A Hero in Uganda

Last week was a tough one. The news from around the world is enough to make us all despair, but the work we do at Global Links, and the people we work with, keep us going.

Consider, for example, the success of Bright Kids Uganda, created by the love and determination of one woman “to rescue vulnerable and economically disadvantaged children from their dire circumstances in which they are currently living.” Victoria Nalongo Namusisi began the home in 2000 to help children whose lives were devastated by Uganda’s years of internal conflict. Motivated to alleviate the suffering she saw on the streets of Entebbe as well as in the north, she found enough support from within and outside the community to make the home a reality.

The home, school and clinic are a work in progress, with every triumph, large and small, celebrated.  A new van, a successful fundraiser, one resident graduating from high school while another enjoys cake on his third birthday are all lovingly documented on the organization’s website.

Since 2012, Global Links has been supporting the Bright Kids Uganda medical clinic with donations of supplies and equipment. Blood pressure cuffs, IV poles, tongue depressors, gauze and gloves play a role in improving the lives of the children of all ages who find their way to Victoria. “Your medical supplies were greatly appreciated and instantly used by all of the [visiting] doctors,” wrote Pauline Greenlick, Special Education Consultant and Treasurer for Bright Kids Uganda, U.S.A.

Knowing that there are children in Uganda whose lives are secure and stable, who receive the care and schooling they need to thrive, helps us move beyond the tragedies documented in the daily news. We are so proud to work with heroes like Victoria.

 

Taking BP with GL supplies

Medical supplies from Global Links were put into immediate use.

GL tongue depressor shows importance of basic supplies

Materials for a basic exam, such as a tongue depressor, can be difficult to find in resource-poor communities.

Doin’ the Happy Dance

“You must understand,” says program officer Marisol Valentin, her eyes lighting up, “the importance of Carnaval. Everybody wants to go.”

Marisol was talking to volunteers about a project with Haiti’s Bureau du Secrétaire d’Etat à l’Intégration des Personnes Handicapées (BSEIPH), a government agency dedicated to helping citizens dependent on mobility devices integrate fully into the life of the community. Global Links has been collecting walkers, crutches, canes and wheelchairs from hospitals as well as the Pittsburgh community and sending them to this agency, which works to provide access to education and vocational training, and advocates for the legal framework and physical infrastructure those with disabilities require.

Many of the volunteers Marisol was speaking to had already been involved in this project in some way, because the wheelchairs, walkers and other devices were all cleaned and prepped by volunteers. Working on such items as pediatric standers, says volunteer Chris Meyers, is “what keeps you going.”

One of the benefits of our work with BSEIPH is that it supports a Haitian government agency already in place. BSEIPH knows the community and has the necessary networks and expertise. Supporting public health initiatives such as this one is a priority for Global Links, and makes a lasting positive impact on life in Haiti.

The focus of this project isn’t on the materials – it’s on what those devices allow community members to do. Current estimates from such sources as Caribbean Journal say that about 10% of the Haitian population suffers from some sort of disability, due in large part to the devastating earthquake of January 2010. With a population of 10.17 million, that’s over one million people.

And, probably, many of them want to enjoy Carnaval, an annual period leading up to Lent that is defined by fun, feasting, and no-holds-barred dancing. After receiving a donation of mobility devices from Global Links, BSEIPH made them available to their constituents, and then went to Carnaval with a camera.

Dancing at Carnaval National des Gonaives

Dancing at Carnaval National des Gonaives

It is hard to see on a still photo, but this man is dancing.

Global Links has just sent another enormous donation of mobility devices – a 40-foot container packed full – to BSEIPH. While not all of the people who receive them will dance, they will be more likely to go to work, to take their children to school or to medical appointments. They will be able to take part in the life of their community. And that, as we say here at Global Links, calls for a happy dance.

Hit the link for a video of “Andikape yo nan Kanaval,” an initiative of BSEIPH that features artists with and without disabilities, and dance along.

Want to help? Donate now to this project.

