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ICYMI: Good Things Happened in 2019

Though 2019 brought crises and hardship to many places around the world, people stepped up unfailingly to respond.

Health workers took heroic measures to protect people from overdoses in 2019, whether in Virginia or Puerto Rico. Above, Dr. Chaco Vargas hugs a patient in Puerto Rico while doing outreach earlier this year to those in recovery from opioid addiction. (Bimarian Films)
Health workers took heroic measures to protect people from overdoses in 2019, whether in Virginia or Puerto Rico. Above, Dr. Chaco Vargas hugs a patient in Puerto Rico while doing outreach earlier this year to those in recovery from opioid addiction. (Bimarian Films)

Civil war, Ebola, the opioid epidemic, cyclones, hurricanes, and other crises scarred 2019. But each disaster was accompanied by people who were ready to help make things better.

Here are some of the stories you might have missed about these heroes around the world, plus a few extra stories about gamers, climbers, and world-class athletes who contributed as well.


Remembering Maria, Puerto Ricans Jump into Bahamas Response

Dr. Edwin Rodriguez, a pediatric cardiologist based in Puerto Rico, with a small patient and her mother in Grand Bahama. Dr. Rodriguez traveled to the Bahamas in the wake of Hurricane Dorian with the NGO Haiti Stands Up to provide at-home care for patients too unwell or immobile to travel. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Edwin Rodriguez)
Dr. Edwin Rodriguez, a pediatric cardiologist based in Puerto Rico, with a small patient and her mother in Grand Bahama. Dr. Rodriguez traveled to the Bahamas in the wake of Hurricane Dorian with the NGO Haiti Stands Up to provide at-home care for patients too unwell or immobile to travel. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Edwin Rodriguez)

Hurricane Dorian was one of the most powerful Atlantic Ocean hurricanes ever recorded, with maximum sustained winds over 185 miles per hour. It took over 70 lives and did catastrophic damage to Grand Bahama and the Abaco Islands. Puerto Ricans could relate — they went through their own disaster with Hurricane Maria in 2017. Led by a pediatric oncologist, a group went, street by street, through the island’s villages, treating people too unwell or immobile to travel to one of the clinics.

Read more.


In the Heart of Appalachia, One Group Works Overtime to Reduce Overdoses

Lawson Koeppel, executive director and co-founder of Virginia Harm Reduction Coalition, center, assembles naloxone kits, which contain the opioid overdose reversing drug. Volunteers Christopher Wagner and Charles Fisher help load the kits before taking them out into the community. The group is committed to preventing overdose deaths in Roanoke. (Photo by Stephanie Klein-Davis for Direct Relief)
Lawson Koeppel, executive director and co-founder of Virginia Harm Reduction Coalition, center, assembles naloxone kits, which contain the opioid overdose reversing drug. Volunteers Christopher Wagner and Charles Fisher help load the kits before taking them out into the community. The group is committed to preventing overdose deaths in Roanoke. (Photo by Stephanie Klein-Davis for Direct Relief)

The opioid crisis in the United States continues to take tens of thousands of lives per year. In Virginia, a small band of locals have taken the initiative to help reverse overdoses and prevent deaths.

Read more.


On the Frontlines of Samoa’s Measles Epidemic

The van Dr. Vija Sehgal's team used to go from village to village, offering the measles vaccine to Samoans. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Vija Sehgal)
The van Dr. Vija Sehgal’s team used to go from village to village, offering the measles vaccine to Samoans. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Vija Sehgal)

Measles, once thought to be well under control, has reemerged as a public heath threat around the world, due in part to lower vaccination rates. One pediatrician traveled from Hawaii to help health officials vaccinate against the disease.

Read more.


Cyclone Idai Destroyed Their Hospital. These Two Doctors Never Stopped Treating Patients.

Dr. Neide Santos and Dr. Shilpa Jamnadas, medical director of Mascarenhas Hospital in Beira. (Noah Smith/ Direct Relief)
Dr. Neide Santos and Dr. Shilpa Jamnadas, medical director of Mascarenhas Hospital in Beira. (Noah Smith/ Direct Relief)

Cyclone Idai was a historic tropical cyclone that took more than 1,300 lives in southeast Africa. These two 27-year-old doctors went back to work the day after it hit their hometown of Beira, Mozambique, and never stopped serving their community.

