Our very own Lauren Alexander worked with Dr. Ellen Heinitz on putting together the shipping of both an ambulance and a 40 foot container of hospital supplies and equipment to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

When Ellen was in Naturopahtic Medical School in Portland when she met someone from the Congo named Esu who had received his medical license. He impressed her so much that she and her husband went to visit him in Congo.

The Democratic Republic of Congo gained independence in 1960. Since then, there has been a lot of corruption and conflict, including abduction of children and rape.

The average income in the Congo is $40-50 per month and the cities are very densely populated. The country is about 2.2 million square miles (about 1/4 of the US) with less paved roads than Lane County.

The clinic they visited is something like a hut with some good donated equipment, but mostly pieced together furniture. Save the Children has designated that the Congo is the worst place in the world to be a mother in the year they went (2013). Maternal mortality is as high as 11% (1 in 30). There has not been a lot of movement to help despite the attention to this problem.

When Ellen returned home, her friend (Esu) said he’d had a dream that an ambulance was for sale. In 2013, the ABC-TV program “Secret Millionaire”, (which filmed in Oakridge, OR) had a couple from Texas who bought a new ambulance for the city. Ellen found the Oakridge posting about the used ambulance and she was so excited. She called and told them the story and wrote a letter with a bid. As a result, the City Council of Oakridge offered the old ambulance to Ellen for donation.

The ambulance is a symbol of health and mercy in the Congo. The day after the Register Guard article, the Associated Press had picked up the story, and soon doctors from all over the country called to donate equipment. All of the fire departments in our region also donated.

Then Ellen met Lauren and he helped to organize the shipment. The supplies were stored at Forest Paint. Some of the donations had to be left out, but he ambulance made it to its destination after almost being stolen on the way.

In late 2014, they traveled there again. That story can be read here.