Canada is blessed with high labour costs. Our citizens have a high standard of living. To save on labour costs, many drugs and medical supplies are “bundled” into pre-paks. Stocked drug supplies get refreshed, and new products replace old.
When someone was sick at home, I was astounded at the sheer quantity of stuff that was sent in to our house. So much so that I had to construct shelves to sort and organize it all. That is not a complaint.
None of the stuff is returnable, as it has left the “secure” “chain of custody”, etc. Initially I returned stuff to a neighbourhood pharmacy, but apparently each pharmacy has a quota of what they are allowed to take back for disposal, and disposal offended my frugality. Eventually I discovered that there are “drop points” for surplus medical supplies and drugs that are then sent on as international aid. My drop point was at Bruyere’s palliative care unit. I am sure there are others.
I did not then question how it got to the recipient nation.
While preparing for a recent trip southward, a friend told me how it goes south. Not Just Tourists dot com gathers the medical supplies from various sources, packages them, and loads them in donated suitcases that are otherwise headed for retirement. Tourists or business travellers take them south and leave them at a hospital.
Here is my 20+ kilo bag of stuff:
NJT advised me to root through the packed bag when I got it home, so I could truthfully say I knew what was in the suitcase and had “packed it myself”.
They also give travellers comfort letters:
Yes, I was a tad apprehensive that some customs dundridge would be picky and I could end up in some hellhole jail instead of sitting on the beach. As it happened, the bag sailed through airport inspection. Even though I thought it was prima facie suspicious that a single traveller going to the beach for one week would have TWO suitcases, one being very large and heavy and packed with opaque stuffs.
I had thought my airport was 17.0 km from the hotel, but it turned out to be 170 km, and the regional hospitals were near the airport. A quick taxi ride to deliver the suitcase was now out of the question.
Please note that the “second suitcase” per person is at excess baggage charge; none of the airlines grant free passage to the excess weight.
However, if a couple were going south, it should be easy to pack both personal stuffs into one bag and then the humanitarian suitcase would be claimed as the second person’s free bag. I was travelling singly though, and I failed to anticipate dragging both suitcases and my carry on bag/purse through the destination airport.
At the hotel, I consulted with local hotel representatives on how to get the suitcase 170 km back to the town with the hospitals. It proved not possible. So I taxied it to the local clinic, where I made it clear the goods were for transshipment to the local people’s hospital, not the tourist-oriented clinic. Once they checked the paperwork, I got the phrase “regional hopital, not just for tourists” said back to me !
Did the stuff get to the regional hospitals for locals? I can only presume so, and hope so. In any case, even if (partially) misappropriated, the additional supplies might free up some material in other locations that in turn didn’t get diverted.
So now you know what to do with those beat up suitcases that are still good enough for one more, one way trip. Donate them to NJT.com.
And now you know you can assuage some of your first world conscience by carrying medical supplies destined to the locals at your southern destination.
I took a few other items with me that did not make the return trip, but since I plan to travel again we will leave those undisclosed. I am not soliciting suggestions of what to carry next time.
And yeah, the particular beach quest that lead me south was worth it too.
thanks to Brigit at NJT.com for packing the suitcase at short notice; Catherine for educating me and supplying dental materials; Marie-Eve for operating the collection point at Bruyere. And OHIP for being a conveyor belt of drugs and supplies into my home. It’s a wonderful world.
There apparently is another group that packages school supplies for trips to underdeveloped countries.