Today, we extend a warm welcome to Rick Santos, President and CEO of IMA World Health, a TOMS Giving Partners and an organization that works to advance health and healing to vulnerable people around the world.
He’s provided leadership to large and complicated relief and development programs in the regions the organization serves. Here, he writes about how IMA and TOMS are working together to advance health in Haiti from the ground-up.
By: Rick Santos, IMA World Health
Shy smiles, faint giggles, friendly waves. Every time IMA World Health visits a school — whether to distribute medicine, new shoes or both — the kids always welcome us warmly. By now, many of them recognize us and know that we come bearing gifts – gifts of good health and gifts of shoes.
That they recognize us is a very good sign; it means the children are staying in school.
IMA World Health has been distributing medicines to prevent neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) in Haiti since 2008 in collaboration with RTI International first as part of USAID’s NTD Control Program and now under the ENVISION project..* NTDs primarily affect poor populations and cause chronic illness, disability and social stigma. In Haiti, intestinal worms (also known as soil transmitted helminths, or hookworm) are among the common NTDs that IMA works to combat. By setting up medicine distribution posts at schools and community locations with the help of thousands of trained volunteers, we reach 4.8 million people every year – many of whom are children – with these life-changing medicines.
When the opportunity arose in 2010 to partner with TOMS to distribute new shoes to children in Haiti, we knew it would be a great fit. While the medicine we distribute protects children from intestinal worms from the inside, the shoes protect them from the outside, preventing feet from coming in contact with contaminated soil. By following up our medicine distribution at schools with TOMS Shoe distributions, we’re combining two effective and complementary interventions to help keep kids healthy and allow them to learn and develop as they should.
Johnie Pierre, 13, was one of the first children to slip on a new pair of shoes during one of our recent visits to give shoes at his school. He smiled widely as he took his first few steps to make sure his new shoes fit.
When asked about his shoes, Johnie replied that he “will wear them every day.” Some of his classmates giggled as he wondered aloud whether the shoes will help improve his soccer game. At IMA, we truly hope they do, because that would mean Johnie is healthy, active and able to continue his education – such an important part of development both for him and for all of Haiti.
As you walk around barefoot on One Day Without Shoes, conscious of every step, remember that all of this is about more than just shoes. Together, IMA and TOMS are working toward a healthier future in Haiti starting from the ground up. We’re working toward health, education, development and opportunity. And as a member of the One for One® movement, you’re helping too.
*The Haiti Neglected Tropical Disease Control Program (HNTDCP) is a joint effort between the Ministry of Health and Population (MSPP), and the Ministry of Education (MENFP) to eliminate and control lymphatic filariasis and soil transmitted helminths in Haiti. The HNTDP is supported by a group of collaborating partners who currently include World Health Organization/Pan American Health Organization (WHO/PAHO), USAID, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), IMA World Health, University of Notre Dame (UND), Christian Blind Mission (CBM), Partners In Health (PIH), and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). USAID support for NTD control in Haiti began in 2008 under the NTD Control Program (2006-2012) and continues under the ENVISION project (2011-2016). The ENVISION project in Haiti is implemented by IMA World Health through a cooperative agreement with RTI International.