As Angelique Lewis, a global community relations manager at Baxter, recently walked along on a series of guided tours of three clinics in an area just outside the largest city in El Salvador, her eyes were opened wide.
Angelique, who was one of 100 participants on the Americares Airlift trip, didn’t just observe a snapshot of healthcare in the region, but also received a poignant reinforcement of how much Baxter’s products make a difference globally. Improving access to healthcare worldwide, through public and private partnerships, is one of the areas of focus for Baxter’s Corporate Responsibility program.
Upon entering a dark room in the basement of Hospital San Rafael in Santa Tecla, Angelique came upon a single metal shelving unit where a few supplies were being stored -- and there sat a single case of Baxter product.
The administrator looked at her and said “this saves lives" pointing to the product and then showed the group the room next door where two more pallets of Baxter product were stacked.
“I was incredibly moved,” Angelique said. “In that moment, when he said that this product makes such a difference, it brought home our mission of saving and sustaining lives.
“In my role, I don’t interact directly with patients or hospitals. So to actually see the product there larger than life, ready to administer when needed, was really rewarding.”
Baxter has been a partner with Americares, which provides critical medicines and supplies into areas where ongoing humanitarian assistance is needed as well as areas suffering crises resulting from disaster or political strife, for nearly 30 years. Product donations are one way in which Baxter demonstrates its commitment to saving and sustaining lives for those in need, and since 2011, Baxter has donated nearly $140 million in product. Every year, Baxter also pre-positions donated products with select humanitarian aid partners, Americares, Direct Relief and Partners In Health, to meet critical medical needs and plan for disaster relief.
The whirlwind trip to El Salvador saw the Airlift participants spend just 12 hours in the Central American country before returning to the U.S.
“It is very impactful in a sledgehammer kind of way,” Emanuela Chiaranda, associate director, corporate relations for Americares, said.
“The Airlift initially started as a way to showcase to our partners what are donations are doing. What we encourage is for the donors to choose people who have a hand in the donations because it allows them to see what they’re actually doing.”
Angelique said prior to the trip she was advised by colleagues, both current and former, to be prepared for vast differences in the way patients are cared for and how medicine and supplies are distributed for treatments than in the United States.
At the Hospital San Rafael she also visited the maternity ward where up to four women share the same room. At the Order of Malta, which runs a network of nine clinics in El Salvador, she was overwhelmed by the sight of patients waiting for hours in the hot sun before seeing a doctor, with over-the-counter drugs from the U.S. being prescribed and medical files kept in paper form filed away in manila folders and stored on shelves.
Seeing young children sitting next to their parents outside, not one of them complaining, also left an indelible memory, Angelique said.
“We were at the Order of Malta for an hour touring the facility and the same people were sitting in the same places when we got there as when we left and they were all high-fiving us and waving and smiling and thanking us for coming,” Angelique said. “And so for me, I could never complain again if I have to sit in a doctor’s office for an hour. I have no right to complain because I have so much to be thankful for.”
The third and final stop was at Onuva, which consisted of a clinic, a day care center and a K-12 school. Onuva, situated on a dormant volcano in Santa Tecla, is part of the Fraternity of the Mother of God mission founded in Spain.
After touring the clinic, Angelique and the group made their way to the school. “As we got there … they were clapping and singing and cheering for us,” Angelique said. “To them Americares provides them so much that they wanted to show their appreciation and they felt this was the way to do that.”
Angelique said various students and faculty spoke to the group in English, a few performed a cultural dance and then they united to sing the humanitarian anthem “We are the World.”
“To hear them singing the words we are the world -- we are the future and it’s up to us to make the world a brighter place -- I couldn’t make eye contact with anybody because it was incredibly moving,” she said.
After the tour concluded, Angelique said she took time to process her emotions and reflect on how committed the staffs of all these clinics are and how grateful patients are for supplies we take for granted.
“The staff was so thankful for the support from Americares,” Angelique said. “This trip helped reinforce that the work that we’re doing on the philanthropic side, as well as in our day-to-day business, is making such a meaningful difference to people every day.”