From Nairobi, Port au Prince, and Santiago to Chicago

Students in 826 Chicago's famous creative writing program are now writing Watsi patient profiles in their workshops!

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Joining the 100+ remote writing volunteers who help us tell patient stories to the world, 826CHI’s students spent the weekend taking patient profiles submitted by Watsi partners in places like Kenya, Haiti, and Guatemala, and creating descriptions of them that will go on our website.

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Their first patient profile is already live, check it out!

Cecelia’s our hero

Cecelia spent her 40th birthday fighting cancer.

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Then, in 2007, she was diagnosed again.

But Cecelia didn’t give up.

"I have the wonderful first world benefit of insurance, a good job led by supportive people, a husband who makes enough to give me the room to take care of myself," Cecelia told us. "In short, I’m rich beyond measure compared to almost everyone else in the world. I have so much to be grateful for."

Cecelia became a two-time cancer survivor. But she was at a loss for how to help other people overcome similar challenges.

"Every day I get piles and piles and piles of mail from nonprofits looking for money. I don’t blame them. I know times are tough. I’ve worked for nonprofits before and I know how things work. But it hasn’t stopped my becoming inured to the pleas. It’s like walking down a street with hundreds of hands in my way and I’ve started to feel resentful. Because of my experience, I know that the mailers I’m getting cost money, and that some of these organizations are only passing a small percentage of the donations they receive to the actual people they’re purporting to help. That’s just not right."

Then, Cecelia heard about Watsi.

"And along comes Watsi, allowing me to donate directly to someone in need. And there she is. A 60-year-old woman facing cancer and the debilitating treatments on her own, without all my resources. And all my money goes to her treatment. Allelujah!”

Our entire team is inspired by Cecelia’s story. Help her spread the health by supporting a patient on Watsi.

A Thousand Tiny Drops

This is a guest post from Vince DeGennaro of Project Medishare, our partner in Haiti. It was originally published in Notre Dame Magazine and on his blog.

A phone conversation with a friend of a friend in Philadelphia changed the way that we can help people in Haiti, but it all started when a young American man on a bus in Costa Rica changed healthcare all over the world. 

I watched Daniel, a skinny 15-year-old, get sicker with each passing week, unsure how to help him. Every time that he visited the hospital, the tumor on his neck had grown. His mother had come from six hours away in the north of the country to seek care from Project Medishare’s hospital in Port-au-Prince. I noticed him waiting in line for the plastic surgery clinic and pulled him aside, sure that his problem could not simply be corrected by a scalpel. A biopsy showed a rare type of throat cancer; bad luck had made him sick and poverty prevented his doting mother from obtaining care for him sooner.

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Since it had not yet spread to his lungs or liver, Daniel’s cancer was still curable. The cure required radiation therapy that is only available in the Dominican Republic and costs $1500 per patient. The youngest of seven children, Daniel’s family could barely afford to send him to school let alone pay for the radiation that would save his life.

I searched around to find partners to help pay for his treatment. Partners in Health offered to pay for his radiation treatment, but this was only part of the treatment cost. Passports, Dominican visas, bus tickets, and food for six weeks added up to another $1500. I reached into my pocket to pay for the remainder, determined to not let him down. Then I stood in line with Daniel and his mother outside the Dominican embassy in Port-au-Prince, jumping up and down, shaking my stethoscope until we were permitted entrance (see the blog “Oz”). 

Finally, Daniel was off to radiation and, with some luck, a life-saving cure. I could probably find the money for one child like Daniel every few months, but what about the scores of other young patients with curable cancers? How would we handle the deluge of cases?

Another woman in her early 50s came to our program and asked for help financing radiation treatment for her advanced cervical cancer. In the U.S., her stage of cervical cancer has more than an 80% survival rate, but in Haiti, for those who can’t afford it, the survival rate drops to zero. Marie represented another statistic in the battle against preventable and treatable cancers in developing countries. She had children who cared for her and her small business selling clothing on the street was placed on hold as she grew more fatigued with the constant blood loss from the cervical cancer.

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Soon after, another young woman with advanced cervical cancer asked for our help, and the writing was on the wall — find a way to help Marie and patients like her or watch them all die.

