Spend a Saturday with MedWish


The MedWish warehouse, where medical supplies for over 90 countries are collected

After pushing through any long week at work, I need a really good reason to wake up before 6 am on a Saturday.

But when local nonprofit MedWish International put out a call to bloggers to meet for a volunteer day, I had my reason.

I had heard a little bit about MedWish last Spring, but this past Saturday gave a hands-on glimpse into the empowering work MedWish is doing in their warehouse on Cleveland’s far east side.

MedWish Founder Dr. Lee Ponsky

Almost 20 years ago, Dr. Lee Ponsky was a surgical assistant in Nigeria with the World Health Organization.

Lacking even the most common supplies, doctors and nurses had to be their own MacGyvers using things like fishing line instead of suture. And when there wasn’t an alternative for certain medical supplies, Lee witnessed firsthand that patients often suffered and died for it.

Saddened but also riled by some of these experiences overseas, he returned to Cleveland determined to help resolve this need and started collecting unused medical supplies from local hospitals and clinics.

MedWish’s “hot items” – hard to keep in stock because they’re always needed

Over the years, this grew into the MedWish we know today, which in 2011 alone recovered more than 500,000 pounds of usable medical surplus.

By saving these items from landfills, Lee and his team puts them in the hands of people in need across the globe. From small crates and suitcases to 40′ cargo containers, MedWish delivers to over 90 countries.

MedWish works individually with the overseas recipients to ensure they receive the items they actually need – not things that would end up in unopened boxes.

And although they receive an impressive amount of medical supplies from regional hospitals and clinics, they will only deliver supplies that are in excellent and unexpired condition.

MedWish ships large hospital items like these beds to new clinics throughout the world

Because of this, MedWish relies on a corp of volunteers and their Building Careers vocational program to help their small but dedicated staff sort and package.

This is where our group came in on Saturday morning when I was joined by Wearing Mascara, sosAssociates and Cooker Girl.

After meeting Lee, we toured the warehouse and experienced first-hand how they sort and organize everything for delivery.

Our group’s task on Saturday was to go through surplus epidural kits to remove gauze, catheters, and a couple of fluids for injection. Although it was a fast and even fun activity, it was sobering to be reminded that each small piece from these surgical kits would ultimately have a huge impact on a patient overseas. An impact I’m only beginning to fathom.

Sorted epidural surgical kits

After Saturday’s blogger sort, I would encourage everyone to get involved with MedWish in some way:

  • Give your time:  MedWish can always use help sorting and packing the medical supplies they receive.Throughout the year they host Saturday sorts like the one I attended. There are also volunteer opportunities during weekdays and for groups.Become a volunteer: medwish.org/give/volunteer-info



  • Give funds: Every $1 donation to MedWish sends $16 of medical supplies overseas – with 92 cents of each dollar solely dedicated to recovering, repurposing and redistributing supplies. Donations can be made anytime online and by mail.You can also buy tickets to Huddle 2012 whose proceeds go to MedWish. The football-themed event on Nov. 17 provides a low-cost tailgate alternative to their Band Aid Bash.  Tickets are $25 which includes dinner, an auction and a visit from former Cleveland Browns player Dick Ambrose at the Wickliffe Italian-American club.Buy your Huddle tickets: medwish.org/huddle2012


  • Spread the word: You can actually do one thing right now for MedWish – help spread the word about their mission.Connect with MedWish on your social network of choice (@medwish on Twitter or facebook.com/MedWishInternational).And if you’re an Instagram, show MedWish what philanthropy in Cleveland means to you. Upload a photo, tag @medwishintl and use the hashtag #DoGoodCLE with your post by November 12 for a chance to win two tickets to Huddle 2012.

    Learn more: medwish.org/blog/what-does-philanthropy-mean-to-you

Happy bloggers (thanks to Wearing Mascara for the photo)

Thank you to Reanna, Traci, Lee and everyone I met during Saturday’s Sort. It was an even better reason than I thought to get out of bed so early!

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