A Gift of Health: Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada Ships Medical Equipment to Zihuatanejo

Nothing is more precious than the health and well-being of our community.  Zihuatanejo will soon receive a 40-foot container loaded with badly needed medical equipment, all donated and shipped by volunteers in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada.  What a wonderful act of kindness and love!  Thank you, Canada!

The Zihua Medical Equipment Project started in 2012 when Glenn and Cheryl Berst and their daughter Kayla (a medical student) from Thunder Bay, Ontario, who frequently visit Zihuatanejo, took a tour of the General Hospital and saw the immense need for medical equipment.  Mr. Berst, the Director of Building Services for a health care organization, returned home to investigate if there was a way that their retired/redundant equipment could be donated to Zihuatanejo. The hospital/medical centers in Thunder Bay also have active programs of donating used equipment to foreign countries, known as MEMO (Medical Equipment Modernization Opportunity) that has shipped over fifty containers to foreign countries.

In the spring of 2013, Glenn and Cheryl returned to Zihuatanejo and, with the help of long-time local Zihuatanejo resident Mary Ellen Jackson, they began this two-year, international, multi-lingual project to ship the donated medical equipment from Canada.  It has been no easy task!

Thunder Bay Team

The Thunder Bay team includes Glenn and Cheryl Berst, and Deanna Black (right), who frequently visit Zihuatanejo.  Missing from the photo is Dr. Jerome Harvey, who has been instrumental in this project.

First, the Thunder Bay group worked with DIF Zihuatanejo | de Azueta (Desarrollo Integral de la Familia), our local social services organization, to obtain photographs of each area of the General Hospital.  DIF provided them with a photo binder complete with lists of the most needed medical equipment for the hospital and local areas.

During the months that followed, the medical equipment was collected with the help of other doctors and charity groups from across Canada.   The donated medical equipment includes:

  • Operating table, anesthesia machine, lights for the operating room, boxes of surgical supplies;
  • Incubators, baby warmer, supplies for nursery;
  • Dental chairs, lights and table to set up dental clinics;
  • Children’s rehab equipment, wheelchairs, standing frames, walkers, treatment tables; and
  • Durable medical equipment like beds, mattresses, gurneys and stretchers.

Then there was the cost of shipping – approximately $9,500 USD!  During the summer, volunteers in Canada and the USA held yard sales, sold vintage doll clothes, hosted bake sales, and conducted a variety of activities to raise the needed money.  Ms. Helen Walsh, who lives part-time in Ottawa, Ontario and in Zihuatanejo, raised more than one third of the shipping costs through a potluck fundraiser.

Medical equipment from Thunder Bay

Medical equipment 2

In addition to the donated medical equipment, volunteers from Canada and the USA raised $9,500 USD for the shipping cost from Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada to Zihuatanejo.  WOW!

The volunteer team in Thunder Bay inventoried every single item and the inventory list was forwarded to Zihuatanejo.  The volunteer team in Zihuatanejo, comprised of a small group of staff at DIF, our local social services agency, stepped in to help.  They translated a 14-page shipping manifest of the donated medical equipment to Spanish for Mexican Customs officials.  This was a huge job, and kudos to this team for their hard work and professionalism. Awesome!

Zihua Medical Equipment Team

The Zihuatanejo Medical Equipment Team. Shown are (left to right) Dr. Monica Ortega, DIF Medical Physician; Fabiola Olea Mendoza (Director of DIF); Bertha Solano, DIF Accountant and administrative assistants, Melissa and Sandy.  Awesome job ladies!

At the time of posting, the medical equipment project is with the Mexican Custom authorities who are completing the required paperwork. Upon approval, the Thunder Bay Team will order the shipping container and recruit more volunteers to load the transport.  The container will go by transport to Toronto, Ontario, then by train to Montreal, Quebec, by ship to Mexico, and then by truck to our local area.

Once the medical equipment and supplies arrive, they will be distributed by DIF (social services) to the General Hospital, the Los Mangos Rehabilitation Center, the children’s orphanage, dental clinics and other health services facilities in our area.

You can check the progress of this project on Facebook: Zihua Medical Equipment Project. For more information on how you can help, please contact Cheryl Berst (in Canada) at caberst@tbaytel.net or Mary Ellen Jackson (in Zihuatanejo) at zihgirl@comcast.net.

Congratulations to those who have already helped.   This project is a wonderful example of International Teamwork. Together we can make a difference!

In recognition of their volunteer work to improve the health of our community, the Zihuatanejo Medical Project Team will be recognized as a local “Peacemaker” at the Celebration of Peace, February 4-9, 2014 in Zihuatanejo.

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You Are Invited to the Celebration of Peace and Zihuatanejo Sailfest –February 4-9, 2013

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