A look back: MedShare’s Visit to Guatemala

Earlier this year, MedShare’s Josh Kravitz (Chief Operating Officer), Amanda Paniagua (Shipments Manager), and Terry Monday (Volunteer Manager for MedShare’s Western Region) visited Guatemala.

MedShare's Josh Kravitz, Amanda Paniagua and Terry Monday with hospital staff in Antigua, Guatemala

Why did they visit? “Our mission on this trip was to dive into the Guatemalan medical community to learn just who will be our best partner hospitals over the next year or two and truly understand their unique needs,” said Josh Kravitz, COO. “Without a doubt, we prepared to leave this wonderful country with a better understanding that will lead to even higher quality medical aid shipments.”

To learn more, we invite you to read Josh and Amanda’s accounts of their trip. Which of our recipient countries would you like to travel to?


Report: MedShare International on Hospitalito Atitlan’s Blog

MedShare staff Josh Kravitz, Amanda Paniagua and Terry Monday traveled to Guatemala last week to visit various recipient hospitals, one of which was Hospitalito Atitlan. The hospital posted the following photo and text on their blog, and we wanted to share it with you. Enjoy!

(L to R) Bonnie O'Neill, Terry Monday, Amanda Paniagua and Josh Kravitz

When Bonnie O’Neill, Chair of Amigos Hospitalito Atitlán lived in Atlanta, she was instrumental in founding MedShare. MedShare collects and sorts medical equipment and supplies and then finds donors to help with the costs of shipping full containers to hospitals in developing countries. A year ago Hospitalito Atitlán received it’s first Medshare container. This week, Bonnie brought MedShare administrators to visit the Hospitalito. Terry Monday from Medshare’s Western Region in San Leandro, CA and Amanda Paniagua and Josh Kravitz  from their headquarters in Atlanta, GA.

It was great to finally meet the MedShare people we have been working with. Thank you for the visit and all the excellent quality medical equipment and supplies!

To view photos from their trip, visit our Flickr page here.

MedShare Visits Guatemala: Our Hospital Partners Excel, Fight, and Innovate

As our plane approached the airport in Guatemala City, Amanda Paniagua, MedShare’s Shipments Manager, leans over and opens the window shade. As she looked out, she said, “look, we are in another country!” Indeed, we were. Once again a MedShare team was on its way to learn about our medical aid recipients and explore with them how we can best partner to improve healthcare for those in most need.

Team at Hospital Atitlan

Along with Amanda are myself, Josh Kravitz, COO, and Terry Monday, Volunteer Manager for MedShare’s Western Region. Our mission on this trip was to dive into the Guatemalan medical community to learn just who will be our best partner hospitals over the next year or two and truly understand their unique needs. Without a doubt, we prepared to leave this wonderful country with a better understanding that will lead to even higher quality medical aid shipments.

Since 2000, MedShare has shipped twenty-seven containers of medical aid and supplied countless MedTeams helping the Guatemalan people. We had a lot of options to start from, but chose to visit with two of our most trusted corporate partners, Dole and Kimberly-Clark. In the last few years, Dole has provided shipping for seven 40-foot containers on their vessels. While none have been to Guatemala, we were eager to learn how they are working to improve healthcare for the people here. As expected, they are working to improve lives in this important banana-growing region and are starting some new projects that MedShare hopes to help with.

It was in 2001 that MedShare sent our first container with Kimberly-Clark to Guatemala and we were excited to see the results of our numerous containers since.  We started with a visit to the Hospital Materno Infantil, where we were overjoyed to see a facility that provided not only high level care, but paying great respect to the families they served. Though the hospital may have been low on resources, they stretched themselves as far as they could while continuing to honor their patients with services that would satisfy any North American. Most impressive was their ability to build a sterilization capability with similar capacity of a US hospital. Following several visits to small clinics, we ended the first day by seeking some advice from the nuns at the Central American headquarters for the Daughters of Charity, as introduced to us by Accession Healthcare. In MedShare’s efforts to only work with the most honest and professional partners, we must seek advice from those who truly know local needs.

