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Supplying hope to Africa

Used equipment from The HealthCenter is seeing a second life in hospitals across Africa, thanks to a productive relationship with a Lakeside man who has devoted his life to helping villagers improve their own lives.

Gregg Scott, with Mission Builders International, is working with Mammography Manager Holly Apple, Plant Ops Specialists Billy Harron and Rick Steele, Trina Stivers with The HealthCenter Materials Management, Carla Hayek from KRMC Materials Management and others to repurpose working equipment and medical supplies when they are replaced or upgraded at The HealthCenter.

Twelve patient beds, an X-ray machine, a mammography biopsy bed and console, and several eye surgery chairs and gurneys already have found their way to Africa. They have made a huge difference to doctors providing health care there. More is on the way.

HealthCenter mammography machineGregg Scott in TanzaniaVillagers at the arrival of medical supplies

Twenty-two years ago, Gregg and his family spent six months at a training base in Hawaii with Youth with a Mission (YWAM). During the years that followed, his work evolved into introducing water technology systems in Indonesia. After moving to Montana, he volunteered with Mission Builders International, a sister organization to YWAM, and established Maji Cooperative as an offshoot of Mission Builders International.

“It’s been a pretty crazy life since,” Gregg confessed with a wry grin.

Maji Cooperative – “maji” means “water” in Swahili – was the link to Africa for Gregg. When unloading a container of water pipes at one point, he cut his thumb. Lacking any Band-Aids to stop the bleeding, medical workers there wanted to wrap it in gauze – a move that would have made it too clumsy for Gregg to continue working. He had five Band-Aids of his own and used one for the cut. The workers were thrilled, saying, “You use one, we take four.”

The stark reality of the utter lack of medical supplies clicked something in Gregg’s motivation to help, and the medical equipment mission was born.

Holly recounted her department’s entry to the team when she needed to dispose of an old biopsy machine in mammography after it was upgraded this past spring. She asked Billy about disposal and he told her about Gregg. Keeping it out of the landfill and seizing the chance to help others who were desperate for equipment was an attractive option to Holly. Billy hurdled the language barrier between the U.S. and the Tanzanians by color-coding the cables to the proper equipment so it could be reconnected and operated safely.

For his part, Gregg was delighted. He also had been working with the local veterans’ food pantry to send used wheelchairs and walkers to Africa, and he saw the potential in combining shipments. A personal supporter of Gregg’s donated a 40-foot container and a warehouse to stage and load the container in Long Beach, California.

“We still had to pay to ship the container,” Gregg said. Local Rotary Clubs and many private individuals responded generously to the call, and in March 2016 the container was finally shipped for the two-month voyage to Tanzania.

All local transport and associated costs were covered by Gregg and Frank Brisendine, who serves tirelessly alongside Gregg. All money raised went directly toward the project in Tanzania, except for 3 percent charged to process tax-deductible receipts.

Creative shipping methods allowed for added value. Gregg and his partners built a wooden framework to stack gurneys in transit, and then the frames were flipped upside down and repurposed for work benches inside the container. The container itself became a permanent water pump and wheelchair repair shop for the village of Mwanamonga in southwest Tanzania.

The HealthCenter’s mammography biopsy system and console went to Bugando Medical Centre in the city of Mwanza, Tanzania. Through Caritas, part of Catholic Relief Services, four hospitals, one medical school, and numerous village dispensaries and clinics also stand to benefit from this and future shipments.

Gregg has witnessed the life-changing power of this work. Simple wheelchair donations mean that men, women and children challenged with polio, cerebral palsy or amputations – conditions that forced them to drag themselves along the ground on their hands and knees – now are sitting upright with dignity for the first time in their lives. It brings tears to Gregg’s eyes even now.

Donated wheelchairs in TanzaniaGurneys arriving in TanzaniaVillagers using donated wheelchair

The partnership between Gregg Scott, Maji Cooperative, Caritas, The HealthCenter and many others is thriving. One shipment at a time, they are changing lives for the better.

To learn more, please contact Holly Apple at happle@krmc.org, Billy Harron at wharron@hcnwmt.org or Gregg Scott at greggcscott@gmail.com.