Bay Area nonprofit VIDA USA ships surplus medical supplies overseas

EMERYVILLE, Calif. (KGO) -- A Bay Area nonprofit called VIDA USA is helping millions of people in some of the poorest countries in the world. They're doing it by shipping surplus medical supplies and medicine overseas. These are supplies that would have ended up in our landfills.

The co-founder was born in Peru and lives in the Bay Area. The charity is based in Emeryville, and is marking 25 years of service. Cheryl Jennings went to Peru, to see where those supplies are going, to hospitals and programs helping families with disabled children.

Carmen Cortez founded Asociacion Peru Ninez in Lima, Peru, to help families with disabled children, or, mothers who need surgery and don't have anyone to care for their children. It's sort of like a Ronald McDonald House, designed to keep families together during a medical crisis.

"Most of the kids who come here have very rare diseases, or disabilities, most have cancer, brain tumors, problems with the spine, maybe they can't walk, they need a wheelchair," said Cortez.

Peru Ninez is the only place of its kind in all of Lima, which has a population of nearly 10 million. Peru Ninez is expanding because the need is so great and helps support itself by selling food on the streets.

Carmen's commitment and passion for serving these families inspired a Bay Area charity called Vida USA to help her. She lets VIDA know what she needs and they help in many ways. Such as providing state of the art whirlpool baths to help with physical therapy for people like a young man. He can barely walk, because of a medical condition, so, he can't work. VIDA's executive director in Peru, Olga Baca, helped arrange transportation to get him to Peru Ninez' in a VIDA truck, so he can get therapy and get his life back.

Local families feel so safe with Carmen and VIDA, they organized a lobbying effort, while ABC7 was there, begging to save the life of two-year-old Santi. They say he may die, if he doesn't get surgery on his damaged intestines. The family is hoping a Bay Area hospital will offer surgery for Santi for free.

"Everything is in excellent condition; it's never been used, with the exception of the equipment. The equipment is lightly used, if it's broken, we don't use it," said Adam See, Executive Director of VIDA USA.

VIDA USA is based in Emeryville, California. VIDA collects surplus medical equipment and supplies that would have been thrown away. Major donors include Stanford and Kaiser.

"They just don't want it to go into the landfill. So they have big green initiatives -- that's what drives this. They're counting how much tonnage that they're not sending to the landfill," said See.

VIDA USA volunteers sort and catalog thousands of donated items, which are then shipped to Lima in containers.

"We shipped 60 40-foot containers last year. A 40 foot container costs us about $12,000 door to door. So, for $12,000 we're shipping a container that's going to be worth $700,000," said See.

"America is one of the most generous countries that exists," said Haydee Rodriguez-Pastor, VIDA USA co-founder.

Rodriguez-Pastor co-founded VIDA USA 25 years ago, with her late husband, Carlos. She lives in the Bay Area, was born in Peru and has a huge humanitarian heart.

"Originally, we were focused on Peru, but, we saw how much suffering there was, then I wanted it to be international to reach more than Peru. It was the best decision ever. VIDA is everything for us. It is the heart of Asociacion Peru Ninez. Through Vida, we can help a lot of kids, and their families," said Rodriguez-Pastor.

VIDA USA works with partnerships that not only offer help, and health, but also, dignity and a sense of family for programs like Peru Ninez.

Cheryl Jennings has been in touch with family and supporters of little Santi, who needs surgery. They have set up a gofundme account to raise the money needed to get him treatment.
Copyright © 2021 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.