The following day, we met with Food for the Poor and their long time partner, the Knights of Malta. It goes without saying how impressed we were that together these two organizations partner to accept and distribute an average of two containers of medical and food aid every day. MedShare was proud to most recently have shipped a container of hospital beds from our Western Region in aid of their mission. Our first hospital stop was to visit their recipients at the National Hospital in Antigua, and we were shocked to see moldy ceilings, rusty beds and crumbling walls. The desperate situation became overwhelmingly real when we saw premature babies being warmed by nothing more than a floor lamp with an incandescent light bulb; a similar set-up to what caused an infant’s finger to be burned off at one of our recipient hospitals years earlier. Despite challenging circumstances, this hospital has amazingly set up Guatemala’s first breast milk bank so babies in crisis can still benefit from this simple, but fortifying nutrition. We finished this day by visiting the world famous Obras Sociales del Santo Hermano Pedro that conducts the highest quality services for the poor from orthopedic surgeries to caring for the mentally disabled.

Premature baby being warmed by a floor lamp

Pediatrician preparing donated milk

It was difficult to imagine we could see anything more heartbreaking or inspiring, but the trip went on. Wednesday began with a visit to the national hospital in Solola. This government hospital that serves primarily an indigenous and extremely poor population struggles to survive on an adequate budget that leaves them no choice but to operate with only one nurse for every 15 patients. We were shown intermediate care units with almost no working monitors, an operating room filled with broken equipment and a patient ward that reeked of urine and was filled with ancient mattresses on rusted beds.  Again, the facility persevered and managed to establish a blood bank where patients’ families could donate blood. This day ended on an extraordinary note with a visit to Dr. Louis Flores who is using his 401K money to build a clinic for one of the poorest villages on Lake Atitlan. This fascinating doctor, who recently retired to his native Guatemala after decades with the Mayo Clinic, will spend his “leisure” years giving nearly free care to one of the most medically under-resourced communities in the country. Then, just stay busy, Dr. Flores also hopes to teach painting to villagers on the weekend.

The National Hospital in Solola's blood bank

The trip concluded with an energizing stop at the Hospilito Atitlan in Santiago de Guatemala with the extraordinary mission of providing for the preventative, maternal and emergency health needs of the Lake Atitlan’s indigenous population. Through the interesting use of battery back-ups, generators, water purification, highly-trained staff, quality equipment and state of the art facilities, this hospital, with MedShare’s partnership, offers care at low or no cost to a population that can easily be called the “poorest of the poor” in a way that surpasses what even the United States’ best free clinics and public hospitals provide. Recently, MedShare shipped a container of medical aid to Hospitalito Atitlan in May 2010 that was sponsored by Mr. Bill Cuneo from Northern CA.

Once again, this visit proved that under almost unbearable circumstances, people can find creative solutions to seemingly insurmountable odds.  When most give up, our Guatemalan partners innovate. When many accept social injustice, our partners fight. When few succeed, our partners excel.

Amanda, Terry and I wish to thank the many who made this expedition possible, including Dole, Kimberly-Clark, Accession Health, Food for the Poor, Knights of Malta and former MedShare board chair Bonnie O’Neill. We are also grateful for the always important advice from MedShare staff and board members who helped craft a wonderful itinerary, including Stephanie Greene, Nell Diallo, Chuck Haupt and Pat Robinson.

To view more photos, click here.

MedShare Staff Visit to Guatemala: National Hospital of Antigua Photos

We mentioned earlier this week that MedShare staff members Josh Kravitz, Terry Monday and Amanda Paniagua are currently in Guatemala visiting recipient hospitals, potential hospitals, and a few of our partners.

Most recently, they visited the National Hospital of Antigua. Here are their photos:

A little medicine and mom will fix everything.

Hospital Garden

Toys are fun, shots are not.

This is where the newborns get their first bath.

Look closely, this premature baby is being warmed by a floor lamp because the infant warmer is broken and can't be fixed even though this hospital is less than an hour from Guatemala City.

A volcanic view for lunch.

Feet up on rusty stool, head against paint chipped wall, waiting for the doctor.

A breast milk bank...what a great idea. As is the creative use of non-sterile medical drapes as sheets. I have seen this innovative use of what is most often tossed and still think the creativity is great.

What are your reactions to these photos? We’d love to hear your thoughts! Please share below…

Click here to view the first round of photos. More to come!

MedShare Staff Visit to Guatemala: Photos

On Sunday, MedShare staff members Josh Kravitz (COO), Terry Monday (Volunteer Programs Manager), and Amanda Paniagua (Shipments Manager) traveled to Guatemala to visit recipient hospitals. Among the ones they’ll be visiting are National Hospital of Antigua, Hospital Materno Infantil, Clinica Puerta de Esperanza, Hospital Solola, Obras Sociales del Santo Hermano Pedro, and Hospitalito Atitlán.

