It's official, the supply drive started today at Riverside High School in Leesburg, Virginia! Thank you so much for the support and all the hard work to make this happen. I will keep everyone posted on the supplies we receive but if you are interested in organizing a medical supply drive at your school, please contact me. There is still plenty of time before the end of the school year if we act fast!!
Post by Mai
I just received fantastic news! The National Honor Society, National Science Honor Society and Medical Club at Riverside High School in Leesburg, VA are doing a school wide supply drive. Devin Hinson has been hard at work to get all the approvals and endorsements required to do a medical supply drive for the foundation and just let me know she got it approved!!!
I am overwhelmed with gratitude that so many people are recognizing the need to help others. The most needed items are:
I will post more info as soon as I get it. Thank you Devin and Riverside High School.
Post by Mai
Last night was a success!! Thank you to everyone that came out for the fundraiser at Chipotle in Ranch Santa Margarita. We were able to raise money for Hearts for Hearts but more importantly we raised awareness of the need to help others.
Roughly 75 people joined me for dinner and 100% of the money from Chipotle will go towards medical supplies for Sri Lanka. The trip this July is quickly approaching, as are my finals, but we will be ready!!
I would post photos from last night but I forgot to take some. I know....hard to believe.
Post by Mai
I've been busy this past week setting up fundraising events for the foundation. The first one is March 13th at O.C. Pizza in Rancho Santa Margarita. This location is in the Smart and Final shopping center down the street from SMCHS. Please come in between 2 - 6 PM and 20% of your purchase will go to the Hearts for Hearts Foundation.
Come over right after school or your practice. If you have any medical supplies you would like to donate such as gauze, bandaids, medical tape, surgical masks, etc. I would love to have them!! 100% of medical supplies and funds go towards the foundation.
Post by Mai
It's hard to believe we only have four months to go before we leave for Sri Lanka. This time around we are much more organized than last time because we know a little better what to expect. The biggest challenge is time and junior year of high school doesn't leave a lot after homework.
On Friday I am meeting with the manager of OC Pizza to see if they would be willing to help do a fundraiser for Hearts for Hearts. I will post more about it soon but the general idea is everyone who goes to OC Pizza during the fundraiser would be contributing to the foundation.
I am also meeting with the VP of Medline soon to see if they are willing to donate medical supplies for the upcoming trip. They reached out to me when they heard about the trip to Ghana last year and told me to contact them when we ready for Sri Lanka. We are ready!
Post by Mai
This event was one of the most amazing things I have ever seen. I already loved Medecins Sans Frontieres aka Doctors Without Borders and what they do to help people around the world but they are more amazing than I realized.
The event that I went to by Medecins Sans Frontieres was a mock refugee camp they created in a parking lot in Santa Monica, CA. You ventured through a maze were there were multiple stations set up that demonstrated each part of the process a refugee fleeing their home country would go through. By the end of the maze you realize the impact these amazing people make in peoples lives that have lost everything .
For more information about the Forced from Home event click on the link below.
Post by Mai
This weekend there is a free event at the Santa Monica pier that shares the reality of the global refugee crisis. The event is called "Forced From Home" with Doctors Without Borders aid workers leading the tour. We will have the opportunity to engage in the stories and materials from refugee camps and emergency medical projects around the world. The tour is supposed to take about an hour go through the tents and sounds so interesting.
A lot of my motivation comes from seeing what a difference Doctors Without Borders have made and are continuing to make around the world. They are the unsung heroes deep in the background that no one really sees other than the people they are treating and helping.
This is my dream job/life! It's not about notoriety it's about compassion for others.
This past Tuesday I had the opportunity to speak at the City of Mission Viejo's monthly City Council meeting. Hearts for Hearts is based in Mission Viejo so the opportunity to speak and share our mission at home is the best place to voice our needs for medical supplies and financial support.
Mayor, Wendy Bucknum, and the whole Committee were supportive about spreading the word and asked how they can help. I told them I am looking for connections at Mission Hospital (CHOC) to see if we can get any expired supplies they may have since in the United States the rules are very strict about utilizing medical supplies that are past their expiration date. Typically these items are discarded but in Ghana, or in the poorest areas of Sri Lanka, these items are very much needed.
