After an exciting life traveling around the world, photographing wildlife and making unique films and environmental reports for CNN, Animal Planet, and PBS on amazing animals such as the Asian elephant, Josephine and Jim Jabara decided to settle in Michigan, Jim’s home state.
Once here, Josephine Jabara, originally from The Netherlands and a mother of three, decided she needed to do something as meaningful to her as her previous life, and so in 2007, she began working for World Medical Relief, Inc.
The WMR was established sixty years ago through the efforts of Irene Auberlin, a 57 year old housewife from Detroit, who after watching the news of an abandoned baby in Korea, decided to begin working to help other orphans in Korea and around the world. Mrs. Auberlin began collecting clothing, cribs, and medicinal supplies to send abroad . The need was great and WMR grew, so eventually (with the help of many volunteers and the generous collaboration of 14 local moving companies) the World Medical Relief headquarters were finally established at the eight-story high Cadillac Storage Company Warehouse on Rosa Parks Boulevard in Detroit.
The work to benefit Michigan itself began in 1966, when United Foundations (today United Way) approached Mrs. Auberlin to begin a new program for seniors right here, in her home town. Mrs. Auberlin began the WMR Prescription Program for Seniors, an assistance program for low-income senior citizens with either no health insurance or who were ineligible for Medicaid. Through Mrs. Auberlin’s efforts, WMR received a State of Michigan pharmacy license, and was able to open its own pharmacy, hire a pharmacist, and begin dispensing medications to those who needed them the most.
Jokingly calling herself “a world–class beggar”, Mrs. Auberlin began obtaining generous help from large corporations (such as the Ford Motor Company Fund and St. John Providence System, and from the 14,000 physicians that comprise the Michigan State Medical Society.
Mrs. Auberlin died in 1999, but her wonderful work carried on. Today, with Josephine Jabara as Director of Development and Community Affairs, World Medical Relief, Inc continues to be a success. Josephine's efforts and commitment never seem to stop. She not only contacts corporations to request sponsorship, grants, and donations. She also organizes fundraising events (such as their Annual Silent Auction event), and deals with over 2,000 volunteers from every ethnicity, age, and religion, who selflessly devote their time to help others. Karen Joyce is one of the volunteers at WMR. Legally blind, Ms. Joyce takes two buses to get to volunteer at WMR every week. Such is the commitment shown by the those who believe in the work of WMR.
In collaboration with Wayne State University, World Medical Relief now partners with FAWN (Fighting Aids with Nutrition), a non-profit organization that sends liquid nutritional supplements like Boost and Ensure to Africa, to help ease the pain of the thousands of people afflicted by the ravaging disease.
In 2010, Wayne State Pharmacy students conducted a Can Drive to benefit FAWN, and now do part of their practicum at WMR, where they are exposed to the reality of the great need for medical help that exists around the world.
WMR collects and distributes recycled medical and dental equipment, medical supplies, laboratory instruments, and medicines to send to many less and least developed nations globally. It also has a Blanket and Hygiene Kit program to distribute around Michigan, benefiting over 100,000 homeless people.
Those who may apply for medicinal assistance include churches, service groups, medical societies, and medical missionaries. Supplies and equipment are shipped in huge containers, or else they are hand-carried by medical missionaries themselves.
“Entire families come to volunteer here, sometimes up to three generations”, explained Josephine, who together with her own family sets the example. The Jabaras devoted one of their entire weekends in January to replace the wooden boards and rebuild the entrance to the Cadillac Storage Building.
“Help also comes from senior living communities, universities, colleges, and training programs,” said Josephine, “WMR actually enables people to make a difference. It empowers people!”
World Medical Relief operates exclusively for charitable purposes. Its Mission Statement is “to help the medically-underserved both at home and abroad by collecting and distributing medicines, medical equipment, medical supplies, and related materials”.
The wonderful work of Irene Auberlin survived her death in 1999. Thousands of volunteers who devote their time and energy, generous partners and sponsors, and the philanthropic efforts of Director Josephine Jabara -- a wonderful example of immigration in Michigan -- continue to make World Medical Relief, Inc. one of the best private, non-profit organizations in the world.