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Influencing Access to Medical Supplies on an International Scale from a Local Level

Community Spotlight: How Cleveland Non-Profit, MedWish, is Making a Global Impact

When you drive down East 31st, you’d never imagine the extent of life-changing work that happens in a single warehouse on this street. MedWish International, a nonprofit organization located in the heart of Cleveland, is taking action in a way that’s benefited over a million people around the world last year. Want to know how?

medical Photos provided by Carolina Masri, executive director of MedWish International.

The Founding of MedWish

Dr. Lee Ponsky founded MedWish after he completed a trip to Nigeria as a surgical assistant and saw the lack of medical supplies in developing countries. With the large quantities of discarded medical supplies he saw each day here in the United States, he created MedWish as a solution to supply countries dealing with a scarcity of equipment. In the past 10 years, the organization repurposed 5 million pounds of medical surplus, keeping it out of landfills and helping individuals across the world. Most recently, MedWish completed a medical brigade to Kenya and also sent over 5,000 pounds of supplies to Puerto Rico and the Caribbean to help those affected by Hurricane Maria.

How Medical Supplies Transform from Donations to Shipments

Walking into their high bay area where MedWish operates, you’re surrounded by skyscrapers worth of medical supplies: wheelchairs, hospital beds, medical imaging machines, and boxes upon boxes of other packed healthcare equipment. Here, MedWish accepts donations, stores materials, and creates crate shipments to send to countries in need. Last year, the organization received donations from 134 Northeast Ohio hospitals and health care providers.

The next room over is where volunteers start the initial sorting process. Over 4,400 volunteers spent more than 23,000 hours helping organize all of the medical supplies that came in during 2017. MedWish hosts volunteer opportunities almost every day of the week.
Volunteers then organize the supplies into a bin inventory. Local medical professionals who need equipment for mission trips can access these materials. Equipment that is expired or no longer sterile is repurposed through the Alternative Recycling Program. This program allows the items to go to other nonprofits that could benefit from the items. These include organizations such as animal shelters or art classes at local schools. It’s rare that MedWish won’t find another use for the supplies in the community or around the globe.

The Global and Local Impacts

MedWish is unique from other non-profits because their mission is tri-fold. “We really tap into so many areas and we do so much,” says Carolina Masri, the executive director. “We’re thinking about saving the environment, we’re thinking about saving lives, we’re thinking about providing training and job opportunities to individuals.”
Even as MedWish focuses on making a difference around the world, the non-profit also creates an impact locally. The organization aligns with skill building program institutions in Cleveland. These programs give around 150 individuals with special needs the opportunity to volunteer and help make a difference. They come in on a weekly basis to learn and do their job. “To make them feel empowered and to make them feel so important, it’s just very gratifying,” says Masri.
The non-profit is able to attain all of these accomplishments because of how much people care. Passionate individuals and committed volunteers run MedWish. “I literally drive 20 minutes every morning to come to work, and I end up helping and touching so many lives,” says Masri. “To me that’s the best part, to know how much we can do from here, from our own backyard.”

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