Bay Area nonprofit helps critical health needs in Latin American countries

Friday, December 16, 2016
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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.

EMERYVILLE, Calif. (KGO) -- A Bay Area charity based in Emeryville is helping people with critical health needs in more than a dozen Latin American countries. ABC7's Cheryl Jennings went with VIDA USA to see some of their programs in Lima, Peru.

ABC7 News saw several hospitals and clinics that get regular shipments of medical equipment, medicine and other supplies from VIDA USA. ABC7 also visited an orphanage which rescues children who have been abandoned because they were born with disabilities.

"When you have a house with 97 boys and girls, you always need medical supplies, always," said Father Omar Sanchez, Asociacion de las Bienaventuransas.

RELATED: Bay Area nonprofit ships surplus medical supplies overseas

Omar Sanchez is in charge of a parish with an orphanage that cares for children and adults who have been left on the streets of Peru, because they had severe disabilities.

"We care for kids, boys, girls who've been abandoned. They have special needs, always, mentally disabled, autism, Down syndrome, psychiatric problems or terminal illnesses," said Sanchez.

A little girl named Lucia at the orphanage has Down syndrome, and Sanchez says her father tried to kill her.

"Yes, tried to kill her. He accused his son, 9-years-old, but then the investigation tells us it was him. She has a cut in the belly, but she's already healed, and she's receiving lots of love, hugs and kisses," said Sanchez.

VIDA USA invited ABC7 to Peru to see a few of the nearly 100 facilities it's helping. VIDA is based in Emeryville, California and collects surplus medical equipment and supplies from Bay Area hospitals, including Stanford and Kaiser. Then, VIDA USA ships the products to their chapter in Lima, Peru for distribution.

"We asked them for help and they offered us help, very, very fast. Very, very easy and very, very important to us, medical supplies, beds, wheelchairs, medication," said Sanchez.

Most of the people who work at this orphanage in Lima are volunteers who come every day.

"My parish is Santa Maria, where I live and the kids come once a month to sort and help organize the boxes," said Adam See, VIDA USA Executive Director.

Adam See says hundreds of volunteers help VIDA USA in the Bay Area, sorting thousands of supplies, which are itemized, and wrapped for shipping.

They're taken to containers at the Port of Oakland and turned over to a major VIDA supporter, Otis McAllister. It's a global trading company and, major importer of quinoa from farmers living in the Peruvian Andes.

"People live in humble circumstances and there's a real need for medical equipment there," said Royce Nicolaisen, CEO and Chairman Otis McAllister/Oakland

Otis McAllister donated 18 container shipments to VIDA USA, carrying more than $15 million in aid in 2015. Their humanitarian decision made good business sense.

"We offload the medical equipment in Lima, it's sorted through, and from there, it's put on trucks that wind their way up through the mountains. And when they arrive, they distribute those products, and then we in turn, load those trucks with quinoa," said Nicolaisen.

This is a very exciting day for the hospital, it's in one of the poorest areas of Lima, and all of the VIDA supplies that came from Emeryville, are right here, being delivered at this moment. And the need is enormous. There are a million people in this district in Lima.

"It's the only hospital in this district, it's the biggest and most populous district in the whole country, so it's always very crowded, so the donations from VIDA are so important," said a doctor.

Adam's mother-in-law, Haydee Rodriguez-Pastor, co-founded VIDA USA 25 years ago, with her late husband, Carlos, to bring quality health care to impoverished people in Peru and other Latin American countries.

Haydee's friend started a hospital in a garage in Lima, 11 years ago, and VIDA helped it expand into a new facility.

"She started talking to me about her project, and I immediately came to be sold on it, because she is so hardworking," said Rodriguez-Pastor

VIDA supplies major equipment like an MRI machine, or anything else the hospital needs. And VIDA USA will get the doctor what he needs to help his patients. Everyone is so grateful.

"It helped us a lot, because one of our biggest expenses is medical supplies, so when we receive that, we have a big breath, to say thank you," said Sanchez.