, an education or government assistance. The poor residents live hard lives and they do not have other great paths to choose from.

In walking through the dump, their safety is often jeopardized in various ways – inhalation of methane gases, exposure to disease-ridden waste, a crushing collapse of the landfill, and even dangerous gang control of the arriving dump truck loads.

My guilty mind turns to self-reflection and realization of my own biologic footprint as the dump’s pungent smell swallows my breath, and with a choke, I return to the moment. In viewing the dump from afar, soaring vultures impress upon me the length of their 32-acre dump territory. As I watch them, movement below shifts my eye to the human, land vultures welcoming a continued supply of incoming dump trucks.
In 1997, Hanley Denning, a woman from Maine, volunteered to teach children and adults in this area. In doing so, she was immersing herself in this culture and becoming more fluent in speaking Spanish. Her purpose in Guatemala, and in life, changed when she learned of their struggles and the problems the dump created. You see, while the adults went to the dump, their children were left to the streets.

Hanley sold her belongings to fund an organization called Safe Passage (in Spanish, “Camino Seguro”) to take in and tutor these children. Unfortunately, years later, Hanley was in a fatal car accident. Her improved and ever-evolving organization thrives. On today’s tour, I could tell that Hanley’s spirit and vision lives through the guides, workers and students. Hanley would be extremely proud and overjoyed, but not finished.

Guatemala Trip Camino Seguro students

The public Guatemalan City Schools are not very good and Safe Passage noted a continued poor graduation and literacy rate among their initial participants. Instead of solely tutoring, the organization then started their own school to properly teach these children. They also found that good nutrition is necessary to learn well. Safe Passage now provides their students several meals a day. They continue to teach children and also their willing parents. This equips them with a new found self respect and better ability to sustain and foster their families.

In association with Safe Passage, the adult women students sell handmade jewelry made from recycled dump metals and papers. Their group, called Creamos, raises funds for these women directly. In supporting their efforts you not only get a fashionable necklace with a great story but also you provide them a continued education and a family’s path to a better life.

Dr. Carl Kihm

For Goodness Sake Supports MedShare Impacting the Health and Quality of Life of People Around the World


On May 4th, For Goodness Sake joined fellow change makers from Google, John Muir Health, Stanford Health Care and Sutter Health to support MedShare at their annual Talk & Taste event. The event, held at the Google Impact Hub, honored the works of 2011 Nobel Peace Laureate Madame Leymah Gbowee and renown surgeon Dr. Assad Hassoun. We were thrilled to be a part of such an extraordinary gathering to help positively impact the quality of life and health of others.

Madame Gbowee connected with the audience on a very human level – her insights on how each community must not only accept and seek aid, but also, be the leaders of their own change was an inspirational message that resonated deeply with the For Goodness Sake team.

In light of the devastating earthquake and aftermath in Nepal, the event could not have been timelier.  We collectively raised funds to support MedShare’s efforts to collect and donate medical supplies to help the tens of thousands affected.

MedShare’s cause exemplifies what we can all accomplish by coming together through community engagement and collaboration.  Being surrounded by inspiring thought leaders heightened the For Goodness Sake team’s appreciation for the positive impact we can make, and we are excited to continue to strive to find new ways for everyone to give back every day.

Live Big. Love Hard. Give Back.


Pam Baer

MedShare improves health care for residents of Los Robles, Nicaragua

The following post is from Cathy Harper who is traveling with our MedShare group in Nicaragua this week:

What an incredible day! Traveling to the remote community of Los Robles in the highlands [of Nicaragua], we witnessed firsthand the power of community, and MedShare’s role in impacting the lives of others.

“What a surge of pride we all felt to see firsthand that the supplies for the clinic came from MedShare that were being used to help others in a small village in Nicaragua.”

With coffee farming the primary means of making a living, families in Los Robles are accustomed to working hard for very little. But combine their determination and hard work with other ingredients, including MedShare and our on the ground partners, and the result is nothing short of amazing!

Nicaragua-LosRoblesClinic1This community volunteered and worked to build a medical clinic that opened late last year. Twelve trained VOLUNTEER brigadistas living in Los Robles serve as an extended arm of the clinic. 

What a surge of pride we all felt to see firsthand that the supplies for the clinic came from MedShare. Dozens of boxes carefully sorted and packed by volunteers of MedShare actually being used to help others in a small village in Nicaragua.

Wow! Almost every family in Los Robles now has access to clean water as a result of their volunteering in the community (and support of a great Nicaragua NGO). And the results are almost immediate in terms of the decrease in GI related problems.

What we do at MedShare really does matter  – and combined with the efforts of so many others in places near and far – come together to make a positive difference in the lives of others. That’s the power of community.NicaraguaBoardTrip9

Special thanks to Amalia Engelberger for providing photos. Click here to see more photos from the MedShare trip this week to Nicaragua.

