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Amid the Tumult and Transition of 2021, These Groups Bridged the Gap

With the pandemic still raging and multiple emergencies unfolding throughout the year, acts of service and selflessness were many.


Giving Back

A young patient with cancer receives a checkup from Dr. Primus Ewald at Muhimbili National Hospital on May 20, 2021. (Photo by Daniel Msirikale for Direct Relief)

2021 was a year of transition and change, as the world languished through the continued impacts of the pandemic and compounding emergencies – from hurricanes to wildfires and tornadoes – that uprooted livelihoods and caused heartache.

As a result, this year also brought Direct Relief into contact with many groups and individuals working for the good of the world, and for those in their communities. A few of their stories are here, sharing the same throughline: a crisis unfolds that seems insurmountable, yet those nearby step up to do what they can – in the moment – to help others.

It’s an inspiring response that takes place often in our world, but rarely captures attention on a large scale or makes headlines. But those of us that work at Direct Relief see this pattern frequently, particularly after emergencies. A crisis reveals what’s truly important – in stark relief – and people unify to help one another through heroic acts of service.

2022 is now upon us, and if the future remains dark and uncertain, these individuals hold up a candle to light the way. Their examples shine for the rest of us.

Please enjoy, and Happy New Year from Direct Relief.

Eschewing Global Supply Chain, African Health Care Workers Making 1 Million Reusable Masks

Nurses in Malawi holding masks they made during the pandemic. (Photo courtesy of AAN)

Facing a shortage of masks needed to protect health workers from the risk of Covid-19, members of the medical community took the initiative to create nascent domestic PPE industries across the continent, Noah Smith reported.

Read more.

How Horrors of the HIV Epidemic Helped a Health Center Address Covid-19

Outside DAP Health Center in Palm Springs.(Courtesy photo)

Founded by a small group to help those left behind during the HIV epidemic, Palm Springs’ DAP Health has been a leader in helping fight Covid in the Coachella Valley. Noah Smith interviewed one of the group’s founders about the past and the work they’re doing now to serve the community.

Read more.

Covid-19 Has Interrupted Reproductive Health Care. IUDs Are Providing a Solution.

Healthcare provider Zemaida Hernandez stocking Bayer IUD products on pharmacy shelves at the Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics, in Goleta, California. The clinics are among the hundreds of community health centers across the U.S. that received Bayer-donated IUDs to bolster reproductive health services for uninsured women. (Photo by Erin Feinblatt for Direct Relief)

Direct Relief, partnering with Bayer, donated IUDs to nonprofit women’s health care providers across the United States. Talya Meyers interviewed health providers about what the donation meant to patients involved.

Read more.

From Home Visits to Chartered Planes, Alaska’s Vaccine Effort Leaves No Stone Unturned

Rebecca Coupchiak, the Community Health Aide Program Manager at Bristol Bay Area Health Corporation, travels with the Covid-19 vaccine to one of 28 remote villages the health center serves in Alaska’s Bristol Bay region. (Courtesy photo)

Amarica Rafanelli interviewed Bernina Venua, the Incident Commander of Bristol Bay Area Health Corporation’s Covid-19 response. The health center was the only medical facility serving all 28 villages in Alaska’s Bristol Bay region, an area covering more than 45,000 square miles with a population of roughly 7,500. Health center staff went above and beyond to get vaccines to rural areas, including by charter plane.

Read more.

Immigration Status is a Gatekeeper to Mental Health Support. This Clinic is Changing That.

A Covid-19 vaccine clinic at La Familia Counseling Center in Sacramento, California. In addition to mental health services, the clinic provides the community with primary health care and educational resources. (Photo courtesy of LAFCC)

Mental health services can be challenging to access in the U.S., and even more so for undocumented people. La Familia Counseling Center offers mental health services, Covid-19 vaccination services, and other community resources for all patients, regardless of immigration status, Amarica Rafanelli reported.

Read more.

