Muhammad Ali: legendary boxer, poet and Humanitarian Medical Kit carrier

Muhammad Ali’s insatiable drive was to help strangers in need. This is what his daughter Hana wrote in 2011.

Muhammad Ali (1942-2016) was a heavyweight champion boxer, Olympian and one of the most revered sports heroes of the 20th century. One of his most popular quotes showed his thinking about charity and service: “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.”

This concern for helping others led “The Greatest,” who passed away June 3, 2016, to cross paths with Health Partners International of Canada in 1997.

Recalled working with Ali
Upon learning of his death, John Kelsall, former president of HPIC (1993-2008), recalled the story of Muhammad Ali and HPIC working together to get medical relief to a Catholic nun and orphans in the Ivory Coast. “There was a brutal civil war going on in Liberia and over 200,000 people died. Those who could, escaped,” John said. Ivory Coast became home to 350,000 Liberian refugees.

One of the people who escaped was a sister who was, according to an Associated Press article, caring for 105 children, including 61 who were handicapped. An additional 400 children depended on her for food and medical care.

Sister Sponsa Beltran (1925-2016), an American nun in the Bernardine Franciscan order serving as a missionary in Liberia, had reached out to various people to help her. And Muhammad Ali heard her plea. Amazingly Ali died just two months after Sister Beltran, whose own life could have been a script for a great movie. One journalist who interviewed her a few years before her death, called her community of sisters “the Catholic Church’s answer to SEAL Team 6” (an elite American navy counter-terrorism unit).

Sister Beltran’s service in Africa
In a tribute in a Catholic newspaper, Sister Beltran’s life of service was described as follows: “She spent over 30 years (1970-2007) caring for the poor and disabled of Liberia, West Africa. She helped them to survive a 14-year civil war, a five-year exile in the Ivory Coast, and repatriation to the outskirts of Monrovia, Liberia, where she founded Our Lady of Fatima Rehab Center. Through the years, she faithfully served the Lord as she cared for thousands of children and adults who were disabled, resulting from birth injuries, disease and ferocious accidents. Today, there are a multitude of handicapped children and adults living in the U.S. and around the world who were abandoned by their families and who owe Sister Sponsa their lives due to her unending love, care and acceptance.”

Now back to the 1997 story and the HPIC connection to these two legends of sports and humanitarian relief. “When Sister Beltran and the children fled from Liberia, they had the clothes on their backs and were in desperate need,” John recalled.

“Muhammad Ali marshaled a shipment of food, clothes, shelter materials, and even school supplies from the generous people of the U.S.A.,” John said.
“However, he was not able to find the needed medicines to care for the children’s wounds and health needs. He made this need known to a number of his friends including a businessman from Montreal, Yank Barry.”

Needs list for orphans matched our kits
Barry contacted HPIC and asked if the organization could help with the medicines. “We looked at the needs list and it was a good match for our Humanitarian Medical Kits,” John said.

John went to the Montreal airport to meet Barry with the two kits. When they went to check in the medical relief at the Air France cargo desk, they told the airline about the project with the boxing legend. Air France decided to waive all the charges and fly Muhammad Ali’s entire humanitarian shipment to the Ivory Coast free of charge.

Then the kits, containing enough medicines and supplies to treat about 450 people, flew on to the Ivory Coast via Paris and were personally carried by Muhammad Ali to Sister Beltran. On August 20, 1997, he arrived in Ivory Coast and was greeted by fans shouting “Ali! Ali!” He delivered his gifts of food, supplies and medicine to Sister Beltran at the Centre Bon Berger Catholic Mission, 200 miles west of the capital Abidjan.

“Muhammad Ali was so grateful for the provision of medicine that his plan had been to fly back through Montreal and meet the staff of HPIC to thank us in person.

Gesture of gratitude from Muhammad Ali
“However, his Parkinson’s flared up on the way home and he had to go straight back to the United States. A week later, I received a personally autographed boxing glove from him as a gesture of gratitude,” John said. “We have cherished that ever since.”