Between her family contribution and the Haitian Support Group Against Cancer, Marie had two-thirds of the money for the radiation therapy. She only needed $500 more to travel to the Dominican Republic. I could easily reach into my own pocket for Marie as well, but where does the individual charity stop? In East Africa, there exists a saying that if you help nine poor people then you will become the tenth. The axiom isn’t anti-charity, it merely points out the magnitude of poverty around the world.

I looked through the program’s finances. Our resources would quickly become depleted if we were to enter into the business of cervical cancer but cervical cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in women in Haiti and no effective program exists to screen for and treat early stages of the disease. Not only would we run out of money quickly, but the goal of providing women with breast cancer access to first-rate treatment would be seriously diluted. We simply couldn’t do it.

“We’ll see what we can do,” I said to Marie, my words ringing hollow in my own head. Not quite a lie because I spent a large portion of the day scouring the internet for sources of funding — searching for foundational and research grants and fundraising via Twitter and the blog. I’ve learned to never say “No” because the landscape is constantly shifting and opportunities arise out of the remotest of circumstances, the smallest of gestures. Nonetheless, I turned Marie away for the time being and left her to continue her search.

“Have you heard of Watsi?” a friend of my cousin asked me over the phone. I called him to talk about Haiti as a courtesy to my cousin, but I had no idea how much he would change the course of our work in Haiti. “An article in the New York Times explained how they’re using crowd-sourcing like Kickstarter or Indiegogo as a force for fundraising for healthcare in developing countries. You should check them out.”

Innovative funding mechanisms like Watsi have allowed a small scale program like ours at Project Medishare to treat individual patients with funds from anonymous donors around the world. Potential donors can read about a patient’s story and see their photograph and have the ability to connect with them on a human level. Rather than donate money to a large non-profit with heavy overhead expenses, individuals can connect with patients, real human beings in need, on four continents.

More than just donating to a cause, people can connect with the patient that they identify with most: a pregnant woman in need of a safe delivery, a baby with a cleft lip in need of corrective surgery or a young mother with a small business and cervical cancer in Haiti. Since Project Medishare’s mission is to fill the gaps in the healthcare needs of the people that we serve in Haiti, partnering with Watsi made perfect sense.

We initially gathered funding to treat cancer patients like Daniel, but soon expanded to our other groups of core patients: children with hydrocephalus, clef lips/palate or other birth defects. Donors give an average of $30 each, but the small amounts add up to fund definitive treatments for those in need.

With the patient’s explicit permission, we posted Daniel and Marie’s cases, appealing for help from the internet. Daniel’s $1500 funded in two days and Marie’s in less than a week. We had found a way to expand the reach of the program, to never have to say no.

Watsi started when Chase Adam, a Peace Corps volunteer, conjured up the idea while on a bus in Costa Rica. From there Watsi blossomed and keeps growing in size, adding new partners like Project Medishare in the meantime. We’re grateful to Watsi for bringing us along for the ride and eternally grateful to the kind souls who help us to treat patients $30 at a time. Marie completed her treatment and Daniel is just finishing up now and you can follow their progress on Watsi. The patients will never meet the donors who helped them but the donors already know them.

Last year, Watsi grew by 1,007%

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16 partners, 1,135 patients, and 5,022 donors made it happen.

5,022 people gave. 

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People like Maggie, a 5-year-old girl in North Carolina who used her birthday to help fund medical care for Pemphero, a 2-year-old girl in Malawi.

16 partners fought for their patients. 

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Partners like Nyaya Health, whose employee Huidal traveled for 1,400 cumulative hours to accompany Watsi patients to their treatments.

1,135 patients beat the odds. 

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Patients like Amon, who braved two dangerous brain surgeries for the chance to live past his 18th birthday.

The numbers are big. 

But it’s the stories behind the numbers that matter. Help write the next chapter by supporting a patient on Watsi today.

Meet Dan!

Dan heads up Medical Operations at Watsi. Before joining Watsi, Dan worked at Palantir Technologies tackling problems around the world in Health Claims Fraud, Biosecurity, Global Health, and Disaster Response. He holds a degree in Molecular Genetics from The Ohio State University and is a 4th year medical student on leave from Dartmouth Medical School.

