“From Pittsburgh to the World” is the message on a banner at the Global Links headquarters in Green Tree. Surrounding the banner is detailed pottery from Cuba, lucky ekekos from Bolivia and beautifully painted feathers from Nicaragua. Adjacent to these mementos of thanks from communities around the world is a window that sits eye-level with I-376 West and the rapid traffic and massive semi-trucks that come with it. The colorful art and the grey interstate form a striking dichotomy … and a striking partnership. Those massive semi-trucks that pass by may just have left Global Links filled with medical surplus such as life-saving sutures, hospital beds, wheelchairs, breathing machines, blood pressure cuffs and oto-ophthalmoscopes. Medical surplus is bound for Nicaragua, for Bolivia, for Honduras or for Pennsylvania safety net organizations such as Jeremiah’s Place, the Latino Community Center, or Allies for Health + Wellbeing. More than 300 tons of medical surplus is rescued every year by Global Links primarily from the Pittsburgh area. Instead of piling up in a landfill, these materials will improve access to healthcare for a community in need.
Global Links, recipient of the 2018 Benjamin Rush Community Organization Award from the ACMS Foundation, is a medical relief and development organization founded right here in Pittsburgh nearly 30 years ago and is known for its comprehensive, efficient and responsive model of redirecting still-useful medical supplies to clinicians and caregivers with minimal resources. Global Links puts a lot of energy into relationship building with their partners here at home and internationally so that they can meet the specific needs of each partner. This attention to detail and partnership building over three decades allows Global Links to work in accordance with ministries of health, the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), health departments and community organizations rather than working apart from them. In other words, Global Links can support large country-wide initiatives in select countries as well as local programs or federally qualified health centers (FQHCs). This ultimately allows the medical surplus from Western Pennsylvania to save lives and lead to a better quality of life for all.
Global Links is a firm believer in sending “user-friendly” donations. They want their donations to be usable directly out of the box for recipients. This means checking expiration dates, listing sizes, confirming that items are not “manufacturer-specific,” confirming that machines are in full working order, sending tri-lingual instruction manuals, etc. This also means that every ton of medical supplies captured is one less ton kept from our local landfills. Furthermore, every ton of medical supplies redirected goes to those in need. “Those in need” can mean many: a patient with asthma receiving a nebulizer, a nurse receiving gloves, a physician receiving a stethoscope, a surgeon receiving surgical instruments and suture for heart surgery, or a physical therapist receiving knee and ankle braces. Medical professionals are typically caring, dedicated and well-trained individuals, and Global Links ensures that these professionals have the tools necessary to put their good will and knowledge to use. Additionally, the Global Links Community Partner program specializes in providing local safety-net organizations with medical materials that are needed but not available to their clients due to gaps in insurance coverage, affordability to the client, or budgetary constraints of the service provider.
Although Global Links organizes and coordinates all of this, they understand that their mission would never be realized if it weren’t for their large donor and volunteer base as well as the physicians, nurses and multitude of other health professionals on both the receiving and giving end of this medical surplus. Global Links considers volunteers, partners, donors and supporters their Global Links family. That family, they say, is diverse, dynamic, compassionate and ever-growing.
A few ways to join the family:
Donate surplus. If your medical office is moving or closing, or if you have usable medical supplies, donate those to Global Links! Specific guidelines are listed on the website, www.globallinks.org/donate, but generally supplies should not be expired and furnishings like exam tables, stools or cabinets only gently used.
Spread the word. Global Links recovers surplus from across Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia and Ohio. Refer your colleagues to Global Links or inform community members that if they have surplus homecare or hospice supplies, they can donate them to Global Links.
Come in for a tour! Global Links offers tours at their volunteer center and warehouse in Green Tree on the first Tuesday of each month at 11 a.m. This is a great first step in getting involved with the organization! You can sign up via their website, globallinks.org.
Global Links runs a robust volunteer program and offers a diverse range of tasks, most of which will involve sorting or packing medical supplies. Or, join several retired medical professionals who rehab wheelchairs in our workshop on a weekly basis.
Make a financial donation. Financial support from individuals like you enables Global Links to carry out their mission to support health improvement and promote better stewardship of resources. Their website donation portal, globallinks.org/donate, can be used to make one-time donations or set up monthly recurring gifts. All donations are tax-deductible as allowed by law.
Topics: Bulletin Globalinks
Written by Trevor Cutlip
Mr. Cutlip is a current student at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health while working at Global Links and initially became involved with Global Links through an AmeriCorps program.