You can deliver health and hope to an impoverished community, here’s how

Thinking about heading abroad to serve as a volunteer or to help a community in need? You can deliver health and hope by carrying a Humanitarian Medical Kit to a community and HPIC can help you make it happen. Volunteers, humanitarians, students, health professionals – and you – can take a Humanitarian Medical Kit from HPIC to provide up to 600 full courses of medical treatment to a community in need.

The lack of access to essential medicines in developing countries is a most pressing global health issue. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 2 billion people do not have adequate access to healthcare and medicine.

HPIC’s Humanitarian Medical Kits are like portable pharmacies that allow you to set up a clinic virtually anywhere. Others choose to deliver a kit to a healthcare provider in the field. The kits contain a standard assortment of essential medicines and medical supplies, all donated by Canadian healthcare companies. The contents, valued around $6,000, are all in-date and high quality. HPIC operates according to the high standards of Health Canada and the WHO.

HPIC is the only organization in Canada that provides this service to volunteers, medical teams and humanitarian groups. Since 1998 HPIC has provided treatment to about 3 million people through the kits. HPIC also has kits tailored to the needs of specialists and dentists, and for maternal care.

“This year we changed the name to Humanitarian Medical Kit from Physician Travel Pack so it is clear that you do not have to be a physician,” says Claudia Sighomnou, Director of HPIC’s Humanitarian Medical Program.

Some volunteers may ask why they should take medicines from Canada instead of buying locally. “When I go to Haiti on my annual mission trip, people are eager to receive care and to receive medicine that works,” says Dr. Pierre Plourde. “Counterfeit medicine is a real problem and so is the lack of needed medicines. There are many gaps in supply, and quality and efficacy are often a problem. When I take the Humanitarian Medical Kit, I am ready to work and I am confident in the medicines I am dispensing. ”

Here’s what people are saying about HPIC’s Humanitarian Medical Kits:

  • The kits were an “essential part of our trip. Without the packs, we would not have been able to deliver any of our care”
  • “The quantity of medications received allowed us to really maximize our budget and make the largest impact possible”
  • “Incredibly useful”
  • “An excellent overall complete package of essential medicines for our rapid deployment teams to use in the immediate aftermath of a disaster ”
  • “The documentation is complete and facilitates customs clearance.”

To obtain a kit, you have to apply (application available at and HPIC requests a donation of $575 that covers some of HPIC’s costs. Receipts for income tax purposes are issued and you can use HPIC’s online fundraising tool to invite your supporters to contribute too (they would also get tax receipts).

If you need help finding a volunteer opportunity or planning your trip or would simply like more information, please contact us at 1-800-627-1787, ext. 129 or

If you have suggestions or comments about how we can help you, please contact us. If you know of people or organizations looking for quality donated medicines for health projects, please refer them to HPIC.

Successful surgery allows Mum to see baby for the first time

In Canada we tend to think of cataracts as a common problem for older people. In tropical places, cataracts can affect younger people and they are the most common cause of blindness in the world.

Dr. Sue Wallace, an ophthalmologist from B.C., and a team with International Vision Volunteers Canada went to Zambia in the fall of 2015 for two weeks. They saw over 600 patients and performed 75 surgeries.

Dr. Wallace and her team were equipped by HPIC with a humanitarian medical kit, containing specially donated products from Hospira, Pharmascience and Teva for this mission.

“These patients are extremely poor and there would otherwise be no accessible eye care available,” she wrote in her report to HPIC. “Certainly they would not be able to afford the medications we dispensed and we could not have done our surgeries without the anesthetic products that were donated.”

One of the patients who had surgery was a young mother. Dr. Wallace told her story in her report to HPIC:

“A young woman was led into our clinic by her husband. She was bilaterally blind from dense white cataracts that had developed over a year ago. She was no longer able to care for her young children and had never seen her new baby’s face. She underwent cataract surgery and the next morning we removed her eye patch and she saw her baby for the first time! 

“The look of joy and appreciation that crossed her face was a sight to be seen! She will now be able to look after her family instead of being a burden.”

This particular patient benefited from the local anaesthetic donated by Hospira.

Apotex provides pain relief for women in DRC

The first container of 2016 destined for HEAL Africa’s Hospital in Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo is being packed at Health Partners International of Canada’s distribution centre.

Along with the usual contents of medical and surgical supplies, HPIC will be providing four skids of essential medicines.

“This shipment, which literally is a delivery of health and hope for the women and children at HEAL Africa, will include medicines for the first time and a major donation from Apotex,” said Helen Crawley, HPIC’s Director of NGO Programs.