In Homeless Communities, Gaining Trust is Key for Vaccination

At Groundswell, a UK-based homelessness outreach organization, activists are helping individuals register to get the vaccine, accompanying them to their appointments, and delivering information. (iStock)

Activists used their own experience with homelessness to help others overcome vaccine hesitancy and build trust, Amarica Rafanelli reported.

Read more.

Free Clinics Ensure Care Throughout the Pandemic

Staff at Ubi Caritas Free Clinic in Beaumont, Texas, with Direct Relief donated protective gear. Safety-net health providers across the United States are working overtime during the Covid-19 pandemic to provide patient care to the most vulnerable, and new stream of funding will support their essential work. (Courtesy photo)

Noah Smith interviewed those involved with free and charitable clinics that operated at high levels to address needs in the U.S., even as donations to support services dipped.

Read more.

Navajo Nation Doctors Reflect on a Year of Covid-19

A roadside sign in the Navajo Nation in April of 2020. (Photo by Jonathan Schell for Direct Relief)

Four physicians spoke to Talya Meyers about learning to fight the disease – and care for a close-knit community.

Read more.

From Fire To The Streets, A Family-Run Mobile Clinic Is There For Northern California Residents

Medspire nurses and health workers set up a mobile clinic in April 2021. (Photo Courtesy of Natalie Soto)

Noah Smith reported on Medspire, a local organization in Northern California that was formed to address health needs after the Camp Fire, which killed 85 people and destroyed the northern California mountain town of Paradise.

Read more.

Medication Can Be an Expensive Barrier to Care. At Charitable Pharmacies, It’s Free.

Pharmacists fill prescriptions at St. Vincent de Paul Charitable Pharmacy in Cincinnati, Ohio. (File photo courtesy of SVDP)

Charitable pharmacies are a medication safety net for those who can’t afford their medications and would otherwise be turned away, Noah Smith reported.

Read more.

Covid-19 Hit India’s Women Hard. This Group Fought Back.

SEWA members craft face coverings for distribution in their communities. (Photo courtesy of SEWA)

Talya Meyers interviewed those involved with the Self-Employed Women’s Association who were working to mitigate the pandemic’s effects, from educating people about Covid-19 to providing mental health support.

Read more.

In Tanzania, New Tools to Treat Children with Cancer

A young patient with cancer receives a checkup from Dr. Primus Ewald at Muhimbili National Hospital on May 20, 2021. (Photo by Daniel Msirikale for Direct Relief)

After providing a medication cold room, Direct Relief supported pediatric cancer group Tumaini La Maisha with specialized packing materials and cold-chain expertise, Talya Meyers reported.

Read more.

Community Effort Affords Afghan Refugee Mothers Baby Formula

U.S. Marines receive donated supplies for Afghan refugees on Sep. 30, 2021, at Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia. (Photo Courtesy of Natalie Trogus)

To support newly arrived people from Afghanistan, Direct Relief works with a charitable pharmacy and a U.S. Marine to coordinate a shipment including more than 14,000 bottles of Pediasure, Similac and Ensure, hygiene kits, Dove soap, and disinfectant wipes, reported Noah Smith.

Read more.

Managing Diabetes Takes More Than Medication. This Health Center is taking a Patient-Centered Approach

Pharmacist Pablo Fragoso works with a patient at Zufall Wellness Center in Morristown, New Jersey. Fragoso can speak to them about their drug therapy, which often includes understanding their daily lifestyle, diet and overall health. (Photo by Erica Lee for Direct Relief)

At Zufall Health Center in New Jersey, pharmacists and social workers are collaborating to help patients get their diabetes under control, reported Amarica Rafanelli.

Read more.

Community Health Workers Are on the Rise. Here’s Why They’re Indispensable.

Vision y Compromiso community health workers conduct outreach in the field. (Photo courtesy of Vision y Compromiso)

From providing reliable health information to connecting patients to social services, these workers play an essential role, increasing health equity in their communities, Talya Meyers reported.

Read more.

Giving is Good Medicine

You don't have to donate. That's why it's so extraordinary if you do.