Valley Volunteers Saving Lives Around the World
By: Tom Duggan – February, 2007
For North Andover resident Al Movsesian, volunteering a day of his time at the old Lucent Technologies building on Rt. 125is a labor of love.
With 150,000 square feet of warehouse space made available by Orit Goldstein, Movsesian and dozens of other volunteers for the International Medical Equipment Collaborative or IMEC (a 13-year-old non-profit organization) collect donated (mostly used) medical supplies and equipment from area hospitals, test and fix the equipment, then package and ship the supplies to impoverished hospitals and clinics in underdeveloped countries around the world.
IMEC is the brainchild of former hospital administrator Tom Keefe, a Haverhill native who left his full-time job to run the non-profit after seeing the “dire need” of hospital patients around the world. “You go to other countries and you see that they do not even have basic hospital needs, like sutures, heart monitoring machines or incubators,” Keefe says. “Our goal is to get donated medical equipment in this country and supply an entire hospital overseas.”
Keefe estimates that 55-70 40-foot containers full of medical equipment are shipped each year to hospitals and clinics in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and South and Central America.
As Keefe walked through the warehouse at the old Lucent site, he showed us the millions of dollars of equipment waiting to be inspected and shipped.
Specialty items like baby monitors, heart monitors, incubators, IV machines, respirators, tables, chairs and hundreds of other supplies needed to furbish and maintain a hospital or clinic.
“One of the first things we wanted to do,” Keefe says, “was to make sure that the equipment we were going to ship overseas would not be diverted to corrupt government officials or sold on the black market. So we make sure we have someone at each location to follow the supplies to where they are needed, like the Oncology Hospital in Yerevan, Armenia.”
Keefe says that through “shepherding organizations” like the Knights of Vartan, Rotary Club, the Seventh Day Adventists, and other non-profits, all the customs paperwork is filled out exactly as the host country requires. The non-profit shepherding organizations then follow the equipment through the lengthy process of shipping the containers overseas and that the customs of the host country are respected.
As just one example, the Knights of Vartan have shipped four 40-foot containers of equipment in the last couple of years, packaged by IMEC and the volunteers in North Andover, to Armenia. That’s twenty pallets of supplies and equipment per container which were shipped to the Central Oncology Science Center and Hospital in Yerevan. Keefe himself has been to Armenia, evaluating its needs, taking stock of inventory and overseeing the installation of the medical equipment.
Since IMEC does not use government funds, and depends on the charity of non-profits and others, Keefe says that what they need most is not donations but more volunteers with specialized medical and technical knowledge to test equipment, as well as those willing to help package and ship the containers.
“What we really need most are volunteers, bodies, we need bodies to help us package and ship these materials,” Keefe says. We have been blessed to have so many good people give of their time, and we are even more blessed that companies like UPS, Timberland and Phillips lend us some of their workers to help, but wealways need more.”
“What we try to do is provide medical equipment that doctors in hospitals and clinics around the word tell us they need. But it isn’t just specialized medical equipment, some hospitals don’t even have a computer, or desks, or exam tables – simple things we take for granted in this country. So we send them what they need.”
A map of the world in Keefe’s conference room at Lucent has 70 colored flags pinned to it, each representing a country IMEC has delivered one or more containers full of medical supplies to a needy hospital or clinic.For information or to volunteer, you can contact IMEC at 978-557-5510 ext. 316, or visit the Web site at www.imecamerica.org.