John and his wife Lottie had felt called to donate the funding to sponsor the kits so when he retired, he took the glove as a souvenir. “When our son, John Jr., returned from a year of service in Afghanistan, we decided to give him the glove in recognition for his commitment to helping the people of Afghanistan. A staff sergeant with the OPP responsible for the training of Tactical Rescue Units, John Jr. had been in the country on special assignment from the Ontario Provincial Police to train the Afghan National Police.”

“Muhammad Ali was a great boxer,” said John, “but what makes him truly great is how he cared for people he didn’t even know.”

You can see a photo of Muhammad Ali with Sister Beltran and read more about his humanitarian heart here.

Photo of Muhammad Ali and Yank Barry meeting Sister Beltran in Ivory Coast.

Rural communities in Swaziland about to receive help thanks to cbm Canada-HPIC partnership

A donation of medical supplies and medicines was packed into a container last week and is currently en route to Swaziland with cbm Canada, an international Christian development organization committed to improving quality of life for persons with disabilities in the poorest countries of the world.

“Thank you so much for your recent donations,” wrote Natalie Capone of cbm to HPIC. “Our partner is very excited to receive them in the coming months. Thanks to you, HPIC and your supporters, children and communities in impoverished villages will receive lifesaving medical equipment and supplies. Your gift will help nurses and doctors provide healthcare services to rural communities and help people access braces that they couldn’t have afforded without your help.”

The shipment consists of $62,000 worth of medical supplies and some medicines, including a major provision of anti-inflammatories. Donors to this shipment are: Covidien, Johnson & Johnson inc. and Pharmascience.

cbm Canada’s on-the-ground partner will be doing mobile clinics to rural communities in Swaziland. The country is the size of New Jersey and has a population of 1 million people. Ravaged by the HIV/AIDS pandemic, one-fifth of children are orphans. According to cbm, all populations in rural areas do not have proper access to medical care.

A special focus of cbm is always on children and adults living with disabilities. “Today, some of the most excluded people in society are people living with disabilities,” cbm states on their website. “If you take this exclusion half way around the world to some of the poorest countries, a lack of resources and education makes the exclusion even more obvious.”

$1.74 million worth of Apotex medicine being airlifted to Ecuador

A significant mobilization of medical relief is arriving in Ecuador this week via Health Partners International of Canada (HPIC) thanks to a major donation from Apotex.

“We are so thankful for this donation that matches the needs identified by Ecuador’s Ministry of Health perfectly,” says Denis St-Amour, President of HPIC. “We shared the needs list with Apotex and they invited HPIC to view their available inventory and make a selection. This is a wonderful donation that will really help the people of Ecuador. We are also grateful for some funding support to help cover shipping.”

In total, 14 skids worth $1.74 million consisting of a variety of Apotex medicines are being airlifted to HPIC’s partner in Guayaquil, Ecuador. The medicines donated include antibiotics (1.9 million tabs total), analgesics and inflammation/fever reducers (1.8 million tabs), anti-fungals, anti-hypertensives, medication for diabetes, anti-anxiety medication, eye drops, and antihistamines.

HPIC was able to move this medicine thanks to generous financial support from Initiative 360- Take it Global and Apotex.

“I would also like to thank Initiative 360 – Take it Global for the major critical funding provided to airlift the medicine donated by Apotex,” Denis said. “This medical shipment will help ensure that health workers have what they need to provide care to those who have already lost so much.”

Watch a video of the medicines being prepared for airlift

Haitian radio alerts community that medicines and specialized care are available

Dr. Gail Nield’s parents always encouraged her to be kind, helpful and charitable, and to use her skills to benefit others, not just herself.

For the past three summers, the dermatologist located in Woodbridge, Ontario has been travelling to northern Haiti to provide care and to train local health professionals. She goes equipped with a Humanitarian Medical Kit provided by Health Partners International of Canada (HPIC) and filled with a standard assortment of essential medicines and medical supplies donated by companies in Canada like Pfizer. Her kit included Vibramycin, Cortef, Dalacin C, Arthrotec, Eryc and Diflucan donated by Pfizer.