“We are going to be drawing down on this stellar donation from Apotex for a few months and we know that it will meet the needs of many of our NGO partners’ health projects,” Helen said.

“HEAL Africa will be receiving two pallets of acetaminophen or enough to provide 21,000 treatments,” said Helen. “Acetaminophen is useful for managing pain after surgery and effective pain control can help speed the recovery process.”

A lot of healing takes place at HEAL Africa but the greatest stories of healing and coming back to life are about the women who have survived sexual assault. HEAL Africa repairs their bodies with surgery, gives them gentle care and provides counselling and practical skills to ease them back into life.

For many decades the DRC has suffered from extreme violence and wars, mass population displacements, widespread rape, and a collapse of public health services. Women and girls have been on the frontlines of conflict since sexual assault is used as a weapon. As a result, thousands of women in the eastern DRC live with stigma and trauma.

Every year, HEAL Africa’s hospital provides care to about 9,000 women survivors.

Here is a story told by Colette, one of the women who arrived at HEAL Africa close to death:

“I was the victim of rape by armed bandits in my house, I did not even have hope to regain my health, I was almost dead, but thanks to the free medical care that I have received at HEAL Africa since June 2015, I have already recovered my health. I am really grateful for HEAL Africa and its partners for this high quality, and free, medical care. Given my situation of poverty, I could not have found the means [to pay] for my treatment. Because the support for rape victims [at HEAL Africa] is free and given the reputation of the hospital in the country, I was motivated to come here. HEAL Africa sent a vehicle to take me more than 50 km between the city of Goma and my village because I could not even stand up. I am very grateful to regain my health.”

HEAL Africa’s hospital has 197 beds and is a tertiary referral hospital. It is one of only three referral hospitals in the DR Congo. It provides general surgery, orthopedics, obstetrics and gynecology (including fistula repair), pediatrics, and internal medicine. It also serves as a centre for healthcare and research, and for training doctors and healthcare professionals.

HPIC has been providing containers of medical supplies to the hospital since 2003. For the past 10 years, Unifor’s Social Justice Fund has provided the necessary funding to HPIC for this relief to HEAL Africa.


Pharmacist shares Haitian project at Pharmascience

The first time he went to Haiti, Jean-François Bussières was discouraged. “I was shocked, I vomited, I lost consciousness, I was frustrated,” he recalled. “The quality of care was not ideal. The hospital is disorganized. They are dealing with many problems: parasites, HIV, hepatitis. There are shortages. For example, caregivers sometimes don’t have sterile or clean gloves and they don’t have enough.”

That was two years ago and today, he feels he is over the shock and more equipped to contribute to the work his Haitian colleagues are doing to reorganize the St-Michel Hospital. “We become more useful as we become immunized against the shocks and discomfort. With a spirit of humility, we can get closer to the people there and we can start to make a difference.”

Jean-François, who serves as chief pharmacist at Montreal’s Ste-Justine Hospital for children, came to thank Pharmascience for their donations of medicine to Health Partners International of Canada at the all-employee meeting of 1,600 Pharmascience employees Jan. 26.

“Just a few hours in a plane and you arrive in a country that is totally disorganized and chaotic,” he shared. “It makes you understand why Haitians want to leave.”

Haitians make about $1 – $2 a day and nothing is covered, he says. Patients must pay for everything. Access to good medications makes an enormous difference.

Every time Jean-François travels to Haiti, he brings humanitarian medical kits supplied by HPIC. The last time he went in the summer of 2015, he carried three products especially donated by Pharmascience to his project: Clarithromycin, Amoxicillin and Naproxen.

In Haiti a lot of medicine that is available is of inferior quality or expired. “The medicines provided by HPIC are essential to our project,” he said. “I am able to take care of the patients thanks to these medicines. Thank you to HPIC and thank you Pharmascience.”

Jean-François is part of a Canadian Red Cross project to reorganize the St-Michel Hospital in Jacmel, Haiti. The hospital is currently under construction and is expected to open this year. Jean-François is planning his next trip to Haiti for this spring.

Pharmascience was the top donor of medicines to HPIC in 2015. In total the company has provided 5 million courses of treatment through their donations to HPIC over 21 years.

Smiles of 100 patients express gratitude for life-changing plastic surgery

Some kids and their parents travelled over 400 kms for the opportunity to have free plastic surgery to repair facial malformations.

They had heard that a volunteer team with Operation Rainbow Canada was coming to India in late 2015. HPIC equipped the team with all the anesthetics needed for surgery, which were donated by AstraZeneca Canada. HPIC also provided donated sutures and other important medicines.

