Travel, Recycle, Save Lives

Do you love adventure travel? I mean real travel, the kind that gets you muddy and off the beaten path in the developing world. Well, then you should consider Not Just Tourists. This organization collects medical supplies from UHN and other partners, packs them into suitcases, and sends them with travelers (such as yourself) to remote clinics in need. The organization is 100% volunteer based and has been operating for the past 33 years. The Toronto chapter has sent about 2,000 suitcases to 75 different countries and has helped connect over 750,000 lbs of medical supplies and equipment to the developing world via aid containers. 

Avi D’Souza, the Program Director and Founder of Not Just Tourists Toronto (NJTT) just came back from a trip to a small island off the coast of Madagascar where he delivered medical supplies.

Suitcase filled with good medical supplies that would have been wasted in North America

“Greetings UHN Friends! I just came back 2 weeks ago from the most amazing trip to Mauritius and Nosy Be, Madagascar. Knowing that Mauritius was quite developed, I opted to take an NJT suitcase to Madagascar. Nosy Be is considered the tourist hub and island jewl of Madagascar. It is also known for spectacular diving with some of the most untouched reef in the world and plenty of whale sharks and humpbacks around. Travelling from the airport, there were significant levels of poverty, and the infrastructure could definitely use support. I was carrying a suitcase loaded witch bandages, gauze, tapes, gloves, IV kits, urinary kits, 3 stethoscopes and 1 Otoscope.  

suitcase to medical clinic in Madagascar

By speaking to locals, I was able to find a small children’s clinic, which desperately needed the supplies (Note – for NJT volunteers, you will have a prearranged donation site, you don’t have to source this yourself). Upon arriving, I could see a line of mothers and their children waiting to enter the small facility. The supplies were gratefully received by the doctor and I was told about the supply shortages which leave them unable to treat patients at times. They were especially happy with the brand new children’s stethoscope which we delivered.  The delivery was the best thing I did on my vacation!


The bigger idea behind NJT is for travellers to step outside their comfort zones and connect with locals, forming deeper relationships. The project is about LOVE! NJT is also as much about the environment as we are about humanitarian work. Many of the supplies, which are sealed and in perfect condition, would otherwise have been thrown out. 

Medical supplies have a wonderful new home

UHN has been a great supporter of our work and we are very grateful to have you as partners!


Avi D’Souza

Program Director, Not Just Tourists Toronto”

If you are travelling anywhere in the developing world, sign up to take a suitcase via their website If you are free on a Wednesday evening, feel free to drop by 240 Roncesvales Ave to help them sort and pack medical supplies



One nurse’s story on saving supplies and lives

As you know from last weeks’ post, See It Shine … around the world, one of our favorite kinds of reuse is getting surplus medical supplies to global communities in need. Not only does it help humanitarian efforts, it also helps the environment, diverting materials from landfill (and the landfill fees that are better spent on patient care). That’s a win-win-win in anyone’s book.

UHN News has just profiled Ruth Turner, a nurse at Princess Margaret who volunteers her time to do just that.

Ruth Turner

Ruth Turner holds a bag of medical supplies to donate to Not Just Tourists. As she spreads the word to other colleagues at the cancer centre, bags like these are often left outside her door from groups that have begun collecting. (Photo: Not Just Tourists)

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See It Shine … around the world

Spring and fall … perfect times to take stock and tidy up. As we trade t-shirts and flipflops for scarves and sweaters, some bits might not seem up for the trip. Is it time to find them a new home? (one that could really use them?)

image credit

image credit:

image credits: and centenial

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Sunglasses, Swim suit, IV Bags … Check!

Ana Golubovici & Ruthie Anderson both work at UHN and volunteer their spare time with Not Just Tourists Toronto. Good going!

Ana & Ruthie both work at UHN and volunteer their spare time with Not Just Tourists Toronto. Good going!

Hello fellow Talkin’ Trash readers! I would like to introduce you to Ana Golubovici and Ruthie Anderson, both nurses at TGH. They recently returned from their trip to Honduras, where they spent their vacation volunteering with a small clinic in Roatan Honduras. They are also two of the many medical staff at UHN that volunteers to brings suitcases of medical supplies along with them on their vacation! “Medical supplies in a suitcase?” you say. Let me explain…

Firstly, did you know that Operation Green, a group run by medical students, has collected a surplus of medical supplies that filled over 180 suitcases? And did you also know you can make a difference too without interfering with your plans to soak up the sun? As they have been mentioned in a previous Talkin’ Trash Article, Operation Green and an NGO called Not Just Tourists have collaborated to have these suitcases of medical supplies sent to countries in need through the means of tourists. They are always seeking more volunteers to help take one of these bad-boys along to their destinations! If you are interested, you can register to take one suitcase with you and you will be connected with staff at a local clinic near your resort. It’s a piece of cake!


Blood collection tubes and needles are just a few examples of the medical supplies Operation Green collects to send to Countries in need!

If you’re not going on a vacation any time soon – don’t fret! There are other ways you can help OG and NJT. Operation Green is always collecting medical supplies to send off with more vacationers. The medical supplies collected are typically surgical overage, which are clean medical supplies that were not used in surgery and would otherwise be thrown away. Also, if your department has an excess of these materials and are able to donate them you can contact!

