Deliver a Suitcase of Medical Supplies To a Clinic in Need

Not just Tourist Toronto

Photo Courtesy of Not Just Tourists Toronto

While in Cuba 25 years ago, Dr. Ken Taylor and his wife Denise of St. Catharines, Ontario, Identified a problem – that being a serious lack of medical supplies particularly in rural clinics. On subsequent visits, the Taylor’s started packing needed items and delivering them to remote areas in Cuba. Other travelers became inspired and soon joined this quest and that was the beginning – Not Just Tourists, was born.

The Mission

Surplus medical supplies are being diverted, no longer headed to a landfill; they are rerouted to rural doctors and clinics in countries around the world. The unique means of delivery is the everyday traveler; a vacationer to Cuba or businessman to Honduras.

The sole purpose of Not Just Tourists is to get donated medical supplies and equipment to those in need. Ordinary travelers, whether for business or pleasure now have the means to change the lives of the locals they visit by delivering a suitcase of items like home care products, bandages, gauze, antiseptics, needles, syringes, surgical equipment, IV and birthing kits to name but a few.

Extending a Lifeline to Countries in Need

The donated items, surplus medicines, and supplies, come from a variety of places; large Canadian hospitals like Princess Margaret and St. Michael’s in Toronto, clinics, home care professionals, palliative care, hospices and pharmacies. Suitcases are always needed as they are left with their contents at the final destination; cases are donated by faith groups, unions, stores, and individuals. Since its inception (1990) Not Just Tourists has delivered over 10,000 suitcases to 82 countries.

Not Just Tourists Toronto2

Photo Courtesy of Not Just Tourists Toronto

The Toronto chapter was launched in 2014 by Avi D’Souza. Between June 2014 and June 2015, NJT Toronto (NJTT) has had 176 suitcases delivered in 23 countries, diverting 4,000 cubic feet of medical supplies from landfills – talk about a WIN-WIN. Their 2016 goal is to distribute 30,000 lbs. (500 suitcases) to travelers and medical missions as well as increasing overall awareness.

The supplies are sorted and packed into suitcases by volunteers, under the supervision of a medical professional, complete with a doctor’s letter, a NJTT brochure, and instructions for the traveler. This is all done during the weekly “packing parties”.

How Travelers Can Help

After signing up a traveler can get a case of supplies for deliver it to a remote clinic. The organization needs at least one week lead time before departure. The bag will travel as part of your baggage allowance. Some air carriers allow extra weight if it’s humanitarian aid (which this is) but check with your carrier as policies do change. Letters for the air carrier and customs officials are provided by Not Just Tourists.

Not Just Tourist med supplies

Photo Courtesy of Not Just Tourists

Tourists have become a channel for delivering these much-needed supplies. Just taking a small step outside your comfort zone can make a difference – and you make a real connection with the country and culture you’re visiting. This is such a phenomenal concept and everything is accomplished through volunteers.

Not Just Tourists does not accept funding, is non-political and non-religious. Find more information and answers to any questions at www.njttoronto.com.

Guest Post by Maureen Dahl

This organization struck a chord with me as my husband, Jim, and I had both worked with charities. During his career in senior capacities with NGO’s (Non-Government Organizations), one of his many projects was organizing the delivery of donated medicines and medical equipment to doctors and clinics in developing countries, we both saw firsthand, the limited supplies these clinics had to work with.