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Cleveland non-profit sending surplus medical supplies to Ukraine

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Posted at 6:43 PM, Mar 31, 2023

CLEVELAND — There’s a Cleveland non-profit just down the street from our News 5 studios that’s helping several countries currently in the midst of major crises.

With the help of hundreds of volunteers each year, News 5’s Courtney Gousman found, Medwish International is not only making Northeast Ohio A Better Land, but that help extends around the globe.

In Cleveland, we’re some 8,000 miles from Ukraine. Now more than a year into war, after Russia’s invasion, the United Nations estimates some 13,000 people have been injured, while more than 8,000 have been killed.

“There was doctors like I know personally and I like spoke with them and said what’s the emergency? What’s the necessary, like right at this moment? So they gave me a list and of course, my first source was Medwish,” said Ukranian Oksana Molotkovskaya from the non-profit Brook of Hope.

Medwish sits in Cleveland’s Midtown neighborhood. It’s a 60,000-square-foot warehouse filled with floor after floor of medical supplies.

“We collect medical supplies and equipment that are in surplus in the United States. We make sure they’re good and still able to be used and then from there we distribute them to people in need, internationally and domestically,” says Medwish International Executive Director Britta Latz.

Latz said, most of those medical supplies come from hospital systems right here in Cleveland.

Medwish has been sending items to Ukraine for nearly 20 years, but once the war started, efforts were ramped-up.

“We hope together to create many more shipments like this and support our people in Ukraine,” said Alex Toporovskiy, a Ukranian with the non-profit U.R.G.E.N.T.

Medwish is now working with at least 12 organizations to get aid to Ukrainians.

“Especially at the beginning, they wanted to send those supplies as quick as possible and so they were things that could fit in a suitcase. A lot of it is wound care and trauma items, orthopedic supplies,” said Latz.

Since the war started, more than 81 shipments have made their way to Ukraine or Poland, totaling about 190,000 pounds of medical supplies.

In Turkey and Syria, the devastation is beyond belief. On Feb. 20, a massive earthquake struck, killing at least 50,000 people.

Getting aid into Syria has proven challenging, as the country was in the midst of a 12-year civil war prior to the natural disaster.

But News 5 was there as Medwish staff loaded a 40-foot trailer full of medical supplies headed to Syria.

“It’s going to take a pit stop in Turkey before crossing over into the border, but that’s the plan,” said Jacob Dzierwa, International Programs Coordinator for Medwish.

What’s going? Everything from crash carts, needles, and syringes to catheters and nebulizers.

All the pallets and packages were made possible by real people — people from right here in Northeast Ohio who volunteer their time to help prepare medical supplies for a journey to get into the hands that need them.

“It’s going to be replenishing a hospital and really serving to support the disaster relief efforts there. It’s incredible knowing the impact we have,” said Latz.

Medwish leaders say it’s actually more cost-efficient for local hospitals to donate unwanted items to Medwish than to throw them away. Medwish has an operating budget of more than a million dollars each year.

To find out how to donate your time or money, click here.

This story is part of A Better Land, an ongoing series that investigates Northeast Ohio's deep-seated systemic problems. Additionally, it puts a spotlight on the community heroes fighting for positive change in Cleveland and throughout the region. If you have an idea for A Better Land story, tell us here.