Having the Right Sutures Means the Difference between Life and Death

Mari Clide was 25 years old and pregnant for the first time – with twins. One night she awoke with a severe headache, which she knew could be a sign of pre­eclampsia. This life-threatening condition, pregnancy-induced hypertension, increases the mother’s risk for stroke and seizure, and increases the risk for prematurity and stillbirth in infants. Mari Clide’s condition was further complicated by the fact that she lives in a rural area of Haiti, far from the medical help she needed. Mari Clide called a motorcycle taxi and rode one hour on rough roads to get to the only hospital for miles that could help her: Hôpital Albert Schweitzer (HAS).

Mari Clide with her healthy new babies.

Mari Clide with her healthy new babies.

HAS serves a population of about 350,000 people in a 610-square-mile area (roughly the size of Houston), and has been receiving sutures and other materials from Global Links since 1995.  Renowned throughout Haiti for high-risk obstetric services, the hospital’s maternity ward relies not only on the expert medical staff but also on the availability of materials — including sutures.  Of the roughly 1,000 deliveries attended annually at the hospital, over 30% are delivered by Cesarean section due to complications. Having the correct sutures on hand at the right time could mean the difference between life and death for mothers and babies.

After Mari Clide’s rough ride to the hospital, her blood pressure was monitored closely. On her second day, she went into spontaneous labor. After many hours, however, her labor stopped progressing and her doctor decided a Cesarean section was necessary to avoid risk of neurologic injury for her twins, stillbirth, infection, hemorrhage, fistula formation, and even death. Mari Clide’s C-section was successful and uncomplicated, in part because the hospital had exactly the right sutures for her procedure from Global Links.

Mari Clide stayed in the hospital for several days to ensure her safe recovery. “Everything was so good here, I really appreciate the service that I received,” said the proud new mother. After her doctor deemed it safe, Mari Clide and her new twins, Roodensly and Roodensky, returned home to start their lives together.

We are proud of our long partnership with HAS, which has been providing excellent medical care to the Lower Artibonite Valley for nearly 60 years. Please join us in helping mothers and babies begin their new lives together in good health – become a suture donor or a financial supporter of this life-saving program.

Global Links Donations Protecting Irreplaceable “Resources” in Cuba

“The Health Care Worker Kits you sent us were invaluable,” said the Provincial Vice-Director of the Ministry of Health in Santiago de Cuba at the closing meeting of Global Links’ site evaluation visit. For four days, Global Links staff visited hospitals affected by Hurricane Sandy, evaluating the impact of our support and assessing potential projects. At each hospital, the staff would thank us for the support we had provided and mention the Health Care Worker Kits as one of the key items they appreciated receiving.  “Yes.” I responded to the Vice-Director,  “Everyone we spoke to highlighted those kits.”  The Vice-Director sat down, took off her glasses and quietly responded “They were very valuable; allow me to share my personal story.”

Hurricane Sandy was the strongest Hurricane to impact Santiago de Cuba.  A category 2 hurricane, Sandy entered Santiago with winds of up to 220 km per hour, tidal waves of 9 to 10 meters and hours upon hours of rain.  The difficult task of cleanup and rebuilding started immediately after the storm had cleared, but the magnitude of damage to the local infrastructure led to a rise in infectious diseases in the area.  Cholera, brought back to the Caribbean region through poor sanitary conditions at humanitarian response camps following the 2010 Haitian earthquake, is now one of the epidemiological risks following any disaster in the region. For months after Hurricane Sandy, healthcare workers in Santiago de Cuba canvassed the communities in the province identifying at-risk individuals and transporting patients with cholera to one of the main hospitals for treatment.

“We were at the point where we felt the situation was under control, and we were providing educational visits to the community about basic hygiene to prevent cholera.” explained the Vice-Director.  “We were visiting a community in the Sierras – the mountains – when a young doctor stopped at the home of an elderly man whom the neighbors believed was suffering from cholera.”  There was only one problem: the doctor had no protective gear with her.  They stood outside the house pondering possibilities that would allow the doctor to enter the house without putting her life at risk.  Did they assess the situation from the outside, go to the closest hospital for the protective gear and then come back?  But this was an area of difficult access, so it would be hours before they could come back and cholera patients cannot spare hours.  Then the Vice-Director remembered that she had one of the Health Worker kits we had sent in the trunk of her car. She was able to give the doctor a gown, gloves, and face mask, enabling the doctor to care for the patient with minimal risk to herself.