Read more.


Fistula is Devastating. This Doctor Is Working to End It.

Dr. Iftikher Mahmood is the founder of HOPE Foundation for Women and Children of Bangladesh. The group is working to end fistula, a devastating birth injury, in the region by 2030. (Noah Smith/ Direct Relief)
Dr. Iftikher Mahmood is the founder of HOPE Foundation for Women and Children of Bangladesh. The group is working to end fistula, a devastating birth injury, in the region by 2030. (Noah Smith/ Direct Relief)

Obstetric fistula is a particularly awful birth complication that often results in the death of the baby and lingering, alienating health issues for the mother. Bangladesh is trying to prevent all cases by 2030, and this doctor is doing all he can to help the cause.

Read more.


His Patients Fled Violent Conflict to Uganda. He Followed Them.

Dr. Dumba examines a young patient at the clinic in the Belameling refugee camp in Uganda's Moyo District. (Photo courtesy of Healing Kadi Foundation)
Dr. Joseph Dumba examines a young patient at the clinic in the Belameling refugee camp in Uganda’s Moyo District. (Photo courtesy of Healing Kadi Foundation)

The global refugee crisis continued during 2019. In South Sudan, one doctor followed his patients after they fled to Uganda.

Read more.


After the Camp Fire, Paradise Residents Got Sicker. So Local Nurses Founded a Clinic.

Paramedics Steve Caput and Sean Biswun, along with Medspire secretary Katie Rosauer, attend to Charles "Chip" Baniewski outside his RV. (Mark Semegen for Direct Relief)
Paramedics Steve Caput and Sean Biswun, along with Medspire secretary Katie Rosauer, attend to Charles “Chip” Baniewski outside his RV. (Mark Semegen for Direct Relief)

Last year’s Camp Fire in Paradise, California, was the most destructive wildfire in the state’s history, killing 85 people and doing more than $16 billion in damage to property. Since that time, a family of nurses came together to start a nonprofit so they could better help those left behind by recovery efforts.

Read more.


A Year of Disasters Brings Another Year of Response

Direct Relief's Gordon Willcock meets with a doctor in the Bahamas after Hurricane Dorian hit the islands as a Category 5 hurricane in August.
Direct Relief’s Gordon Willcock meets with a doctor in the Bahamas after Hurricane Dorian hit the islands as a Category 5 hurricane in August.

If you’ve ever wondered what’s it’s like to be humanitarian worker in a disaster zone, you can hear about it firsthand in this podcast segment.

Listen here.


And some stories you might have missed about climbers, gamers, and big time athletes who are all doing good in their own ways:

One of them was even willing to climb the highest peak (literally) to support Direct Relief’s mission of delivering essential medical aid to vulnerable people around the world.

DHL's Roland Thomas atop Mt. Everest, during his trek to support Direct Relief
DHL’s Roland Thomas atop Mt. Everest, during his trek to support Direct Relief. (Courtesy photo)

Read more.


From Tornadoes to Hurricanes, Gamers Rush to the Rescue

Streaming video game marathons, like the one above hosted Friday for Missouri communities impacted by tornadoes, are an increasingly large source of donations for charities.
Streaming video game marathons, like the one above hosted earlier this year for Missouri communities impacted by tornadoes, are an increasingly large source of donations for charities.

Esports and video games make up the fastest-growing entertainment sector in the U.S. Gamers are also rising as a philanthropic community. This year alone, over 6,000 of them donated to Direct Relief for a total, as of December 19, of $1 million.

Read more.


Carlos Delgado, Major League Legend, Steps Up to Bat for Puerto Rico’s Kids

Baseball legend Carlos Delgado is giving back to children in Puerto Rico, through his foundation, Extra Bases, which is working to connect children on the island to medical care. (Photo courtesy of Extra Bases)
Baseball legend Carlos Delgado is giving back to children in Puerto Rico, through his foundation, Extra Bases, which is working to connect children on the island to medical care. (Photo courtesy of Extra Bases)

And finally, some community service insights from former MLB star Carlos Delgado, who was working to ensure pediatric patients have access to health care.

Read more.

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