Pfizer has been a major donor to HPIC since 1994, sponsoring the organization and donating needed medicines. Last year, Pfizer gave $4.7 million worth of donated medicines. Through HPIC, Pfizer has equipped thousands of doctors like Dr. Nield for medical missions as well as provided medical relief during emergencies and to health projects in impoverished communities.

“Most Canadians have access to excellent medical care,” Dr. Nield says. “(In Haiti), they save up their money to buy medicines from the hospital pharmacy, but often they cannot afford the medicines…even if they can afford the medicine, sometimes it is not available.”
Before Dr. Nield arrives, the radio alerts the community and people travel great distances for the chance to be seen by a dermatologist and to receive medicines free of charge.

60 per cent of Dr. Nield’s Haitian patients were children with conditions such as skin infections, infestations like scabies, fungal infections and eczema. “As a dermatologist I was able to treat numerous patients with skin infections, using the oral antibiotics, such as Eryc given by Pfizer. Many adults and children had serious bacterial skin diseases such as widespread impetigo and infected traumatic wounds and ulcers. These patients all responded to these antibiotics, which they would not have been able to afford otherwise.

“We all care about how we look, whether it is here in Canada or in rural Haiti. Many patients had grade 3 acne, requiring Vibramycin, given by Pfizer,” she reported to HPIC.

“As always, the patients seen at Hôpital Bon Samaritain in Limbe, Haiti are very grateful for the medications and supplies given to them to help them heal. I can’t thank you enough for providing this service. And it certainly makes my time in Haiti easier, knowing that I have the medications and supplies available to help my patients,” Dr. Nield wrote as a thank you message to HPIC’s donors in her project report.

Emergency airlift of primary care medicines arrives in Ecuador this week

Five skids containing enough essential medicines to provide up to 24,000 full courses of medical treatment are being airlifted to Guayaquil, Ecuador this week to help medical relief efforts following the 7.8 magnitude earthquake last month.

The medicines are packed into 40 Humanitarian Medical Kits for primary care and will be used by doctors and health workers going out to communities affected by the earthquake.

Over 200,000 people in Ecuador were impacted by the massive quake and its aftershocks. More than 650 people died, 33,000 are living in shelters and 73,000 are displaced. The needs are great and HPIC has been working to mobilize medical relief since the quake struck.

Our partner agency in Guayaquil is the largest NGO and has a network of hospitals, which treat over 5 million patients a year.

“The city of Guayaquil is about two hours away from the earthquake-affected areas where most health facilities have been badly damaged or destroyed,” says HPIC’s Maricarmen Raudales, Senior Director of Programs. “Many victims of the earthquake and their families have been coming to the hospitals managed by the Junta de Beneficencia de Guayaquil. They are providing medical care, psycho-social support, shelter and food.”

Medical staff at these hospitals are being deployed to the affected areas to do mobile clinics. “This is how this particular provision of medical relief will be used,” Maricarmen says. “The medicines are packed into kits, which can be hand carried and contain a standard assortment of medicines and medical supplies matching the needs identified by the Ministry of Health.”

More than a dozen companies donated the medicines and medical supplies in this airlift and donors of funding include CHP Canada, Innovative Medicines Canada and individual donors across Canada.

Thank you to our nurses!

On the occasion of National Nursing Week, HPIC would like to thank all the amazing humanitarian nurses we work with to deliver health and hope around the world.

Many nurses and nursing students carry Humanitarian Medical Kits to health projects and volunteer assignments overseas. Each kit is packed with a standard assortment of essential medicines and medical supplies for use in primary care.

“The Humanitarian Medical Kits offer hope where there is none! These kits provide us with the ability to offer quality healthcare free of charge to remote villages where access to healthcare is often non-existent,” says Melodie Hicks, the team leader of the Vanier Nursing Students project in Malawi.

