Last Call with Hannah Akre and Ethan Klausmeyer, Gloves Go Global
By Sarah Connell
Posted Dec 13, 2018 at 5:00 AM
Hannah Akre of St. Louis, Missouri and Ethan Klausmeyer of Holden met last year as graduate students at the University of Vermont. In 2019, they will embark on a journey to South and Central America on behalf of Gloves Go Global, a nonprofit organization promoting preventative health care measures in developing countries.
Can you tell us a bit about the work you are doing?
HA: Gloves Go Global is a nonprofit organization focused on preventative health care. We aim to provide medical supplies and modern technologies, along with health education, to communities and under stocked clinics, empowering them to focus on prevention rather than treatment of diseases and illnesses. We started with the distribution of examination gloves to protect the health care worker and the patients they serve. Now we have expanded to incorporate water purification technologies in partnership with an MSR [Mountain Safety Research] Impact Project. What began as a simple idea has now grown into something much bigger.
How did your idea for Gloves Go Global come about?
HA: A few years back, I traveled to Kenya with a medical group. While there, I was struck again and again by their lack of access to basic resources. Specifically, I remember witnessing nurses washing medical gloves with soap and water, hanging them out to dry to be reused. This baffled me, because in the U.S., for medical professionals, every different patient interaction warrants a new set of exam gloves. The World Health Organization states that hand-to-hand contact is the number one method of transmission of disease. With that knowledge, and relentless energy I founded Gloves Go Global.
Ethan, can you tell us about your role and your involvement as a medical journalist?
EK: Absolutely. I grew up with a strong interest in science and writing, along with an enthusiasm for global travel. Over the years I have attempted to unite my interests. This past summer I served as a medical volunteer in Panama with the organization Floating Doctors. We worked to set up mobile clinics for remote indigenous communities that otherwise have extremely limited access to healthcare. Throughout my experience I found a lot of the communities we visited had serious issues with contaminated drinking water. Physicians were doling out antiparasitic medications. As an observer, I felt like it was putting a band-aid on a more critical issue. To make matters worse, community markets sold bottled water for a dollar, while soda was just 50 cents. Lack of proper health education, contaminated water, and limited economic resources has created a crisis, evidenced by a large percentage of patients presenting with severe diabetes, dehydration, parasitic infections and cavities. When I arrived home in the U.S., I made a pitch to Hannah that we should really expand her nonprofit to include other modes of preventative healthcare, beginning with water purification.
In your opinion, what would be a broader solution for preventing waterborne illness?
EK: We started searching for a product that was economically feasible, portable, easy to operate and sustainable. Through our search we discovered the MSR Global Health Initiative. We grew up knowing MSR as a leader in technical engineering and outdoor adventure gear; however, in 2015, they invested in global health initiatives, specifically in safe water, sanitation and hygiene. We reached out and spoke with their business development manager, and this past September we publicly announced our official partnership. We’ll be taking their technology to Central and South America. It’s called the SE200 Chlorine Maker. All it requires is salt, water and an electric current sourced from a power outlet or car/motorcycle battery. The electricity splits the salt molecule creating a chlorine concentrate that can be put into a large vessel of water to kill disease-causing microbes. We’re going to be teaching communities how to use it and documenting our efforts to raise awareness.
So where specifically will this MSR endeavor take you?
HA: We will be implementing the SE200 in La Tronquera, Nicaragua and Georgetown, Guyana in communities only accessible by small plane. Just outside of Georgetown we will additionally be serving a camp of Venezuelan refugees fleeing crisis in their own country. Another NGO, called Adventist World Aviation, will support us on the ground and in the air to get to these people.
I read that you have an anonymous donor matching gifts of up to $5,000 made to Gloves Go Global.
HA: Yes! That’s huge for us and really powerful for folks donating to know their dollar is going twice as far.
EK: We’re kind of like a small business in that when you choose to contribute to us it makes a huge difference. We work really hard to cut costs and make your donations have a considerable impact. For our upcoming project we’re really going to work hard to showcase to our contributors exactly where their dollar went. For that reason, we’re actively seeking out technologies like a drone to film a video series. We encourage everyone to checkout our active blog. We really want you all to feel as though you are coming along on this journey with us.
HA: We encourage readers to consider making a donation in the name of a loved one or as a gift for a friend this holiday season. You will be able to print out a donation certificate and place it in a cute card, great for those of us stuck on giving tangible gifts.
EK: UNICEF estimates that safer water could prevent 1.4 million deaths from diarrhea, 500,000 deaths from malaria, and 860,000 child deaths from malnutrition each year. Your gift is not only a gift of life, but to the person opening that card it’s inspiration and encouragement that each of us can play a part in stewardship for humanity.