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The war in Ukraine, major hurricanes in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Gulf Coast, and other crises rocked 2022 with chaos and destruction. But these events also spurred people and organizations into action to help others.
Courage took many forms this year, including a truck driver risking his life to get medical aid into Ukraine and a health worker journeying to communities in rural Mississippi that lack health care.
Impacts on Haiti’s health system could be felt months after a 7.2-magnitude earthquake rattled the country, and health organizations continued to reach people for care, reported Talya Meyers. “[Medical staff are] crossing through rivers, dirt roads, just to be sure they’re reaching people,” said Conor Shapiro, president and CEO of the nonprofit Health Equity International, a group that received a grant from Direct Relief and provided daily mobile clinics in remote communities in southern Haiti, where care is hard to access.
Frigid Chicago winters aren’t enough to keep medical workers from the Night Ministry from reaching people experiencing homelessness. Direct Relief and Emmy-nominated Filmmaker Olly Riley-Smith joined The Night Ministry in January as they used their mobile clinic and outreach program to provide critical services to their clients during the dead of Chicago’s winter. The organization received a $250,000 grant to further its work from the Direct Relief Fund for Health Equity.
Kyiv-based Dobrobut Hospital was a for-profit medical facility before the war with Russia broke out in February, but quickly pivoted to treat patients, free of charge. Direct Relief supported the hospital with $750,000 to pay salaries and buy food for staff members. “We are able to provide surgical and hospitalization care to our patients in Ukraine for free, thanks to the generosity of Direct Relief,” Vadim Shekman, Dobrobut COO, told Talya Meyers.
Save A Child’s Heart is an Israeli nonprofit started by an American in 1995 that brings children from all over the world to Israel and conducts cardiac surgeries, all free of charge. Direct Relief provided Save a Child’s Heart with a $100,000 Covid-19 grant to help support their work, and over 6,000 children from 63 countries have been treated by SACH, including countries with no formal diplomatic relations with Israel, such as Iraq and Syria, Noah Smith reported.
Plan A Health brings reproductive health services to communities in Mississippi that often lack a brick-and-mortar clinic. The mobile clinic travels to about three destinations per week with Antoinette Roby at the wheel. Roby was a truck driver for 10 years prior to working with Plan A. She studied healthcare administration in school, which qualified her to be both the driver for the mobile clinic and a community health worker. “I felt like it was bigger than, you know, just me,” Norwood told Direct Relief’s Olivia Lewis. “To be a part of this organization where they’re going into communities that don’t have a lot of access.”
Direct Relief’s Noah Smith spoke with 29-year-old Nazar Chorniy, one of the many Ukrainian drivers who have been transporting life-sustaining medications and medical supplies into Ukraine, at great personal risk. “It’s very true there is always fear, especially when the bombs fall, but understanding why you do it is the reason how you can do it,” he said, referring to his aid shipment deliveries to Ukrainian cities under direct attack. “We do this for good, we do this for a very positive reason.”
Gail Small, whose Northern Cheyenne name is Head Chief Woman, serves as a Health Equity Advisor to Direct Relief. Gail invited Direct Relief to visit her Cheyenne homeland and the Billings Urban Indian Health & Wellness Center in Montana, and speaks in this video about the challenges and opportunities unfolding today.
HOPE Clinic, a federally qualified health center located in Houston, Texas, expanded services to care for recent arrivals from Afghanistan. Children arrived without vaccination records, and some people had never seen a physician in Afghanistan, Talya Meyers reported. The health center brought a number of skills, such as linguistic and cultural sensitivity, to the table. “You could see the fear in their eyes until they had a language interpreter show up, and they just relaxed, and the way you could see them relax was very physical,” recalled Lulu Toumajian, an outreach specialist at HOPE. “Patients are more forthcoming when it’s their language and their culture, and when their culture is not just accepted but celebrated.”
Before Hurricane Ian, Premier Mobile Health Services, or PMHS, a free clinic in Fort Myers, Florida, had served over 7,000 patients in 2022 at their physical location and two mobile clinics, Direct Relief’s Noah Smith reported. Just after the storm passed, Executive Director Nadine “Deanie” Singh and her team were ready to respond but soon learned that all their inventory – medicines and supplies – had been damaged or lost, at a time when the community needed them most. With help from various nonprofits, including Direct Relief, which provided medical and financial support for the group after the storm, along with other agencies, PMHS was able to partially restock their medications and supplies, as well as an EKG machine, and resumed offering medical care.
When Russia invaded Ukraine last February, it did not take Zbigniew Molenda, founder and vice president of Pelion S.A., Poland’s largest healthcare sector business, and his colleagues long to decide whether or not to respond.
“This was nothing about business. We didn’t think to help or not; it was so natural. It was a natural consequence of so many people needing help. After February 24, a huge flow of people came to Poland and from the first hour, we, like very many Polish people, started to help,” he told Noah Smith during an interview at Pelion’s headquarters in Łódź. With funding from Direct Relief, the company administered the Health4Ukraine program, which funded prescription drug co-pays for Ukrainian refugees in Poland, free of charge.