Growing up, my favorite show was Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Many of you have likely heard one of his famous quotes, recalling advice his mother gave him in times of crisis: “Always look for the helpers; there’s always someone who is trying to help.” He also went on to say, “I did, and I came to see that the world is full of doctors and nurses, police and firemen, volunteers, neighbors and friends who are ready to jump in to help when things go wrong.”
During the COVID-19 crisis, many things have gone wrong: loss, separation, unemployment, children out of school and other hardships. At work, you may have witnessed colleagues being furloughed or terminated, be suffering from unemployment yourself, or be working remotely and feeling disconnected and isolated.
As the eternal optimist, I try to look on the bright side – and we need positivity now more than ever before. Today I want to share the uplifting stories of the incredible Heroes for Health at Americares.
First, let me share a bit more about this remarkable organization. Americares is a nonprofit organization with a mission to save lives and improve health for people affected by poverty or disaster so they can reach their full potential. What started as a handful of people in a small office in New Canaan, Connecticut, is now more than 500 employees all over the world. Their work is based upon 4 pillars: emergency relief and response programs, providing access to medicine and supplies, clinical services that deliver quality health care, and creating sustainable programs that strengthen community health. Since their founding in 1979, the organization has become the world’s leading nonprofit provider of donated medicine and medical supplies, distributing nearly $20 billion in aid and life-changing health programs to 164 countries, including the United States. Recently, Americares has been busy responding to the COVID-19 pandemic with shipments of critically needed protective gear, infection control supplies and mental health support for health workers in hot spots in the United States and around the world.
At the beginning of August, the charity launched a campaign called Heroes for Health, which celebrates doctors, nurses, midwives and outreach workers who make health happen around the world both for the pandemic, and other global health concerns.
You can get involved! Americares invites everyone to share their own health care hero so we can all celebrate their amazing work. The campaign will culminate during the Americares Airlift Benefit livestream on Oct. 3, when the charity will honor five Heroes for Health with the Humanitarian Spirit Award, which honors outstanding individuals who exemplify extraordinary courage and commitment to humanitarian endeavors and are making a difference in the world. Funds raised during the campaign and the livestream will provide frontline health workers with the resources they need to save lives and improve health by powering the health programs run by Americares that provide medicine, critical supplies, safety training and mental health resources – everything needed to keep patients healthy, health workers safe and clinic doors open.
Back to that optimism, here are a few of my favorite heroes in the running so far:
- María Benita de la Cruz, M.D, Philippines. Maria is one of only two doctors in her entire municipality, where the ratio for patient to doctor is one to 20,000. She sometimes sees 100 to 200 patients per day, without even a break for lunch. She is incredibly dedicated to helping her community be healthy and thrive, most of whom are underprivileged.
- Jordan R. Murphy, PhD, RN, Atlanta, Georgia. Jordan is on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic as director of operations at an organization that provides care to the uninsured. She loves teaching the younger kids about the virus by making COVID-19 education into a fun game. Her facility utilizes handmade masks with Disney and other cartoon characters the children love, which make wearing a mask less scary and ultimately keeps them safer.
- Gopal Aryal, Nepal. Mental health is often overlooked in a crisis as people rush to attend to the community’s physical health first. Thankfully, a theater practitioner in Nepal has found a unique way to heal spirits. Gopal Aryal teamed up with Americares to help survivors of the 2015 earthquake who are facing psychological trauma. He leads interactive plays that help communities heal, cope with the loss of loved ones and see that they are not alone. As one of his participants said, “people see broken houses, they don’t see broken hearts.” Thankfully, Gopal has the ability to see the broken hearts and is dedicated to helping those suffering.
- Noelle Ahn, Orange, California. Noelle is a community referral network project manager at a free medical clinic in California – and she wants to remind the healthcare community that they must take care of themselves, too! She prioritizes self-care measures including meditation and exercise. It is more important than ever for health care workers to stay mentally and physically healthy, so they can give their best to their patients.
At Global Impact, we wanted to get our employees involved – so we asked everyone to share their own inspiring stories of their favorite healthcare hero. Here are a few of our favorite responses, word-for-word from our staff:
- Jessica Mattfeld, Physician Assistant, Arlington, Virginia. Jessica recently graduated from George Washington University and began work in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. Starting her first job and making the cross-country move from her hometown of Florida to Virginia were daunting endeavors on their own, but they were especially so during a pandemic. Jessica handled them with immense grace. She has a true calling to be in service at this time alongside her former classmates and friends. Jessica is my health care hero for her true commitment and passion for her job and for her courage to tackle the unknown.
- Genna Locke, Certified Nursing Assistant, Madison, Wisconsin. My sister Genna works as a nursing assistant in a general internal medicine unit, caring for adults of all ages with varying medical conditions. These patients still require help and care in the age of COVID-19, and it’s inspired her team to get creative! They have to ensure they are minimizing exposure between staff and patients, so they’ve started doing things like calling patients in their rooms instead of walking in, and clustering care so they’re not going back and forth between coronavirus-positive rooms. She shared that strong communication is key. “The nursing assistants and nurses communicate really well, and our unit has a fantastic team of hard working people who are always willing to help each other. It has been a challenge but we’re dedicated to providing the best care possible.” I’m very proud of my sister – being a nursing assistant isn’t easy, and she handles it with grace and compassion.
Feeling inspired yet? Here are a few ways that you can help the helpers:
- Virtual campaign events. Host a virtual Lunch and Learn or team meeting featuring Americares and some of their real-life healthcare heroes.
- Workplace giving. Support Americares through your workplace giving campaign.
- Matching gifts. If your organization doesn’t run a workplace giving campaign, you can check if they offer a matching gift opportunity on the Americares website.
- Nominate a Hero. Visit the Heroes for Health website and share your own healthcare hero!
- Send a message. Create a thank-you sign for health care workers and upload a photo.
- Share. Use the hashtag #Heroes4Health on social media and show your support.
- Show you care. Buy an Americares t-shirt (for you or your child) to show your support. Proceeds support their response to the COVID-19 pandemic and other critical health care needs, both in the United States and around the world.
- Stay informed. Learn about upcoming Americares events here.
- Celebrate. Gather coworkers, family and friends to honor Heroes for Health at the Americares Airlift Benefit Livestream on Oct. 3.
As we continue to fight COVID-19 together, I encourage you to look for the helpers and spread the word about the amazing things they’re doing! If you are able, consider giving generously to amplify their work.
Want to know more about partnering with Americares? Reach out to us today at [email protected].