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Global Links was founded in 1989 by three women activists. Soon after, the trio made three critical decisions: (1) to focus the organization’s efforts on recovery of surplus from hospitals, breaking from the traditional model that relies on competing for donations from a limited pool of medical manufacturers’ surplus; (2) to seek to establish long term programs in targeted countries within a limited geographic area, rather than organizing scatter-shot donations which have little sustained impact on a hospital’s or a region’s capacity to provide better care over time; and (3) to rely on volunteers to accomplish the bulk of the labor intensive sorting, preparation and packaging of the recovered materials.
These principles remain at the heart of Global Links’ operations. Focusing on our neighbor countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, Global Links has, over more than 20 years, developed a unique and productive partnership with the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), as well as with in-country Ministries of Health and with the medical and administrative leadership of public health systems. This regional focus has allowed the organization to acquire in-depth knowledge about the public health conditions and agenda in each of the countries it serves, as well as valuable cultural competencies. Global Links’ approach to improving health by strengthening regional healthcare systems distinguishes it from most other organizations involved in material medical relief. As the Director of PAHO, Dr. Mirta Roses, recently wrote, “we consider Global Links to be an important partner and ally in our strategic planning efforts in the region.”
Additionally, Global Links’ Suture Donation Program collects surplus sterile sutures from hospitals across the US and sends them to hospitals around the world that serve poor populations. Without suture - the material used for stitches - surgery is impossible. Yet in many developing countries sutures, especially for specialized procedures, are unavailable or prohibitively expensive. Since the program’s inception, over one million sutures have been sent to hospitals in more than 90 countries in Africa, Asia and South and Central Asia, South and Central America, and the South Pacific.
In 1999, one of the three founding members, Kathleen Hower, assumed the Chief Executive Officer position and continues to lead the organization.