Category Archives: Health Care

A Snapshot of Our Summer at AmeriCares


AmeriCares 2012 Summer Interns

At the beginning of June, 11 summer interns stepped into AmeriCares to begin a journey. We were complete strangers with one common interest: we were college students interested in learning more about the work of AmeriCares around the world. We learned, and as the summer went on, we all became friends.

I came into this experience hoping to learn about nonprofits, global health, and myself. I would say that I was successful in gaining knowledge about all that and more.  I was especially impressed with the amount of educating that occurs at AmeriCares on a daily basis.

We were fortunate to be exposed to all aspects of the organization.”

Bijal, Kelson and Lorena take a break to pose for a picture while working in the Warehouse.
Interns Bijal, Kelson and Lorena take a break to pose for a picture while working in the Warehouse.

As a Development intern, I was invited to attend weekly meetings, conference calls, and take on any other departmental work I found interesting. Lorena Martinez, who interned on the Latin America and Caribbean team had a similar experience. “I was so impressed with the staff and their willingness to help and answer our questions,” she said.

At brown bag lunches, medical seminars, clinic site visits, warehouse projects, meetings, breakfasts with CEO, Curt Welling, and conversations with staff, we were fortunate to be exposed to all aspects of the organization. As a result, were able to learn about AmeriCares at a much greater level than through the lens of the department where we worked.

“AmeriCares did a great job educating us about all the different departments and roles that AmeriCares plays in the community. From the brown bags to the work in the warehouse to the trips to the free clinics, I really learned a lot about the organization and how they make such a huge impact on the world,” said Michael Hoffman, who interned with Free Clinics.

The work we did this summer has already helped people in need. One project involved working in the warehouse preparing emergency kits that were distributed to survivors of Hurricanes Sandy and Isaac and other major U.S.  storms.

“This internship gave me valuable insight into teamwork.”

Our biggest accomplishment by far was a collaborative video project. We were given ownership of the entire project, from concept and planning, to filming, editing and messaging. It was a success in meeting the goals of increasing social media engagement among our age group and it brought us together as a group.

It started with the simple idea of a map, which grew into something much bigger.  Some days were more challenging than others. How do we construct a map from scratch out of post-it notes? How can we make a video under three minutes that describes an organization that does SO MUCH?

“This internship gave me valuable insight into teamwork – not only with the video, but within AmeriCares itself,” explained Communications intern, Bijal Shah.  Teamwork was crucial to the success of our collaborative project, and is necessary for the functioning of AmeriCares  “There’s a strong sense of cooperation and community within the organization,” she added.

If you haven’t watched our video “Snapshot of AmeriCares,” I strongly suggest you take a look – and if you’ve already seen it, watch it again!

Eleven strangers began this summer with limited knowledge about AmeriCares, but left as friends, enriched by everything they learned and experienced.

Martinez believes that her time at AmeriCares this summer has challenged her personally and professionally. As a result, she said, “I feel better prepared and confident to face the “real world” after graduation.”

I think the rest of the intern class would agree.

Thank you, AmeriCares, for a rewarding summer!

Check out our video – A Snapshot of AmeriCares:


Promoting Health-Focused Human Development

Our long-standing gift-in-kind model may lead people to believe that delivering medical aid for disasters is what AmeriCares is all about, when in reality, we do so much more to champion health-focused human development.

At its core, human development is about expanding and improving people’s opportunities to lead lives they value. The human development model — access to health, access to education, and access to resources — lines up perfectly with AmeriCares work at home and abroad.

Access to Health

Good health is a prerequisite for almost all life improvements, and AmeriCares goal is to help many more people live longer, healthier lives. This is accomplished through donations of medicines and medical supplies to help people in times of disaster — along with ongoing global medical assistance to help people living in communities with little or no access to basic health care.  Here in the United States, we support a growing network of 400+ safety net clinics.  AmeriCares takes the health focus a step further by supporting access to health care during long-term recovery efforts following major disasters, targeted donations of relief and personal care items for disaster survivors, nutritional supplements to help people in danger of malnutrition, and in some instances, monetary grants.