Gloves from Global Links protect health care workers

Washing slides – a potential biohazard – wearing gloves from Global Links.

When we think about medical resources, we sometimes forget to include personnel – and yet of all the resources, they are the most precious.  This was brought home to me several times on my recent trip to Cuba. I also saw a lab technician washing microscope slides, a potential biohazard, thankfully wearing gloves from Global Links. Reusing single-use materials is common in the countries where we work and I was glad to see the staff taking precautions to protect themselves.

The health care worker kits were donated to Global Links by a local corporation who had them as preventive measures for a season in which H1N1 was on the rise.  Thankfully, there was no pandemic in Pittsburgh and the surplus materials served their purpose protecting Cuban Health care workers battling cholera.

Our project to help Santiago de Cuba recover and rebuild from Hurricane Sandy is now in phase two.   In 2014 and 2015, Global Links will be working on strengthening their ORs with anesthesia machines and surgical beds, their patient wards with beds and mattresses, their laboratories with microscopes and testing equipment. And as we worked during that closing meeting on the list of consumable supplies to prioritize during this phase, the Vice-Director smiled and said “And don’t forget to send more Healthcare Worker Kits.”

Essential health care worker kits.

Preparing to pack those essential health care worker kits.

Today my inbox has been flooded with e-mail alerts with titles like “MERS Cases Pose Threat to Health Care Workers” as the US deals with its first cases of MERS brought back by health care workers returning from Saudi Arabia.  So I find myself thinking about the young doctor I never met, feeling glad that materials from Global Links not only help the patients, they protect the irreplaceable and dedicated doctors and nurses who care for them, and grateful for our partners who help us in our mission of sharing surplus and saving lives.

Please consider becoming a Global Giver in support of our program in Cuba and the patients, doctors and nurses who depend on us.

All Hands – Phase Two: the Next Level of Care

The Amazon Health Boat plies two rivers of Bolivia’s Amazon Basin, bringing primary health care to over 25,000 people. Primary care is just that – the essential preventive medications, screenings, diagnoses, and sometimes referrals to a hospital for more specialized care. That is why Global Links’ “All Hands on Deck” project in Bolivia – having furnished exam rooms and more on the health boat – turns now to Phase Two – Hospital Guayaramerin, where patients go when their needs cannot be met on the boat.

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The mission of Hospital Guayaramerin is, in part, to provide all the specialties available in a second level hospital, including surgeries and other complex procedures, in addition to basic primary care. The hospital also serves as a referral center for disasters, such as the recent flooding in which 60 people died and 60,000 homes were damaged or destroyed. The hospital is in good physical condition, but lacks the furnishings and equipment necessary to provide complete health care to the people in the area.

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All Hands – Phase Two is an example of how Global Links makes a sustained – and sustainable – improvement in health. Each Global Links project meets a specific need, whether it focuses on several community health posts, a large urban hospital or, in this case, a system that fits the particular needs of this resource-poor area of Bolivia, in which travel is difficult and life depends on the rivers.

Hospital Guayaramerin serves a population of 116,000 in an area that suffers a high level of poverty and tropical disease. The health services provided by the boat can keep chronic conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes in check. And when complications arise, or a mother needs a c-section, or a child needs an x-ray, Guayaramerin will, after completion of All Hands – Phase Two, be ready to meet them.

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Please help us with this cost-effective and efficient system that provides care to a large and diverse population.  We’ve asked you to donate baby clothes, pack boxes of supplies, and more, and you’ve always come through. Now your financial support is needed to cover the costs of shipping a container filled with hospital furnishings and equipment – material deemed surplus by the US medical community, and life-saving when it reaches its destination.

On Wednesday, May 7, there is a special opportunity to increase the impact of your gift with a donation to this project on Global Giving, which is matching donations by 30% – but only on May 7.

Ninos amazonas

Thank you for your support!

 

 

 

“The more I learned … the more motivated I became.”