MedShare trip shows board members, donors, and friends our continuing impact in Nicaragua

Greetings from Nicaragua!  Our Chief Development Officer Sue Brandt and I are here with members of our Board of Trustees and friends of MedShare to witness first-hand the impact that our supplies and equipment is having on communities in this country.  Our visit is being facilitated by our long-standing partner, Food for the Poor (FFTP) and their partner, the American Nicaragua Foundation (ANF).

Since 2000, MedShare has shipped 24 forty-foot containers to Nicaragua and provisioned over 100 Medical Mission Teams since 2008.

Our day started with a visit to Enrique D’Osso Health Clinic and School (right). This clinic provides basic healthcare via a single bed clinic. They also manage a school where many of the kids receive their only hot meal of the day, which is often brought by a parent. I must admit, I fell in love with the adorable kids and was very proud that some of our supplies went toward supporting this mission.

Next it was off to Hospital Infantil Manuel de Jesus Rivera La Mascota  in Managua.  This is a referral hospital servicing kids up to age 15.  They are also the only pediatric hospital of its kind in Nicaragua focusing on the treatment of childhood cancer, pediatric neurology, and emergency pediatrics.  I am proud to say that they had received a MedShare container through our relationship with Kimberly Clark and additional supplies through our relationship with Food for the Poor.This was a very well run facility with new or nearly new pieces of equipment.  However, they did express a growing need for beds, gloves, and CPAP nasal masks.

We finished up the day with a visit to the American Nicaraguan Foundation warehouse and offices (right).Here we were able to see the many donations they receive such as food, furniture and medical supplies. This was a great opportunity to highlight the key strategic relationships we have with FFTP and ANF.

MedShare sends 12 containers per year to FFTP.  Food for the Poor takes responsibility for shipping, customs clearance and vetting/selecting the recipient or in country partner.  In Nicaragua they work closely with ANF to make sure donations are being used and reaching those in need.  Upon use or our donations, FFTP also coordinates sending special feedback reports to us from recipient hospitals and medical institutions.

MedShare’s work is really making a difference in people’s lives.

Charles Redding
MedShare CEO and President

Emory nurses help MedShare organize critically needed ostomy supplies

Over the past 15 years, MedShare has shipped more than 1,100 ocean containers filled with urgently needed medical supplies to 96 countries around the world. Emory Healthcare and Emory University have long served as major allies in helping MedShare accomplish its mission. Through Emory, MedShare has been able to connect with hundreds of volunteers willing to offer their time and expertise. Volunteers sort, inspect and pack unused and unexpired medical supplies, which are then shipped to hospitals and clinics in developing countries. In fact, Emory volunteers have contributed 1,739 hours in the past 18 months alone.

On Saturday, December 20, 2014, nurses from the Wound Ostomy and
Continence Nursing (WOCN) Department at Emory Healthcare
went above and beyond a normal volunteer role.  MedShare collects a large Ostomypicvolume of ostomy supplies, but lacked the medical expertise to organize these items into detailed categories. This is an essential step for shipping supplies abroad. Doctors and nurses in the hospital will directly order the supplies they need from MedShare, ensuring they only get what is useful and necessary. Yet this can’t happen unless MedShare’s categories are exactly on point. By putting their specialized knowledge to work at MedShare’s southeast distribution center, Emory’s wound ostomy and continence nurses made this all possible.

Alvaro McRae, MedShare’s volunteer program manager, first spoke with Martha Tamblyn, RN, WOCN, about their department volunteering on Emory Cares Day. “She was very open to helping, and having her team involved with developing our ostomy sort was the perfect project,” said McRae. Martha then helped MedShare develop the 24 product classifications needed to sort our ostomy supplies.

The WOCN Department volunteer group, including Dorothy Doughty, Rose Murphree, Cynthia Timms and her two sons, were part of a three-hour Saturday session that sorted over 200 pounds of ostomy products at MedShare for the first time in three years, creating a blueprint for future ostomy product sorts.  After the session, Dorothy Doughty, director of the WOC Nursing Education Center (WOCNEC), and Rose Murphree, WOCNEC’s program director, offered ideas how to make it easier for volunteers without a medical background to assist in future sorts of ostomy products, and how to box these particular supplies to enhance the quality of packaging for our partner hospitals and clinics around the world.

The team has already signed up for another volunteer shift in March to complete the ostomy sort they began in December. The Wound Ostomy & Continence Nursing team’s skills and expertise will be felt around the world as our partner hospital put these supplies to work treating patients and saving lives.

To volunteer at MedShare, please contact Alvaro McRae, Volunteer Program Manager at or Breauna Hagan, Programs Associate, at



Western Region Volunteers See MedShare’s Impact Firsthand at Hospital in Tanzania

From the moment that Medshare volunteers [in the Western Region] decided to raise the funds to ship a 40-foot container of medical supplies to Shirati, Tanzania, and I found out there was a possibility that volunteers could go to visit the hospital, I knew I wanted to be one of those volunteers. I actively participated in the fundraising for the container, contributing to the silent auction both in purchases and donations and also asking my friends and family for donations. And then my dream became reality as two other volunteers Fran Jurcso, Camille Harris, and I began our plans to travel to the hospital.