Melodie has been bringing HPIC primary care kits and nursing students from Vanier for 6 years every spring.

“Patients always remark on the high quality of the medications that we transport in the kits,” Melodie wrote in her report to HPIC after her most recent trip this March and April.

“Mothers walk long distances and wait in the hot sun for hours just for the chance of receiving free medications for themselves or their children. People are suffering and dying of preventable and treatable illnesses. The medications you donate ease suffering and save lives. Just imagine a 2-year-old child dying from diarrhea!”

Melodie’s program brings students to Malawi for the final 7 weeks of their nursing diploma. “Research has shown that immersion in another culture is an effective way to force students to reflect on their own ethnocentricities,” Melodie wrote in her application to HPIC for 8 kits or enough medicine to provide 4,800 full courses of medical treatment. “They become sensitive to the relationship between positive health outcomes and provision of culturally sensitive nursing care.

“The project is also designed to provide additional support to health care workers and patients in Malawi, where there exists a chronic shortage of nurses and resources. In fact, there is a 75% vacancy rate for nurses! Students also learn how to provide care with limited resources and to share best practices with their fellow nurses and nursing students.

Melodie reported that the kits allowed her students to participate in three mobile clinics and delivered healthcare to remote villages that are only accessible during the dry season. In addition, free medications were provided to patients at St. Andrews Hospital.

To Melodie and her students, the team from the University of New Brunswick Nursing Faculty leaving this month and all our nursing teams and nurse partners and to nurses everywhere: Thank you! Thank you for your gentle care and compassion! Happy Nursing Week!

Two major airlifts of medical relief for Ecuador

Two major airlifts will be leaving shortly for Ecuador to equip a partner charity in Guayaquil to distribute medical relief. Health Partners International of Canada would like to acknowledge all the donors who have come forward in this significant mobilization of medical relief following the earthquakes April 16 and 22.
Donors of medicine:
Allergan
Apotex
AstraZeneca
Bayer
Covidien
Euro-Pharm
GlaxoSmithKline
Henry Schein
Johnson & Johnson
LEO Pharma
Paladin
Pfizer
Pharmascience
Sandoz Canada
Teva
Vita Health

Donors who have contributed financial support:
Canadian Generic Pharmaceutical Association
CHP Canada
Innovative Medicines Canada
Individual donors across Canada

10,000 mothers experienced a healthy pregnancy and a safe birth since introduction of maternal care kits

Since the very first Humanitarian Medical Kits for maternal care were shipped in 2013, Health Partners International of Canada and our partners have helped almost 10,000 mothers-to-be and their babies experience a healthy pregnancy and a safe birth.

“With Mother’s Day approaching, it is a good time for an update about HPIC’s Mother-Child health program,” says Catherine Sharouty, HPIC’s Program Manager. “There are three new projects we are working on to significantly improve health outcomes for mothers, babies and children in Kenya and Haiti.”

HPIC is starting a maternal child health project endorsed by the Primate of the Anglican Church of Kenya, the Most Reverend Dr. Eliud Wabukala. In partnership with Anglican Development Services, HPIC will support three health facilities through the provision of medical relief focused on the needs of women and children paired with training and public awareness health campaigns. The first shipment is slated for this fall.

“The past few months have been a very exciting time for me as the program continues to grow and develop to reach more vulnerable mothers and children. I am proud of our achievements so far, none of which would have been possible without the support of our donors and the commitment of our partner organizations,” Catherine says. “In the developing world, women do not always have the supplies and health services available to help them during and after pregnancy.”

HPIC provides midwives and other health workers with the supplies and tools needed to help a mom have a safe birth and a healthy baby. One kit provides care to 50 mothers, 30 infants and 5 young children. “Those numbers are only for the consumables part of the kits. The equipment portion of the kit would help in giving care to thousands more mothers and babies,” Catherine says.

