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Have you heard the story of the little boy who was on the beach after a storm? Thousands of starfish had washed ashore, and he picked up one after another and threw them back into the sea. A man watched him work and after some time said to the boy, “Look at all these starfish. You’re never going to be able to save them all. Do you think all your work will make a difference?” The boy thought for a minute as he looked up and down the beach. “I don’t know,” he said as he picked up another starfish and flung it into the brine, “but it sure will make a difference to this one!”
A number of years ago, I was working at a diabetes camp and had just completed a class on the history of diabetes. After class, two men from Malawi, Africa came up to talk to me about profound difficulties for people with diabetes in their country. I had another surprising coincidental contact with the same men a few months later in a completely different setting. I began to think that I was being sent a message to help the Malawian people. I kept contact with these two men when they returned to their country and began working with the Pittsburgh Presbytery Partnership group that works with churches in Malawi.”
I am a Certified Diabetes Educator, pediatric nurse practitioner, and a past president of the American Association of Diabetes Educators. I have had type 1 diabetes for over 40 years and have been interested in international diabetes care for many years. I have a number of international contacts, so I put a few folks in Malawi in contact with people from the International Diabetes Federation (IDF). I naively thought I had done as much as I could, but I soon learned otherwise.
The more I learned about the extreme need in this third world country, and the more I saw the abundance and waste that occurs in our own, the more I felt I was in a position to help a few of these poor people and possibly even save lives. To that end, I have been collecting unused, unwanted, unexpired diabetes supplies and sending them in suitcases with missionaries and others who come and go to Malawi. The supplies go to various mission hospitals.
Things I learned along the way:
I have written grants to major pharmaceutical foundations without success. Through partnership contacts with the Pittsburgh Presbytery Partnership, Medical Benevolence Foundation (www.mbfoundation.org/), Brother’s Brother Foundation, and UPMC Department of Underserved Medicine, there is now a small network of people who understand and support the effort and who have been willing to take supplies to a variety of large and small hospitals in Malawi.
Here are just a few of the comments I have received::
So, I am throwing starfish back into the sea. I receive unexpired, unused items from anyone who will give them: patients, hospice care centers, sales representatives, diabetes educators, and diabetes camps, and I send them along. Yes, I feel as though I’m spitting into the ocean. But I cannot not do it!
If you have supplies to donate, they would be gratefully received. For more information, please call 412-692-8722 or contact Jean at Jean.Roemer@chp.edu
Diabetes Health is the essential resource for people living with diabetes- both newly diagnosed and experienced as well as the professionals who care for them. We provide balanced expert news and information on living healthfully with diabetes. Each issue includes cutting-edge editorial coverage of new products, research, treatment options, and meaningful lifestyle issues.