Tag Archives: global community

An Expression of Santa Barbara’s Global Philanthropic Reach

In 1948, an Estonian immigrant named William Zimdin – who had experienced the ravages of World War II – founded what would become the largest charitable distributor of medical supplies in the world: Direct Relief. Importantly, Zimdin did so right here in Santa Barbara.

Direct Relief’s global work begins at home, and has long worked closely with and supported both local and statewide firefighting and public health agencies as well as colleague Santa Barbara nonprofit health organizations, including the Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics and the Santa Barbara Bucket Brigade.

Over the last decade alone, the charity – which is entirely funded by private philanthropy – has provided $7.8 billion in medical aid to more than 100 countries and every single U.S. state. Across the United States, Direct Relief partners with 1,300 safety-net clinics and health centers, which serve more than 30 million people who are unable to pay for care. It is the largest provider of charitable medicines in the world, largest supplier of free PPE during the COVID-19 pandemic, and uniquely accredited among nonprofits to distribute Rx medications in all 50 states.

The organization’s motto is to serve anyone at any time, and its mission is “to improve the health and lives of people affected by poverty or emergencies – without regard to politics, religion, or ability to pay.”

To do so, Direct Relief leverages donations of medicine and medical supplies from 150 of the world’s largest medical and pharmaceutical companies, so that it can in turn give those vital resources to the people who need them most – whether on the tail end of a hurricane, a fire, or during a raging global pandemic.

This highly leveraged business model has allowed Direct Relief to expand the frontiers of its work efficiently, and with all of its fundraising costs covered by a supporting foundation endowed by bequests.

When Hurricane Maria laid waste to Puerto Rico, it took the island’s medical infrastructure with it. In short order, 84% of the territory’s temperature-sensitive medicines were lost, and Direct Relief quickly realized it couldn’t send insulin with the grid – and the refrigerators attached to it – knocked out. So the nonprofit quickly set up battery backups and solar power generation at 89 Puerto Rico clinics to provide refrigeration for medicines. The project was so successful that the nonprofit is launching a similar initiative in California, where an ever-growing fire season and rolling blackouts threaten the medical system’s ability to respond in times of emergency. Direct Relief’s headquarters is powered by the first microgrid approved in the continental U.S. and allows it to fulfill critical roles here locally in during power outages.

But for all this work across the globe and nation, Direct Relief remains rooted to its home: Santa Barbara.

A Global Challenge

It has always been important to recognize that injustice and discrimination occurs in the United States and not only in far off lands. 

Over the past decade, Human Rights Watch – among the world’s leading human rights organizations – has poured its experience, energy, and incredible potency into combating domestic threats to the rights of everyone in the United States.

Whether working to ban child marriage in Florida, helping to ensure that juveniles can’t get sentenced to life without parole, or stopping traumatic family separations at the southern border, Human Rights Watch is there – advocating for good, and making positive change.

Across the globe, Human Rights Watch’s roughly 450 researchers, lawyers, journalists, and advocates relentlessly defend human rights. They do this by rigorously investigating abuses, exposing their findings through unparalleled media attention, and then driving change by advocating to governments and organizations – dismantling systems of oppression and uplifting entire populations.

HRW’s impact is immense. The organization won a Nobel Peace Prize for its work with partner organizations to ban landmines, establish the International Criminal Court to bring the world’s worst warlords to justice, and elevate global standards to improve the lives of women, children, and the vulnerable around the world.

At a time when the challenges facing our community and our world can feel overwhelming, we need an organization ready and able to face them head on. We need Human Rights Watch.

“At this inflection point in human history, we have an extraordinary window of opportunity to make bold, transformational change,” says Lis Leader, the Director of Human Rights Watch Santa Barbara.

As a filmmaker who travelled the world producing documentaries for National Geographic, PBS, and the BBC, Leader witnessed “some unbearably heartbreaking visions of human suffering.” So when local writer, philanthropist, and activist Vicki Riskin suggested she lead HRW’s recently established committee in 2014, Leader didn’t hesitate.

For Leader, the connection between an HRW researcher working to end child marriage in Yemen, and the needs of Santa Barbara’s most vulnerable are all the same.

“Although we are a global organization, we make positive change on a community level,” Leader says. HRW Santa Barbara regularly hosts civic dialogues with key figures from its deep bench of programmatic staff who bring global and domestic issues home to the Central Coast.

The organization is now engaged in a “global challenge” meant to create “the future we want,” HRW proclaims. Leader and the Santa Barbara Committee invite you to stand with HRW as it faces some of the most dire threats to humanity here and abroad.