If anyone has an "in" at Mission Hospital, in Mission Viejo, or Applied Medical, in Rancho Santa Margarita, I would be very appreciative. You can contact me through this website by scrolling to the very bottom of the page and clicking on the envelope.
Post by Mai
Somehow word got back to Mimi Walters in the 45th District of Congress about what I have been doing with Hearts for Hearts and she gave me an award of Special Congressional Recognition! I was completely surprised and honored by the gesture. Thank you Ms. Walters!!
This past week was the first real week back to school, and the homework has kicked in! I didn't have the time to spend on the foundation the way I would have liked to but was still able to do some research on Sri Lanka.
I decided to do more in depth research for the locations we would be volunteering at in 2018 because it initially didn't look like an area that was seriously in need. We are somewhat limited to the countries and cities Hearts for Hearts can go to based on making sure there is an infrastructure in place to support us. We don't need much other than a place to stay, a driver and a coordinator to help us communicate with the volunteer locations. Without communicating with the locals ahead of traveling, we wouldn't know what supplies are needed and who needs them the most.
We have about seven or eight main locations that we are looking into in Sri Lanka that are possible options. When I research the locations on the internet, I am looking for areas that really need help and not just happy to have a visitor. I want to know that Hearts for Hearts is making a difference even if it is a small one.
On a different note, I was supposed to do a presentation to the Mission Viejo City Council about Hearts for Hearts last Wednesday but decided that probably wasn't the best night to do it. There were several baseball and softball teams in attendance since the RSM Little League team had just been eliminated from the Little League World Series. All the kids were excited to be there and to be acknowledged by the City Council.
I rescheduled to present to the City Council on September 26th, so it gives me even more time to prepare!
One of the biggest risks volunteers are challenged with is the safety of the location they are volunteering in. When I went to Ghana this summer we did a lot of research prior to make sure that we would be safe and out of harms way. We contacted:
The Cape Coast isn't in a war zone nor an area where there was much fear of getting kidnapped or worse. I had an infrastructure in place to keep me out of harms way on this trio, after all, I am 16 years old so I have some obvious limitations to where I can go at this point in my life.
This doesn't mean that I don't plan on traveling to volunteer in more dangerous areas when I am I am out of college because if I am needed, I likely will. My intentions are to become a doctor so I can do more to help people whether they are in areas with more danger or not. I feel it is my purpose in life to help others in need and we will see where it takes me.
Today, August 19th, take a minute to think to pay tribute to aid workers who have risked and lost their lives in humanitarian service.
Post by Mai
So we have decided that the volunteering trip next summer will be Sri Lanka.
We are working with Projects Abroad again to help coordinate a lot of the logistics for when we arrive since they already have such a strong infrastructure in place. When we were in Ghana they made the trip so much easier so all we needed to do was care for the people we were there for.
The locations in Sri Lanka we are reviewing the needs for right now are:
As soon as we get the details about the type of help and medical supplies these locations need we will start soliciting medical supplies. It will be interesting to see what they request because in this area of the world the focus is on a more traditional medicine called Ayurveda. If you are interested in learning more about Ayurveda clink on the box below.
The great news for me is I already have had the various vaccines that I am required to have for traveling to Sri Lanka. Once July gets closer I will meet with the travel doctor again to be sure but until then all I need to worry about is a flu shot that I am required to have for volunteering at Saddleback Memorial Hospital.
Post by Mai
Today I had the opportunity to have lunch with Mrs. Cindi Camp and thank her for her generous donation that provided the last minute funding we needed to get the medical donations to Ghana. None of this would be possible without so many people that are either willing to donate funds, medical supplies or a helping hand to pack boxes.
Mrs. Camp has offered to help Hearts for Hearts in a couple of different ways that we are in the process of looking into and working on. She is going to see if there are better and more efficient ways to ship medical supplies to the countries than what we had to endure on the last trip to Ghana. If we can find a better way to get the supplies to the areas that need them sooner it means we could possibly ship a few times a year instead of only once. This would be a really good thing.
We also discussed the various ways to get medical supplies donated and she asked me if I would be willing to present to Western Digital in Irvine, CA to discuss the foundation. Mrs. Camp said that Western Digital works with various 501(c)(3) nonprofits every year and if the board determines that Hearts for Hearts is a good fit they might be able to do a supply drive for us! This would certainly mean that we would have enough supplies that we could send them a few times a year! Next step, I need to get working on a presentation right away!
