Post by Ann Marie
Mai called me last night and gave me a quick update before she started her first day. She said she was really tired when they got to Sri Lanka yesterday because she couldn't really sleep on the plane. Mai said her very first impression of Sri Lanka was it looked a lot like Molokai and from the photos she sent, (left picture above) I agree!
As far as the accommodations and the family she is staying with while in Sri Lanka, Mai said they are really nice and the house is nice too. This is very different than what she and the team had in Ghana last summer considering their accommodations were a shack with a roof on top. The Hearts for Hearts team were well aware of the accommodations while volunteering in Ghana ahead of time so the housing in Sri Lanka was a pleasant surprise.
Mai said it's kind of strange because the area is very poverty stricken, which she was anticipating, (middle picture above) but there are a couple nicer houses mixed in. The house the four of the girls are staying is one of the the nicer houses and has more than the basics. Don't misunderstand me, she loved the experience of the living arrangements in Ghana, even the bucket showers, and was anticipating roughly the same situation in Sri Lanka. Mai's goal is to one day work for Medecins Sans Frontiers/Doctors Without Borders so she is clearly OK with these types of living arrangements.
Thami is the coordinator that Mai worked with over this past year for logistics and she was able to get the team a great place to stay for the three weeks they are there. Mai said the house has running water, only cold, and a fan so it's like a regular house. She said Sri Lanka is what she would think that India is like with streets that have no lights or designated lanes and people driving however they can get by.
Todays plan is to go take a look at the Horana Government Hospital and see exactly what they need as far as volunteering and medial supplies. In Sri Lanka there are two types of hospitals, private and government. If you get hurt you definitely don't want to end up in a government hospital because it is not ideal. Even for the insurance we purchased for Mai on this trip ensures she would go to a private hospital if she needed help for some reason. The photo below is of the Horana Government Hospital where they will be tomorrow.
Post by Ann Marie
I don't have much of an update but what's most important is everyone is in Sri Lanka safely. They arrived about 4 AM PST in Columbo and then traveled to the home they are staying in with host mum Sajani.
Mai plans to get a local SIM card tomorrow and will be able to send us real photos. The ones above are from Life360 so we can track her in Sri Lanka and the other is Google Earth. Not ideal but better than nothing. I'll update more tomorrow.
Post by Ann Marie
Hi everyone, this is Mai's mom filling in for her while she is traveling. Well...she is on her way! Mai flew out last night to meet Aubrey Weinstein at JFK this morning. About 10:30 ET this morning they hopped on the first of two flights to get to Sri Lanka. Mai brought three suitcases filled with first-aid kits and medical supplies and the rest we will ship.
Let's just say we have a dining room filled with wonderful boxes of medical supplies and... we still have a couple more boxes coming. It is such a great problem to have because Mai struggled last year to get enough supplies to satisfy the needs of the Ghanian people. This year, she brought what she could carry as well as shipping items.
When Mai returns, at the end of July, she plans to ship boxes of supplies to Maggie, the woman she worked with on the Cape Coast of Ghana. Mai keeps in contact with the people she met so she can continue to ship them the supplies they need throughout the year. The engineering team at Western Digital donated about 20 blood pressure monitors so the foundation will send ten to Maggie in Ghana and the rest to Sri Lanka. She brought a couple with her on this trip but wants to asses the needs of the area closer before she sends them eight more.
I have to say, as Mai's mom, I am pretty darn proud of her. I don't know how she does everything she does while keeping straight A's, working at Golden Spoon and spending time with friends.
Tomorrow's plan is Mai will spend the day with the local coordinator she is working with to go over the details for the next three weeks. She wants to make the most of her time in Sri Lanka, and both dispense the supplies/kits as well as volunteer. Mai planned things a little differently on this trip with the supplies and made it easier to only bring what she knows is needed in specific areas.
I will do my best to update this daily while Mai is gone.
Post by Mai
Thank You Western Digital and Cindy Grace, Jocelyn Kuno, Ky Begley, and the engineering team.
Today was the big Western Digital volunteer event, and they supplied us with people to help and medical supplies. I had a pretty good idea of how it would go today but I underestimated the willingness to help that the volunteers demonstrated.
We filled the SUV with enough medical supplies to make roughly 300 first aid kits. We didn't want to overwhelm the volunteers so we brought what we thought was "just enough." We weren't sure how many medical supplies the Western Digital volunteers had donated, but we would see what was there once we arrived at their Irvine office. The volunteers had donated a lot of supplies that we could use right away and they also had some of the supplies that are needed in Ghana.
Twenty blood pressure monitors and four blood glucose monitors with the test strips!!! This may not seem like a lot but this is more than the entire hospital had in Cape Coast, Ghana. I can't express how much I appreciate everything today and how grateful I am. These items are in high demand in underdeveloped areas because they simply don't have the funds to get them.
In addition, Western Digital gave Hearts for Hearts Foundation a very sizable grant to get these supplies to where they are needed. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
Post by Mai
Today has been both rewarding and exhausting. We are sorting and organizing the donations that we received from Santa Margarita Catholic High School, St. John's Episcopal School, Orange Theory RSM, and Riverside High School.
And this is before the donations from Western Digital which we will collect this Thursday and make first aid and hygiene kits. They are also supplying us with 25 volunteers to help make the kits and then package it up for shipping.
Project C.U.R.E. is also donating Kits for Kids which are first aid kits for children and Medline is donating a variety of medical supplies. We have received so many medical supplies this year, I am incredibly grateful to all the people that have supported my foundation.
