The best kept secret in Detroit is probably the World Medical Relief (WMR) headquarters on Rosa Parks Boulevard, and last night the agency celebrated sixty years of existence distributing humanitarian aid worldwide -- from Detroit to Syria, and from Mexico to numerous countries in Africa.
With a committed Board of Directors, and the collaboration of hundreds of staff members, shipping companies, donors, sponsors, and volunteers (that the WMR Board calls its “Angels of Mercy”), this agency has been able to meet the medical needs of people around the world in the face of natural disasters and war.
Volunteers for WMR come from all sorts of companies and organizations, not only in Detroit, but around the world, including the Kiwanis Club, Beaumont Hospital, and Lawrence Technological University. Delivery of humanitarian assistance to other countries is coordinated locally by WMR’s Ambassadors of Health in places like Iraq, Kenya, Myanmar, Vietnam, and Rwanda.
“As Josephine Jabara, WMR Director of Corporate Communication, often says ‘ Miracles happen every day, and the WMR makes those miracles happen”, stated Sherry Margolis, Mistress of Ceremony at last night’s Gala, and Emmy-award winning anchor for FOX 2 News.
Last night, the Gala Dinner to celebrate the Diamond Anniversary of World Medical Relief, was held at Laurel Manor in Livonia, with almost 400 guests from over 15 other nations like the Netherlands, UK, Mexico, Philippines, Liberia, Macedonia, India, and many others.
The WMR Gala included a silent auction with donations from several companies in Michigan, including The Whitney, Michigan State University, The Michigan Science Center, The Henry Ford Museum, and others. Articles auctioned went from gift baskets to Pewabic Pottery and an expensive diamond necklace.
On this anniversary, World Medical Relief received congratulatory letters from Governor Rick Snyder, Mayor Dave Bing, Rep. John Dingell, Rep. Gary Peters, and Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow.
WMR serves low income, uninsured individuals aged 18 and older It receives no government support, and relies exclusively on donations, sponsorships, and the work of volunteers to provide medical resources internationally to those who need it the most. To assist the people in Detroit, WMR has a licensed pharmacy that has so far dispensed over 1.3 million prescriptions. Examples of the agency’s work in the rest of the world include its sponsorship to create Kumi University in Uganda in 1996, by providing 135 acres of former “killing fields”. Kumi University now has its own College of Medicine.
The keynote speaker at last night’s gala was Dr. Kim Eagle, Director of the Frankel Cardiovascular Center at University of Michigan. Since 2010, Dr. Eagle has been a Board Member of World Medical Relief. He is also the founder of U of M's "Project Healthy Schools” aimed to fight childhood obesity.
Dr. Eagle praised the endless work of all those involved in WMR, and explained how back in the 1950s, the efforts of just one housewife, Mrs. Irene Auberlin, gave birth to this amazing organization.
During the Korean War, Mrs. Auberlin gathered and sent 400 pounds of materials to an orphanage in Inchon, Korea. Today, WMR serves the needs of the sick and the poor in over 100 countries, regardless of race, gender, religion or political affiliation.
Dr. Eagle also described the role of WMR in Poland in the 1980s, when the agency joined the Solidarity Movement. By fostering the “Solidarity Express Train”, WMR managed to send to Poland 39 containers full of medical supplies.
“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane”, said Dr. Eagle, quoting Dr. Martin Luther King during his speech.
As of today, explained Dr. Eagle, WMR has delivered almost $22 million in medical supplies worldwide.
The World Medical Relief Gala is an annual event, but this year was special. To celebrate its Diamond Anniversary, the agency raffled last night a fully-equipped ambulance, that included delivery anywhere in the world. The winner of the ambulance was an organization from an area in the Philippines that was recently devastated by mother nature this month, first hit by a powerful 7.2 earthquake, and two days later hit by a typhoon.