When arriving in Haiti for our medical mission trips, this pictures depicts what greets us in the operating room on the first day. We spend the day sorting, organizing and trying to throw away unneeded supplies. The first two tasks are much easier than the last. Understand that there is no garbage truck, landfill or recycling options. Whatever we decide is trash gets carried away and burned, whether it be metal, plastic or paper. Haitians are reluctant to throw away any item that may come in useful in the future – from my experience they don’t throw away anything! This trip we had extra time to organize due to heavy rain on the first day. We found suture that had expired in 1995, staple guns that were covered in dust, bottles of unknown medicines, and many items that were so old we had forgotten their original use. Unfortunately, there are larger items that are not so easy to dispose of; an ultrasound machine, rusty hospital beds, an infant warmer that doesn’t warm.
Donations from America can be both a blessing and a curse. Suture is expensive and needed for surgery. However, suture that is so tiny that it can only be used with a microscope is only going to sit on a shelf and take up space. An ultrasound machine that is being replaced because it doesn’t work properly will not work any better in a country with high humidity, no temperature controlled room and no biomed department to troubleshoot problems. Donations of personal leftover meds, although well-intentioned, do not contribute to a stocked pharmacy. Fortunately, there is a donation that can be used where it is needed most, has a long shelf life and never expires: MONEY. This may seem impersonal and not as “giving of self”, but is much more appreciated by organizations that are working abroad. They have supply chains and can buy in bulk the products they need at a cheaper cost than an individual in the States. Money can be used to subsidize the payroll in times of decreased cash flow. In order to stay in business, they generator needs a steady supply of fuel to power the lights and electricity.
As you are looking at your end of year donations, consider a monetary donation the best gift you can give an organization, whether it be a local food shelf or a third world project. This contribution will go much farther to improve the bottom line and you do not need to leave your home to shop – especially important in Minnesota this week!