Step Up and Step Outside Your World

by Scott A. Meyers, Executive Vice President
April 1, 2010

On January 12th a monstrous earthquake hit just outside Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Before the earthquake struck, Haiti was the poorest country in the Western hemisphere and now has been shaken back another 30-40 years. People from all over the world have stepped up to provide funding for the relief efforts there.

Several of ICHP’s staff, spouses and family members came together in a special way to assist a citywide effort in Rockford to purchase and pack one million meals to be shipped to the Northwest Haiti Christian Mission located approximately 150 miles north of Port-au-Prince. Rockford currently has the highest unemployment rate in the State, and yet, has come together with the Rockford Public Schools and Kids Around the World, a Rockford based charity whose original goal was “to provide safe play equipment for children that found themselves in situations where it was difficult to just be a kid.” The Rockford Public Schools are providing more than half the manpower for this project, and Kids Around the World is paying for the shipping of these million meals to Northwest Haiti. Rockford Sharefest, a church-based and now communitywide outreach program, originally established to provide support to Rockford’s public schools and other community outreach services, secured the raw materials at cost, provided the equipment to pack the meals, secured the locations of the packing sites and enlisted volunteers to coordinate the program.

On the evening of Friday March 12th, exactly two months after the earthquake hit, the ICHP team arrived at Heartland Community Church and packed 2,160 meals between 6PM and 7PM. These were meals that the team paid for, too! The meals weren’t fancy; they consisted of rice, soy protein, vegetable powder and vitamins. They are 393 to 395 grams of raw materials that will feed 6 people for one meal. One meal is what the average Haitian is eating every two days even now! The ingredients in each meal cost 17¢, and with Sharefest providing the location, equipment, and covering all costs except the product and Kids Around the World paying the cost of shipping, the entire one million meals will cost Rockford $170,000. To get an idea of the meal packing process, go to and watch the video on the home page. It was a great evening of working together for a greater good while building friendships and a team spirit at the same time.

All one million meals have been packed, shipped and hopefully paid for, but considering the number of people homeless, jobless and hungry, this dramatic contribution will just scratch the surface. Also consider that an earthquake of greater magnitude struck Chili in late February and is further stretching and affecting humanitarian efforts around the world.

In January, shortly after the Haiti earthquake, ICHP forwarded an APhA email message to our members that called for pharmacist volunteers to go to Haiti. Within 72 hours of sending out the call, APhA received responses from more than 2,500 pharmacists willing to go! This exceeded the immediate need, but future efforts will be needed later in the year and for many years if not decades to come.

Over the past several years, ICHP Past President, Bob Hoy has made 15 trips to Haiti on medical missions and has shared first hand his experiences at recent ICHP Annual Meetings. Earlier this year, Bob traveled to Nicaragua on his fifth medical mission to that country (already scheduled prior to the devastating Haiti quake). Bob and the team on which he serves are connected to Haiti through a not-for-profit organization “Friends of the Children of Haiti” and already have plans to go again in a few months. Bob describes his mission experiences as “life-changing” and encourages anyone who feels the calling to contact him and find out how to get started. His e-mail address is, and he’s ready and willing to help you take the next step to serve. Bob told me that taking a cruise to that part of the world gives you a nice experience, but when it’s done, it’s done. Going on a mission to the same area, somewhere like Haiti, stays with you for the rest of your life!

There are many additional not-for-profit organizations that have been on the ground in Haiti for many years, and any pharmacist, pharmacy technician or pharmacy student who is interested in serving should strongly consider working through one of these organizations. Haiti is not only a very poor country, but it is a very corrupt country, and aid that is sent there to be distributed by the government frequently does not make it to the people and places it is intended. Safety is another issue for volunteers heading there, so working with those who already have experience is a critical consideration. These groups have systems and plans in place to protect the volunteers and keep them focused on the intended tasks.

Natural disasters will continue to devastate communities, regions and even entire countries. Stepping up to do whatever can be done is not only helpful to the people in need but beneficial to those who are helping. I firmly believe that pharmacists and pharmacy technicians save lives every day as part of what they do in their work. Being involved in a professional organization as a volunteer and elected officer is both important and rewarding. However, stepping outside your world for as little as an hour or as long as a week to serve people who have been overwhelmed by disaster and poverty is something that is even more important and rewarding. I look forward to my first mission experience, which I hope to do sometime this spring, summer or fall, so I can add to what I already feel. I encourage each of you to step up to do something for someone outside your normal neighborhood, outside your normal job, outside your normal comfort zone and maybe outside your normal world to experience something life-changing for yourself! Step up and step outside your world!

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