AFYA’s mission to rescue and recover surplus medical supplies and equipment is a greening solution in the US that saves lives abroad. AFYA finds donors from a multitude of places: a grieving family who wants to donate the unused medical supplies that were needed for a loved one, a doctor’s office that is downsizing or merging, a Nursing Home that is updating their equipment, a major Hospital that has tunnels full of supplies turning into waste, a school collecting first aid or school supplies for refugees, a B’nai Mitzvah or Girl Scouts project.
Every product has a positive impact. The products that are sent abroad range from chairs for doctors to sit on, pens for medical charts, balls for children who are waiting for their parents in a African rural health center, birth kits for midwives in rural villages, 3500 bars of soap from a girl scout’s gold award and student desks and chairs.
Danielle Butin, Founder and Executive Director of AFYA has many stories about receiving packages from donors from unusual places. She told me one story of a family who had monogram sheets from their parents who fled Nazi Germany. When they read in the news about people in Haiti who were being buried in mass graves after the earthquake, they donated the sheets so the families could wrap their loved ones and bury them with dignity.
Wendy Isaac’s family was grieving the loss of her father who had suffered from Parkinson’s. They had an apartment filled with medical supplies and did not know what they were going to do with it all. A friend sent a condolence message and said if you need a place to donate any medical supplies, I have just the place. Her mother was relieved at how simple AFYA made the experience. They found comfort in the knowledge that the left over supplies will make a difference for someone else. Wendy said “it felt like a gift to us.” Her father, a philanthropic man, would have been honored that they had done something meaningful amidst the grief.
I spoke with Cindy McCollum, Sr. VP, Hospital Operations and Shane Dunne, Project Manager for Sustainability, from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Their relationship with AFYA began when their diverse staff were interested in supporting the Haitian community who were recovering from the Earthquake in 2008. After an introduction to the AFYA Foundation and their work, they organized an internal process to collect and donate excess consumable items such as gauze, bandages and catheters to the foundation. As the relationship with AFYA expanded, they formalized the process to work on diverting other excess materials from the waste stream, such as office furniture. In one instance, when MSK Nursing refurbished their conference room, they donated their conference table and chairs and received images of its use in a conference room in a Malawi health center. They have worked to donate various materials, even hospital beds along with supplies to AFYA, helping to provide relief for the Syrian refugees in Lesvos, Greece, in response to the Ebola epidemic in Sierre Leone and for relief of the severe earthquake in Nepal. MSK’s relationship with AFYA has grown to include events for their staff to volunteer their time at AFYA’s warehouse to sort and pack the supplies. They have an ongoing and structured Donations and Equipment Recovery process under the Sustainability Program with contributions from across the Center to manage their day to day efforts. Memorial Sloan Kettering’s commitment can be seen by their dedicated Donations page on their internal web site for staff to list needed supplies.
For AFYA’s newest initiative to help Syrian refugees, they are in need of children’s rain boots, first aide supplies, soap and school supplies. Check out the website, for more information at http://www.afyafoundation.org. Sign the Pictition, #ACT4REFUGEES (pictition.com/Act4Refugees) and show your support. Who knows where the next donor will come from?