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A Rewarding Experience: Improving Health Outcomes in Vulnerable Communities

Providing humanitarian service and advancing goodwill and peace around the world has been the mission of pharmacist, Robert Earle since 1988 when he first became a member of the Rotary Club of Dartmouth. 

Earle has been bringing donated medicine overseas since 2002. His first trip was to Niger where he brought two Humanitarian Medical Kits from Health Partner International of Canada (HPIC) to a clinic in Toure.

“It was a tremendous experience. All the people of the village came out. The community felt so valued when they saw the medications because they had none. They understood that it was a valuable gift and it would mean health for their community,” reflects Earle.

After such a rewarding experience, this led him to continue with trips back to Niger, Burkina Faso and most recently Ghana.

Earle volunteered his time and skills to support HPIC’s Obaatanpa project in Ghana – in the Twi dialect, Obaatanpa means caring mother. HPIC began the Obaatanpa project in 2018 to improve the capacity of nine health facilities in the Amansie West and South Districts of the Ashanti region. These facilities provide services to pregnant women, mothers, newborn babies and young children and one of the key components is to enhance pharmaceutical management capacity.  

Earle assessed the conditions and needs of each dispensary, conducted training in good dispensing practices and made suggestions on how to improve the dispensing process and the storage of pharmaceuticals. According to Earle, although there is room for improvement, the healthcare system in Ghana works well. 

“I had an interesting experience at one of the clinics. I saw a boy about five years old sitting on a bench perspiring from a fever. A few minutes later, a nurse came out and gave him some Tylenol. The boy was suffering from malaria and intestinal parasites. I was grateful that the clinic had the necessary medications to treat his conditions.”

Earle was very impressed with the sophistication of the health system in Ghana. The challenge comes when medicines are lacking or when fees are charged that many patients are unable to afford. 

When travelling overseas, Earle typically brings Humanitarian Medical Kits with him to stock clinics with medicines donated by Canadians through HPIC. When community members visit these clinics, they are not charged for the donated medicines. 

Earle has been engaged with HPIC for over 20 years supporting its mission of increasing access to medicine and improving health in vulnerable communities. He hopes his volunteer experience will inspire others who have an interest in humanitarian work to use their gifts and talents. This year, he arranged for two doctors from Halifax to volunteer with HPIC to work alongside two Ghanaian doctors to train local midwives in advancing techniques of helping babies breathe and helping mothers survive childbirth. He says, “I would strongly encourage people to get involved with HPIC to use their skills, travel and take donated medications overseas because it will vastly improve the health outcomes of the people there.”

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