A group of Winnipeggers has come together to collect equipment that will help communities half a world away.
According to its website, International Hope Canada provides non-pharmaceutical medical supplies and equipment to impoverished countries where such items are in critically short supply.
For more than a year, the registered Canadian charity — which is based in Winnipeg — has worked with St. Vital resident Mengistu Kindie to fill and send a container of medical items and supplies to Ethiopia.
After being delayed for several months due to a number of factors, the container was shipped by rail in late January, beginning its journey to the African nation, Kevin Stewart, the president of International Hope Canada, told Canstar recently.
Stewart, who lives in River Heights, said the container is destined for the Afar region of Ethiopia, which has been hard hit by the civil war in Ethiopia. He said a number of hospitals have been destroyed or severely damaged during the conflict.
Noting that International Hope Canada has shipped more than 100 containers around the world, Stewart said this latest container is one of the heaviest — when it left, it contained more than 40,000 pounds of supplies and equipment packed by the organization’s volunteers, including 40 hospital beds, as well as other items ranging from wheelchairs, crutches, syringes, dressings, bandages, masks, gowns, gloves, and surgical items.
"We’re a grassroots organization that started when an operating room nurse visited a Central American country on a medical mission and was appalled by the conditions and was appalled by what equipment was being wasted," Stewart said.
"In Ethiopia, hospitals have been bombed and flattened, and there can be so many needs in some of the nations in the developing world. We’ve shipped more than 100 containers around the world," he added, noting destinations have included many to Ukraine and Nigeria.
Stewart said it’s important to try and help individuals in other countries in times of need, not least because of the strength of the Canadian health system. He’s grateful for the many donations his organization receives, including those from St. Boniface Hospital and Health Sciences Centre.
"We have to realize that we’re so fortunate in Canada with our health system, when even the poorest people have access to treatment," he said, noting the shipments also help avert items heading to the landfill here.
Stewart said the primary recipient in Ethiopia will be a non-profit group called National Heroes Rehabilitation and Childcare Centre, which was established to help war victims and the families of war victims. The items will be distributed to a number of health centres and clinics.
It’s significant that Kindie has roughly spent the first half of his life in Ethiopia and the second half in Winnipeg, because while he loves living in Canada he has never lost sight of where he comes from.
"I love Winnipeg and I love Canada, and I’ve spent half of my life here. I’m fortunate that I’ve done so many things in Winnipeg," said Kindie, who is a longtime volunteer with International Hope Canada.
"Why do I do this? In a big way, it’s a tribute to my father. When your father is alive, everything he does, he invests in you, and he looks after your welfare, and so on. So, this is about helping others in Ethiopia, and also about honouring my father’s memory."
Kindie, who also works closely with a charity in Ethiopia called the Afar Pastoralist Development Association, said he’s hoping to send more containers overseas in the future, and would welcome any help or support from people in the community.
Go online at www.internationalhope.ca for more information.
Simon Fuller is a reporter/photographer for the Free Press Community Review. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 204-697-7111.