“They are polite and patient,” wrote Dr. Rai, the team leader. “Even post-surgery, they complain of pain very little. They have not seen at all or rarely seen Caucasian people and are very courteous about wanting to take pictures with them. I feel good that we are able to help and improve the lives of these unfortunate patients.”

Over 100 patients, some as young as three years old, received life-changing surgery over the two-week mission in November 2015. Most surgeries were to repair facial malformations, some were to improve problems caused by major burns. ORC’s priorities are babies, children, and young adults. The earlier the surgery is done in a child’s life, the less psychological trauma there will be. But when time permits, adults also benefit from life-changing surgery.

“(Early in the morning) the patients are silent and I wonder what goes across their minds. They trust us foreigners with their lives for a better outcome. Whatever little we can do to help them to face a new world with confidence, we are grateful,” Dr. Rai says.

“Their smiles show their appreciation and thanks. Even though they cannot speak our language, they show they are on the road to start a new life.”

One young woman who is experiencing a fresh start is Madhu. The report to HPIC related her story:

“Born to a poor family and orphaned when she was young, she was raised by her sister and they still live together.

“Her sister heard about the opportunity for the surgery, took the five-hour bus trip to the hospital, and stayed with Madhu throughout the process. They are poor farmers and Madhu doesn’t talk much due to her cleft lip, but the team could feel that she has a very pleasant personality in spite of her condition.

“Many patients look a bit puzzled and stare in disbelief at the stranger staring back at them in the mirror. Madhu was no different and she quite liked looking at her reflection. Mary, the recovery nurse, gave her a mirror to take home. After many years of disappointment trying to get assistance, Madhu’s sister was so very grateful that they made the long journey. We were glad that they took this chance as well.

“Every time I do a mission it reminds me how lucky we are in Canada to have all the necessary healthcare we could ever need.”




Thank you Izzy Doll knitters and crocheters!

HPIC’s knitters and crocheters received a special thank you from partners in the Physician Travel Pack program. Did you know that every year HPIC receives over 12,000 Izzy Dolls to distribute with our medical relief shipments every year?

These dolls protect the valuable life-saving medicines and then are given out to children who come to clinics. In some cases they are a first toy for a child. In all cases, the dolls bring joy and comfort.

Let us pass on this special word of thanks from our partners with the Eganville Rotary who brought a Physician Travel Pack to bring medical relief to people living in a slum in Kenya this October:

“Dr. Peter Inoti and his wife Francisca opened the PTP today and were extremely pleased with the shipment of drugs and medical supplies.  The knitted dolls were a very nice touch and as you can see from the photos, were appreciated by one happy youngster at the Clinic.  Please thank the people who did the knitting.”

“Let me add our thanks to our nationwide network of volunteer knitters and crocheters,” says Denis St-Amour, President of HPIC. “Each doll represents a child in an impoverished community who benefits from our medical relief programs. The doll is a lasting reminder of the care they received and a symbol of love from Canada because each doll is unique and handmade with love by a volunteer. Thank you.”

HPIC always needs Izzy Dolls. You can knit or crochet them too.

Recently the Izzy Doll was in the news because a lady in Perth is making them for refugees arriving in Canada.


Doctor shares impact of medical relief in the D.R. & Mayor of Oakville welcomes HPIC at new DC opening

The new distribution centre of Health Partners International of Canada officially opened on Nov. 25 and a variety of donors and partners were there to walk through the facility and hear about the impact of HPIC’s mission.

Even the most basic medicine can make an enormous difference to someone in need, said Denis St-Amour, HPIC’s president, pointing to the racking and skids of medicines and medical supplies in the 11,500 square-foot warehouse. So many people do not have access to medicine, the medicine they need is not available or it is too expensive.

“There are people who are waiting, hoping and praying for this medicine to reach them,” Denis said. “It will be life-saving or allow them to treat their symptoms and resume a normal active life.”

An example of a community that benefits regularly from medical relief provided by HPIC is in the Dominican Republic. Dr. Dario Del Rizzo, a physician and partner in HPIC’s Physician Travel Pack program, spoke at the event about the work he and his church, St. Peter’s in Vaughn, have been doing over the past 9 years.

Every year Dr. Del Rizzo and his community bring enough medicines and medical supplies to provide about 18,000 treatments. “Without you, the donors of medicines, we wouldn’t be able to do this,” he said at the opening.