AmeriCares approaches primary health care by operating three free clinics to treat uninsured residents of southern Connecticut, and another clinic in  El Salvador that serves a large population of underserved families. AmeriCares India supports primary care with mobile medical vans that deliver care to impoverished patients throughout the slums of Mumbai. The efficient, professional and welcoming nature of all AmeriCares direct patient care facilities highlights our ability to generate widespread community engagement as well as our strong commitment to the dignity of every person.

Health worker training creates a lifesaving culture of change.

Access to Education

The successful Health Worker Safety Initiative, piloted at Bugando Medical Centre in Tanzania, trains medical staff in the use of best practices to help protect health care workers, prevent occupational hazards and reduce the spread of hospital-related infections. Along with targeted gift-in-kind support, this  intiative encourages a self-reinforcing, collaborative environment that increases the staff’s job motivation and contributes to sustainable, positive behavioral change.

Access to Resources

Free Clinics Today is an online resource for U.S. safety net clinics. With numerous how-to guides, tools, case studies, and suggestions for improving and enhancing volunteer and staff management, pharmaceutical access, and specialty health programs, this site helps clinics navigate the tricky waters of resource acquisition and program management. Gathering and hosting such resources in a user-friendly, accessible way allows AmeriCares to fill an otherwise lonely gap in the mentorship of these crucial health care institutions.

This practical support and knowledge-based training helps update program operations, lower risk, and improve patient outcomes. By providing the products necessary to practice health care, and also supporting efficiency and improvement in program operations, AmeriCares contributes to a more sustainable model of health-focused human development.

Taking Strides with TOMS in Uzbekistan

Many Uzbek children in dire need of quality shoes received a brand-new pair.

Meet Timur. Just shy of graduating kindergarten, Timur already aspires to become the president of his country, Uzbekistan. After walking a grueling 6 miles to the “Health Train,” the serious and ambitious 7-year-old is now equipped with a brand-new pair of TOMS Shoes that he will proudly wear when he returns to school.

These shoes do so much more than just keep children healthy.”

Since 2010, AmeriCares has worked with TOMS to deliver new shoes to impoverished children like Timur in several countries around the world. An initial shipment of shoes was delivered to Uzbekistan in May, 2012 and are being distributed by AmeriCares partners to children in orphanages and boarding schools. For these children, shoes are often hard to come by. Without proper footwear, children are susceptible to painful cuts and sores on their feet which can become infected in rough, unsanitary terrain. Barefoot children are also vulnerable to diseases, such as intestinal worms, that penetrate through the feet.

In Uzbekistan, where close to 30% of the population lives below the poverty line, these shoes do so much more than just keep children healthy. “The shoes make a huge impact on each child’s life, helping to raise self esteem and dignity,” explained Dmitriy Popov, an AmeriCares staff member who traveled to Uzbekistan to assist with the recent distribution.

Thanks to TOMS and the allocation capacity of our in-country partner, many Uzbek children in dire need of quality shoes received a brand-new pair. And it doesn’t stop with one pair: TOMS promises to replenish with new shoes every 6 months to accommodate the children’s growing feet.

TOMS, which has been called “a company with a conscience,” promotes a mission similar to AmeriCares by providing for those most in need around the world. As part of their One for One ™ model, for every pair of shoes purchased, TOMS will give a new pair of shoes to a child in need. In order to do this, TOMS collaborates with many “giving partners” — humanitarian and health NGOs, including AmeriCares, who work to distribute the shoes.

Our Asia/Eurasia team is hoping to further expand the effort, so that many more children can lead healthier lives — one step at a time.

Unwavering Care in Changing Times

Quality health care for the uninsured in Bridgeport.

Everywhere I turn—in the classroom, on the news, or at family dinner—people are talking about health care for the uninsured. At first, the severity of the issue was hard to grasp: there are 50 million uninsured in America today. And while the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act aims to make care more accessible in the future, this number—50 million—has yet to decrease. 

A visit to the Weisman ClinicAmeriCares Free Clinic in Bridgeport, opened my eyes to the needs of uninsured Americans. The clinic is one of three in Connecticut operated by AmeriCares, providing quality health care to patients without insurance.

“While ‘free health care’ may sound like long lines and mediocre care, at the Bridgeport clinic it is quite the contrary.”