Volunteer Chris Meyer will be honored as a semi-finalist for the prestigious Jefferson Award for public service on May 6. We are so proud of Chris, grateful for all he does for Global Links and for the wider community, and pleased to present this “guest post” he wrote about his involvement with Global Links.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Photo Volunteer Chris Meyer

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Photo
Volunteer Chris Meyer

Only recently have I reflected on the irony of how I got involved in Global Links and the various connections – for me.  My wife of 25 years developed MS.  As it progressed she needed various mobility devices, cane, walker, manual wheelchair, scooter, electric wheelchair.  Finally, she no longer needed mobility as she passed away.  The irony didn’t occur to me that I would be helping others with their mobility by helping GL to get them canes, crutches, walkers, wheelchairs.  In 2010, I was focused on the earthquake victims in Haiti, not my wife’s struggles with declining mobility.

I originally started volunteering at Global Links (sorting and packing at Penn Ave) but then left to volunteer at another organization.  Then came the earthquake in Haiti and I was drawn back to Global Links.  People hurt in the earthquake needed canes, crutches, walkers, and wheelchairs.  I was still sorting and packing but then I discovered GL’s Hamilton Ave. warehouse.  I realized there was a need for someone (actually several someones) to refurbish these wheelchairs.  No one else seemed to be doing it very regularly.  The warehouse staff could certainly use their time and skills elsewhere.

Wait a minute – Global Links has not only one, but two missions:  Delivering Healthcare surplus to resource poor countries but also diverting our overly resource-rich healthcare surplus from landfills (both here and abroad).  How great is that? But wait! Why Global Links?  What about the needs locally, what about the needs in some parts of this country?  Then I found out that GL does also donate locally and is involved with just about every other non-profit around.  The more I learned about GL, the more I met the staff, the more motivated I became.

Recently I was privileged to be nominated for the annual Jefferson Award  by Global Links.  As part of this I was interviewed by a writer for the Post-Gazette.  Her questions were about what  I expected:  What is my background, what motivated me to volunteer, why did I choose to volunteer at  Global Links, etc.  What surprised me somewhat was that anyone would be interested in ‘my story’.  Really, I’m not sure I appreciated my own story until I was “quizzed” on it by the reporter.  Always wanting to do well on tests and quizzes I thought about some of the expected questions in advance.  The more I did, the more I realized that there are a lot of connections with Global Links that I had not thought about before.  Once I did, it seems like I must have been led or drawn to (sort of karma-like) to Global Links, but more and more I realize that this is the place for me.

 

Celebrating Earth Day

Today is earth day – for all of us. For organizations with an environmental mission, such as Global Links, most of the decisions we make every day take environmental stewardship into account. Our model of recovering surplus medical materials from the US health care community and sending them to low-resource communities not only promotes health, it keeps those materials out of landfills. Why discard a wheelchair that is in good condition when it can dramatically improve the life of someone in Haiti? Why throw out a mattress that no longer conforms to a US hospital’s needs when many health-care institutions in Guatemala desperately need hospital-grade mattresses?

As we become more aware almost daily of our planet’s fragility, we encourage everyone to use resources conscientiously. We try, here at Global Links. We don’t print anything unnecessarily, we use environmentally friendly cleaning products, light our volunteer center with LEDs and our warehouse  with sunlight (yep – streams through the skylights) when the weather cooperates. These small steps may not make a big impact, but they add up over the long term. And trying to avoid wastefulness simply feels better even when it takes a little extra time.

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This Thursday from noon till 1:00, we are excited to celebrate Earth Day with Erika Johnson, Executive Director of Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse (PCCR), one of Global Links’ community partner organizations.  Come hear how PCCR promotes conservation of resources through their creative art projects, and channel your inner creative conservationist by participating in a fun, hands-on activity.   Erika will discuss their shop at 214 N Lexington Street – a crafter’s paradise – and how PCCR works, along with the philosophy behind the “reuse” part.

Guests at our grand opening enjoyed working with Creative Reuse.

Guests at our grand opening enjoyed working with Creative Reuse.

Sign up here to join us for this free event.

We pay attention to the earth every day – it’s good, once in a while, to actually stop and celebrate it. We hope you all have a chance to do that, either at Global Links or on some piece of earth that is meaningful to you.

Happy Earth Day.