JMU Supply Chain Club to load medical supplies for Africa on Tuesday
Along with Dr. Mark Smith, executive director of local nonprofit, Mihret Medical Supply Group, the team is finishing up a humanitarian project, the Congo Ebola Medical Relief project, that was a year in the making.
In fall 2019, the JMU Supply Chain Club leadership team met with Smith and developed a goal to source, store and ship medical equipment and supplies to African hospitals dealing with the Ebola crisis. They began by filling space donated by Matchbox Realty with exam tables and a surgical microscope donated by Harrisonburg’s Dr. Conrad Zapanta. Five months later they began filling a new, larger space donated by Interchange Group with donations from Sentara RMH Medical Center in Harrisonburg and Carilion Clinic in Roanoke.
As the COVID-19 pandemic began, international borders in some African countries were shut down and warehouse security increased, causing concern about the viability of meeting the project’s goals. During this time, however, Smith identified additional medical equipment needs in Ethiopia and decided to add this destination to the project’s goals.
On August 12, club members Bhumik Shah and Jess Lewis, along with Ritchie and Smith, loaded the first 40-foot container with supplies, and by August 19 it was on its way to the port at Djibouti and ultimately inland to Ethiopia. The second container is slated to leave for the Congo by August 31.
Professor Ritchie is pleased with the real-world experience the student team has acquired in this new venture as well as new content for classroom teaching. “I feel this is the beginning of a long-term effort that will yield significant returns for our JMU students and the broader community,” he said. “It was exciting to see how the community engaged with JMU students.”
The JMU Supply Chain Club has set a goal of regularly shipping out medical equipment containers in future semesters.