A Letter from Meridith Rentz, MedShare’s CEO

Meridith Rentz, MedShare CEO

Hello Friends,

It’s officially been two weeks since I joined the MedShare team, and I am honored and thrilled to be writing to you. With each day that passes, I continue to be amazed by the passion and commitment that all members of the MedShare family have for our extraordinary mission.

Balancing this feeling of exuberance, I find myself to be in a particularly reflective mode with the recent passing of the 10th anniversary of 9/11, a day that touched all of us in a tragic, and in some cases, life-changing way. My almost 10-year-old son was born a few weeks after September 11th, 2001. As I was watching him play soccer recently, I thought about how much he has grown and changed over the past 10 years – it’s a dramatic difference.

Have these same ten years made a difference in our collective communities, too? I do believe that as individuals and groups, we have grown and changed since the tragic events of ten years ago that drew our nation together in a collective holding of breath and sense of loss, followed by intense pride and action.

Are we a nation that cares more? Are we a nation that takes action more? Are we a nation that works harder to find practical solutions to issues of social justice?

For the most part, the answers are a complex combination of yes, no, maybe, it depends, and sometimes.

But then I look at you – the supporters of MedShare’s mission – and the answers are crystal clear. You care. You take action. You’re not afraid of complex challenges. You want to improve this world of ours in practical, life-saving ways. The clarity of your support is what fuels the power of MedShare. Your contributions – be it the gift of your time, your voice, your financial support or your in-kind donations – make all the difference, every day to people across the globe.

Your support enabled MedShare to ship its 700th container just two weeks ago. The supplies on this container will support urgent humanitarian needs throughout Libya. Consider the impact that 700th container and the 699 before it (with their $93 million worth of medical supplies and equipment) have had on the people living in 88 recipient countries – it truly takes your breath away.

And then – once you catch your breath – it’s easy to lose it again when you consider the significant work ahead of us. According to Healthcare Without Harm, U.S. hospitals generate more than two million tons of medical waste each year. Much of that waste is unused medical supplies and equipment. Meanwhile, the World Health Organization estimates that more than 10 million children under the age of five die in the developing world due to inadequate medical care.

We must take a deep breath and then we must carefully pursue opportunities to expand the impact and sustainability of MedShare’s unique model of gathering suppliesmatching needs and improving health. We can and must continue to work in partnership with the communities we serve as well as individuals, corporations, foundations, and other nonprofits working to achieve our ambitious goals. We must care more. We must take more action. We must redouble our efforts to take on complex challenges. We must do all of this to save lives and improve health infrastructure in the developing world, and reduce our incredible environmental impact in our own communities.

I am excited to work in partnership with each of you over the coming weeks, months and years to bridge the gap between surplus and need. It is an honor and a privilege to follow in the footsteps of MedShare’s amazing co-founder and former CEO, A.B. Short. I am also delighted that A.B. has accepted my request that he stay on at MedShare as Senior Advisor to the CEO to support this leadership transition and continue to contribute his tremendous entrepreneurial skills to our growth endeavors.

I promise each of you that I will do my best every day to keep up with you in your advancement of our mission and to ensure MedShare continues to merit your invaluable support. I welcome your ideas, questions or concerns. You can reach me any time at mrentz@medshare.org or via Twitter @mrentz.

In service,

Meridith

This is an excerpt from September’s e-newsletter. To read more – including a story of a medical mission team in South Georgia and our 700th container shipment celebration – click here.

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Faith Alliance of Metro Atlanta (FAMA) 10th Anniversary of 9/11 Inter Faith Gathering

By Clint Fluker, MedShare’s Faiths Act Fellow

Sana and I stood side by side at the crosswalk watching silently as dozens of people from all directions trickled into the Decatur Hotel Conference Center in Decatur, Georgia. When the traffic light turned red we joined the crowd into the lobby of the hotel where over 600 people representing six different faiths (Buddhists, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus and Sikhs) gathered to commemorate the 10th Anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Clint Fluker, MedShare's Faiths Act Fellow, at a 9/11 Interfaith Gathering in Decatur

As we moved through the lobby toward the main hall two lively women hopped in front us bearing quiz sheets. Wide eyed and smiling, they welcomed us to the interfaith gathering, introduced themselves, their religions, and through hysterical laughter held up their sheets to ask, “Are you Muslim? Because we really need some help with some of these questions?”