“If you are born into a shantytown, your life expectancy in the D.R. is 50,” the doctor said. The HIV/AIDS rate is high for young people, malnutrition is around 30 per cent for children and chronic diarrhea affects about 50 per cent of children.

The church community began helping out after a few members were in the D.R. on vacation and became aware of the extreme poverty there. “Our Franciscan priests went to see for themselves and encouraged the parish to help. Without any government funding, with donations of $5 and $10 at a time, we developed programs in nutrition, immunization, education and health,” he said.

When Dr. Del Rizzo travels with the medicines each summer, he leaves enough to supply the pharmacy clinics for a year. “Even if you are working and can see a doctor for free, the doctor gives you a prescription and you cannot fill it,” he said after explaining that a young strong man can earn $2 for two days of work on the sugar cane plantation and that a hotel worker earns about $120 a month. “Gas is 10 cents more than here and everything, things like pasta, are more expensive than in Canada. A month of powdered milk for babies costs about 6 months’ salary.”

“Gradually, we see more progress all the time,” he said. The community now runs programs in 24 bateys or very impoverished communities. Two dozen young people have graduated from university and three doctors have graduated. “In one little clinic, there is a young doctor who we put through medical school and she is there all year along with two nurses,” he said.

“One of the nurses is named Esperanza, hope in English. She has a fitting name. When I asked her if we are making a difference, she said ‘yes’. I said ‘how’. And she replied: ‘Our kids don’t die anymore’. There is nothing more impressive and hopeful than her statement.”

The Mayor of Oakville offered a warm welcome to his town and introduced the local councillor Tom Adams. “I am very proud you chose to come to Oakville. …Congratulations on your 25th anniversary and on delivering 25 million treatments. There are 25 million really good reasons we’re glad you’re here and that’s the work you have done for the world.”

Denis St-Amour, HPIC’s president, mentioned that HPIC is close to having delivered half a billion dollars of medical relief. He thanked the Canadian healthcare industry and referred to the support of Canada’s Research-based Pharmaceutical Companies, the Canadian Generic Pharmaceutical Association and Consumer Health Products Canada.

“We will work so hard to keep the trust of our donors and to act with integrity. …You have saved more lives than you will ever know. Let’s continue on this journey together.”

Denis said that HPIC would like to ramp up the medical relief to provide the next 25 million treatments in half the time it took to deliver the first.

See a video of Dr. Del Rizzo’s speech

See a photo album from the event

Oakville Beaver article


Pharmascience’s donated medicines are a blessing

In a few weeks the Dominican Republic will receive the first container of medical relief shipped out of the new efficient distribution centre in Oakville, Ontario of Health Partners International of Canada (HPIC).  Half the container, which left on Nov. 2, was loaded with medicines donated by Pharmascience, including antibiotics for kids, asthma inhalant, medicine for arthritis pain, cholesterol lowering medicine, fluoride tablets, cough syrup and vitamins.

The 40-foot container was sent in partnership with HOPE International Development Agency and was destined for a mountainous region called San Jose de Ocoa.

The medical relief will be distributed to a network of clinics, hospitals and other facilities, including a Red Cross clinic.

Health facilities are under-resourced and doctors cannot always provide full care to patients, according to HOPE. This shipment will provide residents of San Jose de Ocoa and surrounding provinces with free basic medicines that they would not usually be able to obtain. Treatment and recovery for thousands of people who live in poverty will be possible thanks to this provision of essential medicines.

HOPE has been a partner of HPIC for seven years. They regularly send medical relief to this region of the D.R. and to other countries. HOPE describes their work: “We extend a helping hand to the poorest of the poor so they can regain their self-sufficiency, or in cases of disaster, survive.”

There was a story about a patient living in the same region of the D.R. who benefitted from Pharmascience donations earlier in 2015 in a recent report HPIC received from HOPE:

“Maria Mordan, aged 64, lives alone since her child died of kidney disease at age 27. Mrs. Mordan suffers from bronchial asthma and recently went to a health centre when she had an asthma attack. Rhinaris helped with the symptoms, but the doctor also diagnosed Mrs. Mordan with high blood pressure. A cardiologist at the San Jose de Ocoa hospital prescribed a treatment of 100mg of Losartan. As an older person without any family to support her, Mrs. Mordan refused this treatment because she was worried she could not afford it. However, thanks to the donation from HPIC, Mrs. Mordan was able to access an 8-month supply of Losartan. Mrs. Mordan is so grateful to the donors for helping her.”

