On the last day of my volunteer trip to Guatemala in fall 2008, shock overwhelmed me
as I watched another man’s life end while his family paced back and forth near me. The
physicians, having exhausted their alternatives, were unable to treat the gunshot wound to his
chest because they lacked medical supplies. The pain endured by the victim and his family
haunted me, and I felt an obligation to help.” – Ryan Kania
Like many great causes, Advocates for World Health was born out of misfortune. Ryan Kania, while volunteering abroad, witnessed firsthand the hardship resulting from the lack of medical supplies. Upon returning to the US, he started investigating and discovered that copious amounts of medical product is left to expire and ends up in landfills. Struck by this disparity, Ryan created AWH as a non-profit to achieve two important goals. The first was to establish an organization that would redistribute surplus medical supplies to under-served hospitals, and the second to reduce the amount of medical supplies entering the waste stream.
Ryan started out humbly, using his dorm room to store donated supplies. He discovered core concepts in how to engage college students and how to build a distribution business model. Two years after inception, Ryan met Josh Miller. They moved from a dorm room, to a townhouse, then to various storage units. In 2012, they moved into a 2,500 square foot warehouse, and in 2013 they were able to upgrade to a 7,500 square foot warehouse. Supplies were predominately sent to Central America, but over time AWH began sending supplies to the Caribbean, Africa, and the Middle East. The organization is expanding quickly to bridge the gap between excess medical supplies and those who desperately need them, but there is still much to be done.
What began as an idea and a dorm room full of medical supplies has quickly evolved into
a complex network of hospitals, non-profit organizations, volunteers, and 15,000 square feet of commercial warehouse space. By 2015, AWH projects to recover and distribute more than 1.1 million lbs. of life-saving materials to domestic and international hospitals. So long as medical supplies are left unused and lives are lost to inadequate medical care, Advocates for World Health will always follow their mission: to recover, redistribute, and save lives.