Throughout the trip, we will be posting on-the-ground information from these staff members. First up? Photos that were snapped upon their arrival.

View from the hotel

Plaza Mayor post presidential rally

Market in the shadows of the Palacio National

Guatemala City

Guatemala City

Post-Political Rally

More to come!


MedShare Highlights Service to Women for International Women’s Day

International Women's Day

In honor of International Women’s Day, this month we’ll highlight the women around the world that MedShare serves.

Dr. Mukwege of the Panzi Hospital

International Women’s Day (IWD) began in the early 1900’s when their oppression and inequality began spurring them on to become more vocal and active in campaigning for change. What originated with 15,000 women marching through New York City seeking shorter hours, better pay, and voting rights has become an official holiday in many of the countries we serve. IWD is celebrated on March 8 every year, as hundreds of events occur throughout the world to mark the economic, political, and social achievements of women.

Women play an important role in MedShare on both the operational and receiving ends. We have almost 20 female employees on staff, and many of our volunteers are women, too. While we take pride in serving both men and women, we’d like to highlight a few special women’s facilities in honor of IWD. In some developing nations, women are often not recognized as equal to men, and they are often victims of discrimination. Maternal healthcare in these countries is lacking, and the women often suffer as a result. According to the Global Health Council, for instance, more than 99 percent of the estimated 536,000 maternal deaths each year occur in the developing world.

MedShare regularly ships tractor-trailer size containers of medical supplies and equipment to maternal health centers around the world. Some recent notable shipments have gone to maternity hospitals in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ecuador, and Haiti. These medical facilities each provide much-needed healthcare to women and children, and MedShare is proud to provide them with life-saving supplies and equipment.

Santa Rosa Hospital, Ecuador

The Santa Rosa Maternity Hospital in Ecuador was the recipient of MedShare’s 500th container shipment in November 2009. The hospital staff struggle to care for the town’s maternal infant population with limited supplies, equipment, and staff resources. They were so appreciative of this container that the community celebrated its arrival with a ceremony. We were especially excited to provide the Santa Rosa Maternity Hospital with a much-needed infant incubator – the hospital’s first emergency evacuator. Our Southeastern Regional Council sponsored the container, and employees Josh Kravitz and Amanda Paniagua were fortunate to be in Ecuador as the container arrived. Commenting on the trip, Amanda said, “It was so rewarding to see our medical shipments actually being used on patients and to hear how they are so instrumental in helping these hospitals provide quality healthcare.”

Last September, a container left for the Panzi Hospital in the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo. Located in Kivu province, the Panzi Hospital is providing relief and surgeries to treat victims of sexual violence and traumatic fistula. It’s 334-bed medical center is the home to two-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee Dr. Denis Mukwege, one of the Eastern Congo’s only gynecologists. Despite the hospital’s pioneering work, supply shortages are an ongoing problem, and we were proud to have provided a container of supplies to support their surgeries that treat victims of sexual violence and repair traumatic fistulas. Panzi Hospital is located in a war-torn area and highlights MedShare’s expertise in getting supplies into some very challenging places.

Most recently, we shipped a container of medical supplies and equipment to Project Medishare’s new maternal health center in Haiti. This container was shipped from our Western Distribution and Volunteer Center in San Leandro, CA on Valentine’s Day, and marked the 50th container shipment from this MedShare location. Project Medishare for Haiti is a nonprofit dedicated to achieving quality healthcare and development services by sharing resources with its Haitian partners. MedShare’s Valentine’s Day gift to Project Medishare was the second container of medical supplies and equipment we have sent to support this vital maternal health center. The first container was sent in 2010 in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake. Both contained critically-needed items such as hospital beds, suture, gloves, gowns, masks, thermometers, exam tables, laptop computers, and baby incubators that were hand-selected by the recipient. The clinic is located in the Central Plateau of Haiti and will open this spring.

As a MedShare supporter, thanks for everything you do to enable these shipments. To honor the women in your life on International Women’s Day, click here to contribute to MedShare.

This story is an excerpt from our March e-newsletter. Click here to read the entire newsletter, featuring stories of an inspiring volunteer and medical mission trip to Gondar, Ethiopia.