The medicines in this earlier shipment, including Rhinaris and Losartan, provided treatment for 69,250 patients in 43 facilities. The staff highlighted the usefulness of Pharmascience’s Losartan donation in particular, and wished to thank HPIC’s donors for these life-saving medicines.

Dr. Jacqueline Castillo of the regional hospital extended the thanks and appreciation of all her colleagues. “Each time that a mother comes to our centre with a child in her arms – or any other patient – seeking medical attention,” wrote Dr. Castillo in her report to HPIC, “and we are able to prescribe them the medication they need and give it to them for free, they are blessed. Thanks to you and your program to help people in need. God bless you.”

“We are very grateful for the long-time commitment of Pharmascience to our mission of delivering health and hope,” said Denis St-Amour, HPIC’s President.

Pharmascience has been donating to HPIC since 1995 and this year, to date, Pharmascience has donated enough medicine to provide an estimated 500,000 treatments!


Globe and Mail features HPIC-GSK partnership

Globe and Mail: National Philanthropy Day Feature

Benefits of strong partnerships reach vulnerable people across the globe

Last updated Friday, Nov. 13, 2015 10:32AM EST

Annually for the past nine years, Dominick Shelton has taken a pause from his position as emergency physician at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre to provide voluntary medical care in the rural Jamaican community of Maggotty, St. Elizabeth.

Recently, Dr. Shelton brought along enough steroid inhalers to treat 100 asthma patients. The inhalers were donated by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) Canada, through the Special Product Request program of Health Partners International of Canada (HPIC).

“I made the request because asthma medication is very expensive there,” he says. “Even though most medicine is provided by the church-run clinic, many people are too poor to afford additional treatments like inhalers to manage their asthma – so they go without.

“This type of donation is invaluable for providing medical care to people in underprivileged communities. I am grateful I was able to make the connection in Canada to bring help to where it is badly needed.”

This is one example of the benefits of the partnership between GSK and HPIC. “The way that GSK supports us is really the gold standard for corporate philanthropy,” says Linda Campbell, HPIC’s senior director, product planning. For over 20 years, GSK has provided medicine, financial donations and employee volunteer time to support HPIC’s mission to increase access to medicine and improve health in vulnerable communities worldwide.

In some cases, HPIC works with its partner aid agencies in the field to identify specific medication needs and GSK builds in extra capacity in its production runs to produce those products. The company also donates medication for HPIC’s Physician Travel Pack program.

“Canadian health-care practitioners on overseas medical missions bring 50 pounds of medicines packed in two boxes, says Ms. Campbell. “They’re valuable for remote areas because they’re easily transported; we’ve seen them in dugout canoes and on the backs of donkeys. These ‘clinics in a pack’ contain hundreds of treatments.”

In addition, GSK frequently sends groups of employees to help put together the travel packs.

Another key partnership links GSK with Save the Children around a shared mission to tackle some of the leading causes of newborn and childhood deaths in the developing world.

“This innovative partnership combines Save the Children’s child-health expertise and on-the-ground experience with GSK’s resources and knowledge to help save the lives of marginalized children in remote communities worldwide,” says Ylber Kusari, national senior manager, engagement and partnerships, with Save the Children Canada.

Together, GSK and Save the Children are working to develop child-friendly medicines, train health workers and strengthen health systems, widen access to medicines and vaccines, and respond to humanitarian emergencies. They are also jointly advocating for more global action – including by the private sector – to tackle child survival and improve access to health care. Partnership initiatives include a project to reformulate chlorhexidine – a common mouthwash ingredient – into an antiseptic gel for preventing umbilical cord infection.

“The research to develop chlorhexidine gel responds to a serious need. One of the major causes of newborn deaths in poor countries is serious infection at the site of the umbilical stump,” says Mr. Kusari. Employees at GSK frequently do fundraising for Save the Children, and the company sends staff on three- to six-month assignments at Save the Children offices around the world to provide expertise in accounting, marketing and more.

“GSK is a strong supporter of our program to train health workers in remote, hard-to-reach communities,” adds Mr. Kusari. “With GSK’s help, we are building the capacity of local communities to meet the primary health-care needs of their children.”

“In addition to benefiting communities, GSK’s community investments help to boost employee morale and offer employees opportunities to make a contribution where they work and live,” says Alison Pozzobon, director, corporate communications LC, GSK Canada. “At GSK, we share a common vision with our community partners of enhancing health care and doing so in ways that are innovative, sustainable and produce tangible results. We feel privileged to be able to contribute to the realization of their missions as we strive to achieve our own – to help people do more, feel better, live longer.”

Link to Globe and Mail page