Not Just Tourists started 25 years ago and now it has chapters across Canada. Volunteers take medical supplies like gauze, IV kits, gloves and more to small remote clinics in developing countries that can’t afford the supplies.
“I was living in Honduras and actually saw someone bring a suitcase over, and I thought it was the most amazing idea. And because I was travelling for so long, I really connected with idea of travellers making a difference,” said Avi D’Souza, founder of the Not Just Tourists Toronto chapter.
“When I started, it was in my parents garage in Markham and I was completely by myself, and I’d put ads on Craigslist and Kijiji for supplies that I’d go pick up – No Frills bags full of bandages, that kind of stuff. Now to see it from that to having hundreds of volunteers, and sending hundreds and thousands of pounds of supplies… it’s unbelievable.”
Not Just Tourists Toronto has distribution centres and pick-up points throughout the city, making it easier for donors and volunteers like Rick King to fulfill the mission of getting supplies to where they are most needed in the world.
“There’s oceans of supplies out there … we have partnerships with the big hospitals. A lot of it comes from home care. Suitcases are donated as well,” said D’Souza.
“It’s very gratifying, very rewarding and it’s surprisingly easy. For the most part when they see our documentation, which is in French, Spanish, English, they understand what is happening,” said King.
“It’s all supplies, there’s no medicines,” said D’Souza.
“You have a customs letter as well. The most important thing is the traveller has to unpack and repack the supplies, this way they know exactly what they’re taking.”
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