I am so grateful that there are people in my life that are not only willing to help me but more importantly help others. This first year of Hearts for Hearts has demonstrated how even the simplest things can make a huge difference to others. The experience I had in Ghana volunteering this summer has inspired me to try to do more.
The article about Hearts for Hearts was published this week! Click on the link below to read it.
Post by Mai
Today I had the opportunity to meet with Nathan Percy from the OC Register to talk about Hearts for Hearts in Ghana. I am not sure when the story will be published yet but will let everyone know when I find out.
Nathan told me to let him know when we are doing our next supply drive for donated medical supplies and he will put it in the paper to get the word out! Year two of this foundation is starting off great already.
Currently, we are doing the research to determine the next place to volunteer during the summer of 2018. We are looking into volunteering in Sri Lanka where they use Aurveda medicine. Aurveda is a more traditional and holistic type of medicine where the focus is a bit more preventive. Once we figure out the location, and safety, we will contact the locals that we will be working with to determine what their needs are.
For every trip the Hearts for Hearts Foundation does like Ghana we do a lot of research ahead of time. Some of the things to consider are :
Check back soon for updates and more about Sri Lanka.
Post by Ann Marie
Today was a great day again for Mai and for the Hearts for Hearts Foundation.
Mai and the team started the day doing another Community Outreach to test for malaria, cholera and hepatitis B as well as dress wounds. She is so happy helping the local people and frankly doesn't want to come home yet. She literally called me to see if she could stay longer and while I was working on it she called back crying that she needs to come home after all.
School starts in three weeks and even though Mai did all the homework she could before she left for Ghana, the rest of her school books for this years classes just showed up so she still has to finish. I tried to convince her she had plenty of time to do it if she stayed another week but Mai said no. School comes first to her and she respects the responsibility of it. She will definitely be going back to Ghana but I'll get into that a little later.
Back to the Community Outreach. These events are a make shift set up where the volunteers go to a different town each time and provide whatever care they can for the day. This is something that an entire community shows up for and Mai said people line up early and wait with the hopes they will be seen. Today people even started fighting because of the wait and how many people needed help. She said they literally went nonstop all day until they ran out of supplies.
Can you even imagine being one of these people that needed the help? Obviously this made Mai's last full day in Ghana tough because she wanted to do so much more but ran out of time and medical supplies.
Mai said last night she climbed up to the roof of the hut/house she is staying in with her roommate and they looked at the stars and thought about what they have accomplished over this past week yet it still wasn't enough. Mai said she will definitely be back in Ghana for at least part of the trip next year to see the same people she was able to treat this trip and check up on how they are doing.
Mai wanted to start this foundation to help others that needed it, I think the people she met and helped in Ghana may have helped her more. Her last texts before she leaves tomorrow morning (middle of the night for us) said:
Mai: This has truly been the most life changing and humbling experience of my life.
The best two weeks I have ever lived.
I feel like I have found a purpose in life as stupid as it may sound.
I don't know how I could be so blessed to be in a place like this with the most amazing group of people doing the most amazing things.
I can't even believe it.
It's hard to come home and leave these people who need so much help.
It's hard because there aren't a lot of people that understand this and can relate to it.
This past year setting up the foundation and preparing for this trip has been a journey.
In the end, Mai said it has been worth every minute of time and effort to create the Hearts for Hearts Foundation so people know about it, what we do and that we need to do more. The volunteers that were with Mai will also be helping to collect medical supplies and spreading the word about the foundation.
Mai said they are already planning for next year so we can start the fundraising and gathering donated medical supplies earlier. She has already decided that next year they need to go for longer than two weeks because it simply wasn't enough. Mai and the volunteers with her are talking about maybe two weeks volunteering in Sri Lanka and then one week in Ghana.
I'm pretty sure Mai has found her calling in life...a lot earlier than most of us.
Post by Ann Marie
What a day!!!
Today Mai was back at the Cape Coast Teaching Hospital to volunteer which she describes as more of a very low-level clinic and not at all like a US hospital. She keeps explaining it as "not a real hospital" and you need to see to understand. Fortunately, Mai is taking a ton of photos so when she gets back she will post all of these for us to see. We have had a problem with data this whole time Mai has been in Ghana so sending pictures in almost impossible other than the few she already sent. We are able to communicate via text and phone calls but no data.