The facilities were sparkling clean and spacious, but what was most interesting to me was what the staff and volunteers had to say.  Each staff member and volunteer reiterated one important thought: People without health insurance are not who you might think they are. There is no prototype for the uninsured. They are of all walks of life and of all backgrounds, each with a differing circumstance. 

While “free health care” may sound like long lines and mediocre care, at the Bridgeport clinic it is quite the contrary.  Supported by in-kind services, private funding and local donations, AmeriCares is able to deliver high quality care to those who need it most. Because two-thirds of the patients require management and treatment for chronic illnesses, one of the most important elements is continuity of care. AmeriCares doctors, nurses, and medical assistants truly care; they spend time with their patients and they work to maintain relationships with them. How many people with private insurance can say the same?

“Despite their financial situation, they deserve the right to quality health care.”

Avoiding a trip to the hospital is the least glamorous aspect of the discussion. Unfortunately, many uninsured people must make the choice to forgo their chronic care prescription medication in order to put food on the family table. As a result, their medical condition often worsens to the point of costly hospitalization. The Bridgeport clinic provides the kind of care that helps prevent this outcome. 

While 50 million may be a number beyond our comprehension, perhaps 350,000—the number of uninsured in the state of Connecticut—may hit a little closer to home.  They are our neighbors, and despite their financial situation, they deserve the right to quality health care.  After touring the Bridgeport clinic, it’s clear to me that it takes a remarkable person to volunteer for a cause like this. Despite what may be in store for U.S. health care in the future, I know that AmeriCares Free Clinics will continue to provide medical assistance to those who truly need it. 

Find out more about AmeriCares Free Clinics here.

Empowering a Community, One Person at a Time


A young patient and her doctor at AmeriCares El Salvador International Health Clinic.

Imagine this: Your name is Lina. You’re a 6-year-old girl living in Santiago de Maria, El Salvador.  Your family income is below the poverty line, and the public health system is neither efficient nor easily accessible. As a result, you suffer with health issues such as dengue fever, undernourishment, hepatitis and the common cold – conditions which are treatable — yet neither your family nor your community has the resources necessary to help you get well.

You’re often sick, and school becomes difficult to attend. Although you love school, you can’t pay attention during math because your tummy hurts and you don’t have the energy to focus.  You become more susceptible to disease and you can’t complete grammar school. Eventually, your life becomes a vicious cycle illustrated by this equation:

 Poor health + Little schooling = Low human capital
 Low human capital + Inadequate state infrastructure = Few chances to improve quality of life

Now, let’s turn this around.

Imagine this: You’re Lina, a 6-year-old girl, living in Santiago de Maria, El Salvador. Your community has a health clinic — La Clínica Integral de Atención Familiar — established by AmeriCares, that has helped underserved families like yours for 9 years. As a result, you have been going to the clinic since you were a baby. While growing up, you’ve faced several health issues such as dengue fever, undernourishment, hepatitis, and the common cold, but thanks to the health education and medical care provided at the clinic, you have been able to combat these diseases.

You’re strong, healthy, and you absolutely love going to school! You are a star student in your class and you help your fellow classmates understand the lessons too. Due to your passion for math and for serving others, you dream of becoming a math teacher.

 So — what does this mean for Lina’s future?

Because Lina has been going to AmeriCare’s health clinic, she will be able to finish her primary education. Hopefully, she will also be able to attend secondary school and eventually, university to pursue her dream of teaching. Lina now has the opportunity to make a positive impact on her community and country. She’ll be able to educate others, lead a healthy life, and provide for a future family that will, hopefully, be as happy and healthy as she is and work to build a healthier and safer El Salvador for future generations.

AmeriCares Clinica Integral de Atención Familiar

AmeriCares El Salvador International Health Clinic has been operating in Santiago de Maria since October 2003. Since its opening, the clinic has seen an average of 30,000 people per year. The clinic assures quality health care to underserved families and provides health resources and outreach to parents and families. The clinic provides primary care, pediatrics, gynecology, dentistry, and health education outreach, to help families like Lina’s lead healthier, stronger, and better lives for themselves, their communities, and their country.  Learn more about the clinic here.