MAD-Aid was officially launched on 1st of September 2012. We had a vision and we had some clear goals: to collect discarded medical equipment, to get charity status, to raise funds for our first delivery.
And suddenly in March 2013 all this became a reality. We became a registered charity, and we took our first load to Moldova.
On 5th of March at 7 am, on a chilly Spring morning, everyone was excited and keen to get the 16.5 m lorry loaded. With jokes, fun and good teamwork we got the last bed on and the door closed. There was no space left at all. With a farewell to the drivers, Ciprian and Ionut, we went home full of happiness and all the hard work seemed worthwhile.
But the work was not done yet, and John and I were soon busy packing our personal luggage.
On 6th of March we left for Moldova. Our trip took nearly took as long as driving as we had ferry, bus and plane with a stop in Turkey. On Wednesday morning at 9.30 am we landed in Chisinau airport, and were met by Ana and Andrei, our full time helpers for the time being there, and also by our little van that we hired to drive in Moldova.
After a very short break, enough to have a coffee, we started planning the delivery and visits. The lorry was in Romania by this time, and we checked with the broker that the papers for customs clearance were OK. At 3.30 pm we decided to visit the Mother and Child hospital where the first equipment would arrive.
A brush with reality – conditions in the Mother and Child Hospital
I was born and raised in Moldova. I was a patient in this hospital a few times in the late 80′s, but what I saw there on 7th of March left me with no words and tears in my eyes.
Did I see the whole hospital? No I couldn’t. The beds were full of rust, the walls were painted such a dark green, there were broken bedside cabinets, tiles falling from the walls , and just pain in the parents eyes as they sat with their children. One of the nurses said to me that last summer they tried to take the beds out and wash them with petrol hoping the rust would come off.
This was enough for us for the day. After 24 hours with no sleep and with such excitement at seeing the lorry full, we came down to earth with a bang as we found that, instead of improving over the last 20 years, the hospital had badly deteriorated.
The load arrives
Thursday morning at 7.30 I had a phone call from Ciprian saying that he was already waiting at the Chisinau Customs Terminal which opens at 9 am so he could get customs clearance. We met with Veronica, the lady who arranged our papers, brokers and so on, took our pack of papers and headed to the terminal ourselves. Hours passed and there was still nothing either from customs personnel or from the broker. Everybody assured us that everything was OK and under control and would be finished soon. “Soon” turned out to be after 5pm.
After clearance, we unloaded the equipment for the Child and Mother hospital in a store in Chisinau and then headed to Riscani where the rest of equipment was to be unloaded. At Riscani hospital spirits were really high and the Consultant, the director of the hospital, the staff from the ward and even the patients were waiting outside to help unload.
By this time it was starting to rain quite heavily. John recalls the moment when a health care assistant picked up a locker which weighed about 30 kg and walked away with it. All the equipment went to a cardiac unit. The staff from A&E were asking when the load for them will come!
All the unloading was finished by 4 am. We said goodbye to the lorry and drove home to get some sleep.
Finding out more about needs on the ground
March 8th is a bank holiday in Moldova for international women’s day, so we decided to celebrate as well. By 8 am I was already up, and in the afternoon we went back to Riscani to sort out the stock left in storage that we were going to deliver individually.
During the following week, we visited several hospitals, spoke to the directors and staff, listened to patients’ views, visited a disabled people’s home, saw a few children with disabilities at home and also went to The Motivation Activity Center, where we saw the difference these wonderful people make.
Making a Difference
The trip was successful, and also very upsetting. We noticed the change when we went back to the hospitals where the patients with new beds were much happier. Over the lockers, there is conflict. The staff wanted a few lockers to store medication in; the patients were complaining that the lockers were supposed to be for them. We left them to it as both sides are right.
So overall, I can say with some authority now that things are bad and Moldova does need a lot of help.
I would like to thank everyone who made this trip possible starting with our trustees, supporters, equipment suppliers, volunteers here and in Moldova. Please do support us further and help us to Deliver the equipment and to MAKE A DIFFERENCE.