The hospital is the same location she delivered the donated pediatric blood pressure cuffs, masks, gloves, gauze, bandages and other items. Last week, Mai and the team, were a bit disappointed because they were ready to help but there were not many patients in the hospital that day. The few kids she worked with weren't used to seeing Caucasians and they were scared of her. This was a bit surprising to Mai but at the same time realizes that this made sense. The area Mai is in is not exactly a tourist area with great things to do and see and that's exactly why she is there to volunteer and bring the donated medical supplies.
Today Mai was able to volunteer in the birthing area of the hospital which was much more interesting than the area she volunteered in last week. Her morning started off entering the birthing room within a minute of the delivery of a stillborn baby. The mother had not even delivered the placenta yet. It was the first time she had ever seen a dead body much less it being an infant at a moment that was supposed to joyous. I asked Mai how the mother was handling it and she said that the woman seemed discouraged and was quiet.
As an FYI, the infant mortality rate in Ghana is 36 deaths per thousand compared to five deaths in the United States. This is a direct reflection of health care in Ghana and how it is lacking in both quantity and quality. Mai made a point again that this is why she started the Hearts for Hearts Foundation and is already planning what more she can do to help.
After a while, there was another pregnant woman that came to give birth and Mai was able to watch and help during the process. She said it was one of the most amazing things she has ever seen and was extremely excited to have been able to witness it much less be a small part of it. Mai said it was very emotional and would tear up while trying not to cry. Truly an amazing experience in every way for the girls to be part of. They were even able to be there while the mother was getting stitched up..
I asked Mai whether the mother was given anything for pain and she said no, nothing at all. Even for the stitching, there was no anesthetic or anything to make it more comfortable for the mother. She said the mother made a little bit of noise due to pain during labor and for the stitching, there were a couple of yelps from pain but not much.
This is clearly a little bit different experience than the luxuries we have here during child birth process here.
Next Mai, and her teammate Aubrey were able to wash a baby and dressed it in simple little clothes. Once the baby was cleaned and ready, they delivered it back to the mother to hold.
Altogether an amazing day.
Post by Ann Marie
Mai called early this morning because she was tired and going to bed early. The fact that the food has virtually no nutrition in it is starting to take it's toll on her. She said they did go back to the Ankaful Leprosy Camp today instead of the hospital and it was truly rewarding. Mai said it had been a week since they had been there and they were rechecking the wounds they treated last week. The people they treated last week wounds were very much improved and getting better.
"This proves the point that if everybody was helping this wouldn't even be a thing." - Mai Griffith
Mai said that one of the wounds they treated today was so massive that it was a bit scary. I asked what she meant by that and she said it was because you aren't supposed to see that much open flesh. She wasn't grossed out but more compassionate that this man was having to deal with this. To treat this persons open wound they put honey on it and bandaged it back up.
Mai said it was really interesting that this was a way to treat it. She explained the way the honey works is they put it into and around the wound and the honey eats away the bad bacteria and when you take off the bandage next week it will be fresh flesh. Fresh flesh = Healing
I had to look this up to see what Mai was talking about and honey is a pretty amazing thing. If you want to learn more about it I have included a button below that will take you to the WebMd page so you can learn more about it.
On a final note, Mai said that when they went to the roof last night to see the stars there were so many clouds they couldn't see much. She also said that the Cape Coast Hospital needs thermometers because they are in short supply and the ones they do have don't seem to work right.
Mai is already making notes of what they need over there so she can plan for the volunteering trip to help them.
Post by Ann Marie
Mai said today was a really busy day for them. They started early since they planned to visit as many community outreach locations as they possibly could but they only ended up visiting one. She said that she tested and treated about 100 people at just this one location.
Mai said that they were testing the locals for blood type, malaria, cholera and hepatitis B. I finally remembered to ask if she has ever come across someone that tested positive for any of these things and she responded with a resounding YES! Good to know all those vaccines are paying off : |
Mai said that there were quite a few people with hepatitis B at this particular location. I asked her whether she is able to use lancet device that makes it fast and less painful or does she just go for it with a plain lancet. Plain lancet it is! She sounded like she is definitely past the whole needle thing and poking people after doing so many of these. Mai joked, "we are practically doctors here, it's Ghana."
