GiveBIG to small Seattle nonprofits with a global reach

Boys receiving chemo therapy funded by the Burkitt's Lymphoma Fund for Africa at Barack Obama Children’s Hospital in Kisumu, Kenya. (Photo by Jonah Einstein)

Wednesday’s GiveBIG fund drive is a great opportunity to support local global health nonprofits with small budgets and low profiles.

Seattle is well-known for having a wealth of international nonprofits tackling a myriad of global health issues. Headquartered here in the Emerald City are Gates, PATH, International Rescue Committee, CARE, and Mercy Corps, to name but a few.

On the other hand, there are numerous small global health nonprofits here that are diligently chipping away at little known, insidious health calamities, often with very few staff and tight budgets.

The Seattle International Foundation (SIF), which was formed as an extension of the Seattle Foundation for the sole purpose of focusing on international philanthropy efforts in the Pacific Northwest, supports small nonprofits working on important global health issues that don’t receive much media attention.

Here are three such local organizations taking on health issues that aren’t widely covered in the media with small budgets, devoted staff and passionate volunteers.

Take a look:

Prosthetics Outreach Foundation

Helping the Developing World Walk

Schnailove, a Prosthetics Outreach Foundation beneficiary in Haiti. (Photo courtesy POF)
Schnailove, a Prosthetics Outreach Foundation beneficiary in Haiti. (Photo courtesy POF)

The Prosthetics Outreach Foundation (POF) was started in 1989 by a Seattle-based surgeon, Ernest Burgess, to improve the mobility and independence of physically disabled children and adults. Burgess was an army surgeon in World War II, where he first became interested in the rehabilitation of amputees.

POF has since expanded its work to the countries of Sierra Leone, Haiti, and Bangladesh.

The four main causes of loss of mobility are: wars (deliberate amputations and landmines); work and transportation accidents; birth defects and diseases (polio, cerebral palsy, and clubfoot); and natural disasters.

Inadequate and inaccessible health care and untreated infections frequently end in forced amputations.

POF focuses on three program areas: providing prosthetics, treating clubfoot, and performing surgery to correct limb deformities.

Each of these program areas emphasizes training and partnerships within communities to mobilize and strengthen local capacity to deliver services to clients.  People with disabilities are trained to make and maintain prosthetics and in so doing, are empowered to be self-sufficient. Local doctors and surgeons are trained on techniques to improve clubfoot and correct deformities. POF is currently working on strategies to establish sustainable solutions for manufacturing prosthetics locally.

For the last 20 years, POF has helped more than 18,000 children and adults walk again.

“Schnailove, an 8-year-old Haitian girl with a brilliant smile, took her first steps a few weeks ago. Born with a congenital deformity, Schnailove resorted to scooting around on her malformed right foot and left knee for years. She relied on others to carry her long distances. Now Schnailove has a new custom-made ankle brace and prosthetic limb and is able to walk on her own. With her increased mobility and independence, Schnailove dreams of owning and riding her own bicycle.”—Marion McGowan, Executive Director

How you can help:

  • Donate during GiveBIG: $400 provides an amputee with a custom-fit prosthetic limb and $250 covers clubfoot treatment for one infant
  • Donate used prostheses and crutches
  • Volunteer: a small organization like POF can use all the help it can get
  • Spread awareness about the obstacles people with disabilities face


Burkitt’s Lymphoma Fund for Africa

Boys receiving chemo therapy funded by the Burkitt's Lymphoma Fund for Africa at Barack Obama Children’s Hospital in Kisumu, Kenya. (Photo by Jonah Einstein)
Boys receiving chemo therapy funded by the Burkitt’s Lymphoma Fund for Africa at Barack Obama Children’s Hospital in Kisumu, Kenya. (Photo by Jonah Einstein)

When Miriam Sevy traveled to Kenya in 2010, she had the opportunity to visit a clinic which was full of children who were suffering from a cancer causing disfiguring tumors.

She later learned it was Burkitt’s Lymphoma, a rare form of childhood cancer that is easily treatable in the U.S. but is the most common childhood cancer in Africa and is largely unaddressed.

Profoundly affected by the experience, she started the Burkitt’s Lymphoma Fund for Africa.

BLFA is an all-volunteer nonprofit organization which funds programs designed to diagnose and treat Burkitt’s Lymphoma patients in the East African countries of Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya. In partnership with organizations in the U.S. and Africa, BLFA also works to leverage financial and in-kind support to purchase expensive chemotherapy drugs and other resources, thereby ensuring a web of support for patients and their families enabling them to complete treatment successfully.

This type of cancer produces the fastest growing tumors.  Paradoxically, this incredible growth rate (tumor cells double every 24 hours) also makes Burkitt’s very responsive to chemotherapy. However, there are many, many families living in poverty who cannot afford the chemotherapy drugs or have access to the health care centers and as a result, BL is responsible for 50% of cancer deaths for children in East African countries.

In the last two years, 250 children have been treated.

“It’s impossible to walk through a Burkitt’s ward in Africa without thinking of your own children. If my son, God forbid, were stricken with cancer, he’d get good, immediate, and effective care.  So when I see these kids—all I can think is that their suffering is so unfair, so unnecessary.”—Margaret Larson, Board Member BLFA

How you can help:

  • Donate during GiveBig: Funds go to partner pediatric clinics in each country. $600 will fund the entire cost of treatment for one child in Uganda or Kenya.
  • Donate to fund construction of a new clinic in Sota, Tanzania.
  • Donate products to promote good hygiene for BL patients: soap, towels, and sheets


Etta Projects

Marta, a health promoter with Etta Projects in Bolivia, cares for a local child. (Photo courtesy Etta Projects)
Marta, a health promoter with Etta Projects in Bolivia, cares for a local child. (Photo courtesy Etta Projects)

Sometimes a tragedy like death of a family member provides the spark that is needed to ignite the formation of an organization to continue their legacy.

Etta Turner was a 16-year-old exchange student who died in 2002 while traveling in Bolivia. Her family and friends started the Etta Projects soon after her death to tackle some of the fundamental problems created by poverty in Bolivia, which has the second highest maternal, children and infant mortality rates in the southern hemisphere.

The organization focuses on five program areas in the state of Santa Cruz, Bolivia: safe water and sanitation, health, nutrition, leadership, and community outreach.

A big emphasis of the organization is on training of villagers to be community health promoters and also to design community-driven projects involving nutrition.

Women, who are vital members of the community, are trained on leadership and empowerment. These women take on a vital role as advocates with local government.

“As a mother of three in the remote rural village of La Patria, 28 year-old Marta had to deal with her family’s poor health.  When she was elected to be a health promoter and began learning valuable skills to improve health, she learned she didn’t have to be a quiet victim of her circumstances.  She recently returned to school to get her GED, and now plans to continue to go on to nursing school.  She wants to be a nurse at her local health center.”—Katie Chandler, Program Director

How you can help:

  • Help support a brother and sister team who will hike the Pacific Crest Trail (they are writing a blog about their experience).
  • Donate $2700 to bring running water to 80 families in a Bolivian village
  • Donate a car
  • Participate in the Seattle to Portland Bike Ride on July 13, 14
  • Internships are available in the Tacoma office as well as in Bolivia (must be fluent in Spanish for the Bolivia internship).


Note: The Seattle Globalist is a media partner for the Seattle International Foundation’s Seattle Ambassador Program