As a student, I admire that Operation Green is a student-run group. However, very few UHN staff members actually know about OG and their collaboration with NJT to send these medical supplies to countries in need. You can help Operation Green by spreading the word to your fellow peers and colleagues to help them recruit more vacationing volunteers!

Interested in becoming a volunteer yourself? No problem-o! Click here!

If you would like to find out more information about Operation Green and Not Just Tourist’s initiatives check out our previous article too!


Here’s Ana in Roatan Honduras with one of her patients!

What do you love? The best Trash we were Talkin’ in 2015

Ah, end-of year lists. Love ’em or hate ’em, it’s fun to see the cream of the annual crop rise up. Thanks to the power of analytic tools, we know what you’ve been reading (or not), so this list is entirely on you. Here we go, looking back at our top stories (which you can jump right into with the click of a pic). They’re grouped thematically, not numerically, and it really says a lot about you, our lovely readers. Speaking of cream…

You care a lot about energy conservation (and donuts and contests) …



Ever wonder how many donuts equates to the energy used by leaving your computer on during the weekend? Mmm … donuts. We also chose our #NameMyTLC winner: “Turn it Off Before You Go-Go”

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Checking back into bed (or 150 of them)

Earlier this year, to the delight of our patients, we upgraded many of our beds (perhaps “delight” is a strong word for someone recuperating in hospital, but you get the gist). That meant around 150 still-good hospital beds from Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and Toronto General Hospital needed a new home.

State-of-the-art new beds waiting to be delivered to the unit. -Image Credit Tracy Noftall.

Lovely, state-of-the-art new beds awaiting delivery to the unit. -Image credit Tracey Noftall.

As you know, re-use is even better than recycling, and infinitely better than piling on Ye Olde Landfille. We can bring it up a notch or 3 by ensuring a community in need gets it. A quick peek around the world shows lots of those (sadly), especially in places like Liberia, Africa. Though Liberia’s doing much better with Ebola now, back in May 2015  there were as many as 10,666 known and suspected cases according to WHO.

Liberia constantly deals with Malaria, TB, HIV, 85% poverty and the aftermath of civil wars. Many of their hospitals did not have enough beds or the beds they had didn’t have railings … key to keeping very sick patients from accidentally rolling out of them while trying to get well (adding insult to injury and vice versa).

So the idea was lovely and teeming with rainbow-breathing unicorns, but needed solid logistics to make it happen: when the new beds arrived, the existing beds had to be moved out of UHN, stored, shipped, and transported to their final destination. Don’t forget the patients that had to be transferred from 1 bed to another. Talk about muscle, motivation, moxie and means.

Stacks of beds in the warehouse

Stacks of beds in the warehouse

A lot of coordination took place, including Korle-Bu Neuroscience Foundation (KBNF), a registered charity in BC that provides medical support for the people of West Africa. KBNF worked with their shipping partners, Compassionate Resource Warehouse (Victoria) & Crossroads Communications (Burlington), to warehouse the beds before departure. All 150 UHN beds got a new lease on life in West Africa.

volunteers in Burlington loaded beds into first shipping container

Heavy lifting with love: volunteers in Burlington loaded beds into first shipping container

Marj Ratel, KBNF President, gave us an update in April:

“I received an enthusiastic call from Drs. Francis Kateh and Ben Kolee. They were in the process of unloading KBNF container #3 and couldn’t be more pleased. These fellas have been fighting a war, without relief, and our containers are arriving and literally bringing them “love in a can”! … the impact is transformative.”

Dr. Ben Kolee, Chief Medical Officer at Jackson F. Doe Hospital in Tappita, Liberia, noted:

“Even the clothes that came in as “load stabilizers” were given to discharged patients whose clothes got burnt because they were thought to be infectious at admission … To date we are the only Hospital in Liberia that never shut down while at the same time maintaining zero infection among all level of workers at the Hospital. We will forever remain grateful.”

The final destination ... this is what its all about. Image credit Korle-Bu newsletter

The final destination … this is what its all about. Image credit Korle-Bu newsletter

It’s times like these that the big, bad world shrinks down to one very close and caring village. How’s that for a good bed-time story?

Even more ideas on what you can do…

Work at UHN and have extra medical supplies you can’t use?

Heading on a trip somewhere interesting and want to bring a suitcase of medical supplies? Or have a spare suitcase that can contain those supplies?

Nothing says “Happy Valentine’s Day” like a new bed (or 150)

With the most romantic holiday of the year right around the corner, we at Talkin’ Trash have beds on the brain. Granted, the beds in question do not have a sleep number, pillowtop or memory foam, but they are really, really good when you’re not feeling so well.

You see, we’re getting new beds for our patients. They spend a whole lot of time in them so it’s nice to have an upgrade. That means around 150 still-good hospital beds from Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and Toronto General Hospital need to find a new home.

Hospital beds with heart :)

Hospital beds with heart :). Bed image credit: ugraphicdotcom

As we’ve mentioned in Dynamic Duo: Operation Green and Not Just Tourists, it’s way better to Continue reading