Today was so busy that they had to eat their lunch in the car which must have been a real treat considering the daily diet they have been enduring. Mai said for breakfast they eat a piece of bread, lunch is pasta, potatoes or yams with a little bit of tomato'ish sauce and dinner is rice with the same tomato'ish sauce. keep in mind the tomato'ish sauce is coming from a can. She is pretty sure they have been eating the original batch that was made the first day they arrived. Considering our diet at home is mostly vegetables, fruit, fish and meat she is longing for a good meal. She said it is no wonder she got sick and the locals aren't so healthy.
Mai said that when she first arrived in Ghana she really realized how poor of a country it was. She certainly had a good idea ahead of time but when you see it first hand it affects your differently. She said that the house she is staying in is like a hut of sorts since you are mostly outside but there is a roof. Now that she has visited the poorest areas she said that the house that she is staying in is about as nice as it gets.
When we were getting off the phone Mai and her roommates were going to sit on the roof. Yeah, didn't need to hear that part since I am not so sure how sturdy the roof is. I asked "why" and she said because you can see the stars better up there since it is so dark without city lights. I reminded her that if she breaks a leg falling from they roof it may be one of her roommates that is posing as the "doctor" to fix it. That didn't deter her....they went to the roof.
Tomorrow they are scheduled to go back to the hospital but she doesn't get to interact as much as she would like to with the patients there. Mai returns to the Anakaful Leprosy Camp on Thursday and that seems to be the place that feel like they get to accomplish helping people the most.
Good to know that Mai, and the Hearts for Hearts Foundation, are helping people that really need it. It sounds like a very rewarding experience.
Post by Ann Marie
Today Mai and the team were back visiting another nursery school, Lady Heike Nursery School, which is set up in a village outside of the Cape Coast area. The school is relatively small with children between the ages of 2 - 6 years old. The purpose of the visit was to talk to the kids about malaria and cholera as well as test all of them.
As I mentioned last week, Mai and the team are the ones that are taking the blood by pricking the fingers and doing the physical testing of the blood. I forgot to ask her if anyone has tested positive yet and if so what happens but will try to find out between midnight and 4 AM when she calls. I try to take notes to relay them on the blog but sometimes I forget. : )
In the afternoon today they went to the Cape Coast Orphanage again to treat the kids that have a fungal infection and change the dressings on the their wounds. At least the kids have met Mai and the other volunteers so they won't be as nervous as they were last week.
One of the members on the team with Mai is a young man named Malcom Asher who has similar ambition and dedication to "giving back" and improving the lives of others. His foundation is called "ArtPass" and it's focus is making kids and teens more comfortable in the hospital around the world by helping them make and share their art. You should check out his site, it's pretty amazing and he is truly making a difference with these kids.
Malcolm brought art supplies with him and he will be sharing art with the kids this week when he isn't changing bandages and treating their wounds. I put a button in below so you can look at his site if you want more info.
Post by Ann Marie
So I was able to talk to Mai (at 4 AM) today and get more information. She said she is doing the blood testing of the kids for malaria and cholera but she pricks their finger to get the blood. At first I thought she meant that she full-on had a syringe and needle to do it and thought "those poor kids!". Mai laughed at me and said, "it's Ghana so it's OK."
Mai also gave me more details on the house she is staying in and said that they have toilets but none of them really work. She told me a funny story about how one girl went in to use the toilet and came out as it virtually exploded shooting "stuff" to the ceiling. Not a pleasant thought.
Mai said that there is trash everywhere and that there is not a garbage man to pick things up so everything goes into a pile in the yard and they burn it...plastic and all. Doesn't sound like something you want to do everyday but if it gets the job done you do what you need to do.
The team took yesterday and today to go to a different area about 45 minutes away for the weekend and stayed in a hotel overnight. Mai said she was able to take a shower in a real shower and everything which was amazing! They went to the beach and had some fun before they head back to area they have been staying. Mai said the food has a lot to be desired compared to what we eat here.
The little boy in the house Mai is staying in took her new toothbrush again. They are in a place she was able to buy a new one but she has another week or so to go. Next year she will be taking a ton of toothbrushes with her so she will be ready for whatever happens.
Post by Ann Marie
There isn't much of an update today from Mai other than they had a chance to relax a little bit and go to the coast. These kids definitely need a little bit of rest at this point, they are working hard over there making a difference.
Hopefully I will get more details tomorrow.