I stood mute shaking my head. The onlooker’s eyes glazed over me and focused on Sana. Sana nodded. The two women jumped for joy and presented their sheets which were filled with bingo-style questions stemming from all the religions represented at the conference. Sana answered their questions about the prophet Muhammad; the women thanked her graciously and moved on to the next set of unsuspecting arrivals.

The interfaith questionnaire was one of several mechanisms used throughout the evening to help foster interfaith dialogue. Consequently, when we entered the main hall we saw hundreds of colorful faces glaring at us ready to pounce with interfaith questions. We answered questions about Islam and Christianity respectively as we made our way to two open seats.

The ceremony began with a welcome and introduction by a representative from the Faith Alliance of Metro Atlanta (FAMA) who brought our attention to the beauty of the diversity in the crowd. Next, he pointed to a painting by Norman Rockwell, “The Golden Rule,” that was projected prominently on each wall. The speaker then yielded the floor to religious leaders from all faiths present to recite their interpretations of The Golden Rule according to their religious texts.

This presentation was followed by several musical performances, prompted interfaith discussions, and poetry readings. However, perhaps the most powerful moment of the evening was a reading by author Carmen Agra Deedy. Deedy retold a story from a man on the ground in New York City who witnessed the World Trade Center buildings fall. During this story she urged everyone in the audience to face the memory of 9/11 head on, take the lessons we have learned from that day, and apply them to the future in the spirit of peace.

The evening came to a close with a candle light vigil. The silence in the room during those few moments was only broken by quiet tears and prayerful whispers. When the bell rung to mark the end of the gathering, I surveyed the dimly lit room to see newly made friends and strangers alike embracing each other. Baring witness to the bonds of unity formed through the sharing of faith traditions, I opened my arms and joined in.

To learn more about MedShare’s Faiths Act Fellow, click here and here.

Our Duty on 9/11

By: Sana Rahim, MedShare’s Faiths Act Fellow

Sana Rahim (L) and Clint Fluker, MedShare's Faiths Act Fellows, leading a volunteer sort session

When I asked Emory students to tell me the first word that comes to mind when they think of 9/11, Rami Tabba responded with “duty.”

Amidst the tragedy and destruction that September 11, 2011 wreaked in the United States, it also called upon ordinary citizens to become life-saving heroes. Rami reflected on how thousands of Americans went above and beyond the call of duty to serve their fellow citizens.

It was a similar sense of duty that drew 45 students from Emory University to sort medical supplies at MedShare on the 10th anniversary of September 11th. After a tour and orientation at the MedShare facility, students sorted 1,032 pounds and packaged 74 boxes of medical supplies and equipment. These boxes could be sent to hospitals in Kenya, Paraguay, or Bangladesh- some of the countries in the upcoming shipment schedule.

After the sorting session, students were asked to reflect on ideas of unity and overcoming difference. They candidly discussed how communities came together and, how certain communities faced alienation and discrimination after 9/11.

When the students were asked why they had chosen to serve on 9/11, the response was almost universal. It was simply the right thing to do according to the students. Many reflected that serving on 9/11 together endowed them with a powerful sense of community. As a local group in Atlanta, they had come together to make a global impact.

The Emory students that came together at MedShare that day represented multiple narratives; different faith backgrounds, cultural histories, and personal ambitions. On a day that often brings back memories of violence, hate, and division, they came together in solidarity to help create a more just and equitable world.

~

As a Faiths Act Fellows at MedShare, I hope to continue to work with new communities at MedShare for days of service and reflection. If you are interested in organizing an interfaith sorting session, or any other activity, please reach out to me at srahim@medshare.org or my partner Clint Fluker at cfluker@medshare.org

You can read more about the Faiths Act Fellowship at www.faithsactfellows.org.