Learn more about Dan here.

Announcing a $1.5M donation from Humble Bundle!

We’re excited to announce that Humble Bundle, a startup that lets anyone pay what they want for video games and support charity online, has made a $1.5M donation to fund medical care for Watsi patients.

This donation from Humble Bundle and its army of charitable gamers puts our total raised for patients at $2.2 million.

We’re growing fast, and we’re thrilled to share that Daniel Tse, a Palantir health engineer and one of the most brilliant people we’ve ever met, is joining our team to scale our medical program around the world.

It’s awesome to see Silicon Valley’s most talented people and companies chase meaning as well as money. They’re proving that making a lasting impact with your work is not only good for business, but good for the world.

You asked, we delivered.

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We’re excited to announce that you can now donate in someone else’s name on Watsi! Our team has been dedicating donations nonstop since we launched the feature, and we figured it was time to let you in on the fun :)

When you dedicate a Watsi donation, the recipient will receive an email notifying them of your gift, as well as updates on the patient you funded in their honor.

To try it out, just check the “Dedicate” box while donating to a patient.

We teamed up with Goldbely to bring you the best holiday gift of all time!

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Buying holiday gifts is one of those things that tends to get pushed to the bottom of the to-do list. So we decided to make it easy. 

We teamed up with Goldbely to bring you an awesome holiday gift package for your friends, family, and colleagues. For $50/person, we’ll send you a handpicked gift box of top Goldbely desserts, a Watsi donation certificate, and a blank card for you to personalize, all wrapped like you did it yourself. 

It only takes 2 minutes to cross gifts off your to-do list. Order by 12/1/2013 so we can deliver them by 12/16/2013: http://watsibely.com/

What’s up with all the green shirts on Watsi?

If you’ve been on Watsi lately, you’ve probably noticed a bunch of smiley kids in green shirts on our patients page.

These kids traveled such long distances to seek medical care at our partner hospital in Tanzania that they needed somewhere to stay while they waited for treatment and recovered from surgery (going home between scheduling and follow up appointments wasn’t an option). The green shirts were given to them by Plaster House, the organization that’s housing them while they receive care. 

Let’s get these kids funded so they can go home healthy!

We’re hiring an operations expert to shape the future of global health

Watsi is a global crowdfunding platform for healthcare that enables anyone to donate as little as $5 to directly fund low-cost, high-impact medical care for people in need.

We’re looking for an operations expert to join our SF team, lead our medical program, and shape the future of global health by growing our impact around the world.

You are:

  • Organized

  • Tech-savvy 

  • A ‘systems thinker’ with experience deploying people and technology in parallel (often swapping out one for the other) to create coherent processes

  • Knowledgeable about global health, ideally with a background in medicine or public health 
  • Driven by the idea that everyone deserves access to healthcare

You’ll be:

  • Leading our medical program 
  • Building scalable processes to manage our complex ecosystem of patients, medical partners, medical criteria, treatments, pricing, follow-ups, audits, data, and transparency

  • Shaping global policies and laying down impenetrable enforcement mechanisms

  • Deftly handling individual patient cases, troubleshooting logistical issues, and collaborating with other members of the Watsi team to tell patients’ stories to the world

  • Managing existing relationships with 16 medical organizations and constantly scouting new partnership opportunities

  • Keeping impeccable records to ensure transparency and accountability

  • Maintaining smooth day-to-day operations

We offer:

  • A happy and challenging work environment

  • A hungry, dedicated team of developers, designers, thinkers, and operators

  • Opportunities to travel and visit the hospitals we work with

  • Huge potential for professional growth and leadership in a new space

If you’re interested in joining our team to change the future of health, please send your resume to hello@watsi.org.

We look forward to meeting you!

More about us:

Since launching one year ago, we’ve funded life-changing medical care for more than 800 people in 16 countries. We’ve been featured by BBC News, NPR, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and we recently raised $1.2M to scale our organization.

P.S. — Please don’t call about the position. We promise we’ll reply to all emails :)