As we drove down the 18 miles of dirt road, four hours from the closest airport, we knew we were definitely in a very rural area. Dr. Chirangi welcomed us the day we arrived and took us on a tour of the hospital.

Our welcome to KMT Hospital.

Our welcome to KMT Hospital.

He pointed out all the equipment the hospital had received from Medshare in their previous shipment and excitedly showed us where all the new equipment would be going from the soon to be received container. Dr. Chirangi told us of all his immediate plans for additions to the hospital, and I realized what a difference receiving the supplies from Medshare would make to allow other money to go into the infrastructure of the hospital to meet more of their needs.

As we continued our tour and reached the different wards, I became very aware of the different experience one would have being hospitalized here rather than at home in the United States. There were simply four wards in the main hospital: men’, women, pediatric, and maternity. Each ward was simply one big room with barely an aisle to walk in between the beds.

The Pediatric Ward at KMT Hospital.

The Pediatric Ward at KMT Hospital.

There were no privacy curtains, patients were wearing their own clothes, visiting family members sat on the patients’ beds, and as the doctors examined incisions etc. the patient was exposed for all to see. Those recovering or waiting for surgery may be right next to someone with a contagious disease. The pediatric ward was so crowded we learned, that often they have to have two children per bed. Mosquito netting hung from the ceilings and the window openings had no glass in order to provide air circulation.

The highlight of the trip for me was when Dr. Chirangi invited us into the operating theatre to observe a surgery. After we put on our booties and masks (items I have sorted at MedShare) along with our scrubs we headed into the surgery room. It was early and the air conditioning had not yet been turned on. Shirati Blog Photos 4-Final-BlogWe had heard many stories about the surgery room with the leaking anesthesia machine, which is why there was a new one on the shipment about to arrive.

What we didn’t realize was that we would experience what it was like to be in the room with the leaky anesthesia machine. Before completely embarrassing myself by fainting and giving them an additional patient, I simply left the room a bit green and went and got some fresh air. By the time the second surgery began, the air conditioning was on and I could handle it.

The one sterilization machine used at the hospital, donated by MedShare.

The one sterilization machine used at the hospital, donated by MedShare.

It was amazing to watch all the medical supplies I have sorted the last two years of volunteering in action and see first hand what a difference it makes: the bovies and tips, the gauze, the scalpels, the sutures, etc., etc. We watched Dr. Chirangi remove an ovarian cyst the size of a small avocado, repair an umbilical hernia, and remove an appendix all from the same patient in about 30 minutes. He even asked Fran to hand him the #4 Vicryl sutures, which of course she knew from her sorting experience.

The news of the container arriving soon, had reached the community and everyone knew who we were as soon as we said we volunteered at Medshare. While we were there we had time to explore the community a bit and found wherever we walked, we soon had children following us, walking with us, talking to us and holding our hands. Everyone in the community was so friendly and welcoming and it made us wish it could be like that back home rather than fearing strangers. The children loved having us take their pictures with our digital cameras and showing it to them, as at home they had no mirrors and didn’t know what they looked like. In fact on our walk from where we stayed to the hospital, (about a half mile) we passed houses that had no indoor plumbing, no electricity, and no running water. We saw how much of the community lives and how families work hard, simply to survive. We saw students walking miles to and from school each day, women walking miles to Lake Victoria to carry water home, (on their head), and we went to the market to see how they buy their food.

When we left for Shirati, we believed we were going to visit the hospital, but little did we know that we would fall in love with people of the community and want to continue to help them. This trip was an amazing opportunity to see firsthand what our efforts at Medshare do for the communities around the world. It showed us how important it is for us to let others know about Medshare whether they are possible volunteers,  recipients, or teams that need supplies to take with them on medical missions.

“This trip was an amazing opportunity to see firsthand what our efforts at Medshare do for the communities around the world.”

At MedShare, we have listened to stories from doctors and nurses who return from similar areas after their medical missions. As amazing as their stories are, nothing was as incredible as us being there ourselves. Not having any medical experience, we felt privileged to have the opportunity to have this experience. If the opportunity is given to you, take it.

We would like to thank MedShare and all the volunteers who made this possible for us as well as AISCS (African Immigrants Social and Cultural Services) the NGO which funded the ground transportation for this container and also hosted us during our stay in Shirati.

Nancy Menne
Volunteer, MedShare’s Western Region Distribution Center
San Leandro, California

[Editor’s Note: The 40-foot container sponsored by the MedShare Western Region volunteers arrived at Shirati, Tanzania in early March 2014. Below are some of the photos of the container’s arrival at the hospital.


MedShare’s Western Region volunteers have just started their second fundraising project, this time for a shipment to Sierra Leone.  You can read more about this project and make a donation here:]