“No one had basic medical knowledge or supplies. Some kids actually had to be taken to the hospital; no one realized they had terribly severe foot infections from lack of proper shoes,” she said.
“In the United States, that would never happen. You’d just go home and throw some Neosporin on it.”
It is this very disconnect, this gap between American and Other, excess and need, that MedPlus Connect addresses.
MedPlus Connect is the brainchild of Emma and two of her friends, Lauren Slive and Emily Nix, both of whom are also UNC graduates. The non-profit organization is based on one simple belief — those who need medical equipment deserve it.
Operating in Ghana’s three northern districts, MedPlus Connect turns our country’s “trash” into another community’s treasure.
“There is so much waste in the U.S. Because of a whole variety of insurance regulations, clean unpackaged supplies are thrown away every day,” Lawrence said.
“For instance, at the Cleveland Clinic, if a piece of equipment even enters the patient’s room it has to be thrown away.”
MedPlus Connect is working to take advantage of these unfortunate regulations by transporting this very same medical equipment to some of the most poverty-stricken areas of Ghana; these same areas where, just years ago, hospitals had no hospital beds, no X-ray machines, no gauze or needles.
However, Emma and her team didn’t start big. The first summer, medical supplies were brought over in suitcases.
Now, MedPlus Connect has sent approximately 83,443 pounds of medical supplies, valued at a staggering $1,300,000 — all of this, and Emma Lawrence is only 23 years old.
Lawrence says MedPlus Connect makes sure to incorporate the Ghanaian people into each and every decision made.
Rather than delegating, they prefer to collaborate.
“We are not here to change the system, but we are hoping to become part of it,” Lawrence said, adding, “Honestly, nothing feels better than feeling like you’re not needed.”
But need will continue. However, I have hope knowing people like Emma Lawrence will be there, a Tar Heel who left her heelprint on a continent too often forgotten.
Troy Smith is a guest columnist for the Daily Tar Heel. He is a junior public policy and Arab cultures major from Deep Run. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.