I will post pics after the Western Digital event on Thursday. Admittedly, I am feeling a bit of anxiety with the amount of homework I have that will be due when school starts in mid- August. Tomorrow will be a full day of focussing on essays and biology.
Post by Mai
I have the details of my homestay family, and what the living arrangments are for the three weeks I am there. The home I am staying in is approximately 2 km from the Horana Government Hospital and about 26 miles from Columbo. For those who are unfamiliar, Columbo is the major city in the Western Province. There are two types of hospitals in Sri Lanka, government Hospitals and private. As you might imagine, the private hospitals are the more advanced hospitals that you would prefer to go if you are ever there and have an urgent need.
Our coordinator, Thami (pronounced Tommy), has been great with helping to make sure everything is in order before we leave the US and once we arrive in Sri Lanka. I don't think I could do this without the help of someone locally in the locations. Thami has arranged for us to be picked up at the airport, taken to our homestay and orientation of sorts to make sure we have a solid understanding of the local culture. On day two we will spend it at the government hospital for training on how they suggest we treat different ailments we will come across in the orphanages and local clinics that we are setting up.
The good news is the living arrangements in the homestay are seemingly better than Ghana last summer. I didn't mind the living arrangements in Ghana at all, in fact, I loved it. It was so different and minimal, yet it worked. Obviously, bucket showers are not ideal, however it didn't stop us from being able to help so many people.
Back to the homestay. The family we are staying with have two children, and the mum is a housewife. Their son is seven and daughter is four so it will be nice to see how a typical Sri Lankan family live. For those of you who remember the story from Ghana, there was a little girl in the house I was staying in who kept stealing my toothbrush. This time I will bring a few extras with me just in case! The area where I am staying is a bit more populated, so I can walk to the pharmacy if I need another one.
Fortunately, I don't need to get additional vaccines this time since I did the two-year vaccine for typhoid fever and there is little risk of malaria in Sri Lanka. The most significant prep is going to be organizing the medical supplies over the next week.
Post by Mai
We are in the final two weeks of getting everything together for the trip to Sri Lanka. We have had a few hiccups but nothing that isn't surmountable. The biggest challenge is when we initially registered with the IRS in 2016 we were classified as a "Private Foundation." We never thought anything of it, but that meant we couldn't get donations and grants from large corporations. Upon registering with Benevity for grants they pointed out the problem, so we are making the quick changes with the IRS. The woman at the IRS was really helpful and she said this happens all the time and it isn't a problem to change at all. Filled out a few forms and sending them FedEx today. Thank goodness!
Supply Drive Updates
Western Digital - The supply drive is scheduled, and the volunteers are ready to help pack everything up on June 28th. I am working on getting boxes donated, but I already have the rest of the packing materials needed to make mini first-aid kits.
Devin Hinson & Riverside High School - Devin is bringing out the supplies from the drive she held at Riverside High School in the spring. She arrives tomorrow, so I am both excited to see her and appreciative for all of her hard work for Hearts for Hearts.
Medline - They have partnered with Project C.U.R.E. to help manage their medical supplies when donating them to non-profits. They have mini first aid kits that will be donated and shipped to us before we leave on July 6th.
Orange Theory Ranch Santa Margarita - The supplies have piled up and one of our volunteers will pick them up today to sort through over the weekend.
St. John's Episcopal School - They collected a full carload of medical supplies for the foundation. I love the St. John's community because they teach the students from kindergarten on to give back to others. I was at SJES for eight years, and we were always doing something to help others whether it was water for Honduras, Joy Jars, donations for Marines coming home and more. They instilled in me the value of caring for others.
More updates to follow.
Post by Mai
It's all coming together.
I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the help and donations we are receiving to send medical supplies and hygiene kits Sri Lanka next month. Western Digital has awarded the Hearts for Hearts Foundation with a grant to help ship the medical supplies. Not only are they paying for shipping but they are also providing us with medical supplies and volunteers.
This is a really big deal for a small non-profit like us, and their contribution will enable us to both bring medical supplies with us next month but also ship more supplies to Ghana, Nigeria, and other developing countries.
Western Digital is holding a supply drive June 18-22 collecting the items needed. About a week later, on June 28th, they are coordinating employee volunteers to organize and box the supplies so we can ship them out.
For whatever supplies I cannot afford to ship, I plan on packing in suitcases and checking them at the airport on my way to Sri Lanka next month. Fortunately, Team Leader Aubrey Weinstein is flying from New York to LA to help pack the supplies we will have to carry on the plane. We figured this made the most sense so we could get the airline to let us take more bags. The rest of our amazing volunteers are coming from other countries and we will meet at the airport when we all land in Columbo.
We had to do this last year as well and it worked so we will try again. The main difference is that last year we flew Delta to Ghana and this year we are flying Qatar Airways. Wish us luck!
Post by Mai
The medical supplies are starting to add up!! Orange Theory Fitness in RSM is a donation location and is accepting medical supply donations until June 15th.
Stop in for a fantastic workout and bring in your supplies! We still need of the following:
Bandages (such as Band-aids)
Drop off location:
Orange Theory Fitness (located next to CVS)
22401 Antonio Pkwy
Rancho Santa Margarita, CA 92688
Post by Mai
The annual Camp Pendleton Mud Run to support the Marines is coming up this weekend. With the help of the Jones family, we have set up a Hearts for Hearts Team for the event. We are running the 10K and obstacle course event on June 9th which will be both fun and equally exhausting.
If you are interested in joining us, we are scheduled for the 11:30 AM slot you can still register for the 9 AM time slot We will try to take pictures but I am not sure how considering we will be getting pretty muddy.