Another project that HPIC is working on is our part in a multi-year Global Affairs Canada-funded project with Plan Canada. The project, entitled Strengthening Health Outcomes for Women and Children, will be implemented in several countries. HPIC is assessing needs and working on a needs list for the Haiti portion of the project. A first shipment will leave in 2017.

Currently HPIC’s logistics team is preparing a major provision of maternal care kits for The Salvation Army (TSA) in Kenya West. In June, HPIC will ship 100 kits of medicines and supplies and 50 equipment kits. This is the second phase of the project with TSA.

Reporting from the first phase indicated that the first shipment had a great impact. The village elders told the program personnel that “We are so grateful for this service. These medicines are helping our community.” One of the ways they provided care for mothers and babies was at a clinic under a tree. A mother of two said: “I am able to come for help, the nurse is very kind and gives us good advice.”

Like to help HPIC reach the next 10,000 mothers and babies? In honour of your mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, sister, help mothers in need around the world. Just $24 is enough to ensure a safe birth for mother and baby.

Ecuador relief: opportunity to treat 10,000 people in need of medical care

• Medical relief to treat 10,000 people packed and ready
• Airlift ready
• Reputable NGO partner on the ground is waiting

Health Partners International of Canada has an incredible opportunity to offer Canadians who wish to send much needed medical relief to Ecuador following the earthquakes April 16 and 22.

Essential medicine is packed into portable emergency kits and ready for airlift. Each kit contains a standard assortment of essential medicines and medical supplies, requested by HPIC’s NGO partner in Guayaquil, the most populous city in Ecuador about two hours away from the earthquake zone.

“We have provided medicines to this organization in the past. It has 28 years of experience and is reputable,” says HPIC’s Senior Director of Programs, Maricarmen Raudales. “This local NGO runs four hospitals (Pediatrics, Gynecology and Obstetrics, Psychiatry, Cardiology/Neurology) in the city.
“Many victims of the earthquake are being treated at their hospitals. Doctors are ready to leave with HPIC’s emergency kits to treat the injured in mobile clinics in the earthquake-affected areas.”

We need your help to raise $30,000 to cover our expenses and shipping charges. This will airlift 24,000 full courses of medical treatment and equip doctors in the field. In order to act quickly, we are asking for pledges or donations now.

“This is a great opportunity to help meet needs directly,” says Denis St-Amour, HPIC’s President. “The beauty of sending medicines to trusted and established partner organizations is that we are actually helping people now. Your donation is guaranteed to deliver health and hope.”

Medical relief for Ecuador leaving Monday

The first Humanitarian Medical Kits to go to Ecuador are being picked up today by team members of Camino Global Ministries. The team is leaving for Ecuador Monday, April 25.

“These kits will be used for earthquake relief in the communities of Muisne and Cojimies along with the town of Pedernales,” the team wrote in their application to HPIC. They expect to be working with health caravans to help survivors of the earthquakes.

Meanwhile HPIC is in discussion with implementing partners about mobilizing more significant volumes of medical relief. HPIC has the medicine, and the partners as well as a good chance of receiving free shipping, still to be confirmed.

Each kit can provide up to 600 full courses of medical treatment and contains a standard assortment of essential medicines and medical supplies. HPIC’s Senior Director of Programs has compared the needs list from the Government of Ecuador to HPIC’s kits and there are many needed items in the kits.

HPIC had a volunteer team from GlaxoSmithKline on Wednesday pack 25 primary care kits especially for Ecuador.

The devastating earthquake in Ecuador April 16 and the subsequent one April 22 have mobilized the network of Health Partners International of Canada.

“All week HPIC has been fielding offers from our pharmaceutical and healthcare companies in Canada and we are truly grateful for this support for the people of Ecuador, ” says Denis St-Amour, HPIC’s president.

The whole Canadian healthcare industry is aware of the need for medicine thanks to the support of this relief operation by the Canadian Generic Pharmaceutical Association, Consumer Health Products Canada and Innovative Medicines Canada.

Next week, HPIC’s distribution centre should be very busy receiving shipments of donated medicine.