PG has been an incredible advisor and supporter to Watsi since inviting us to join Y Combinator earlier this year.
We’re excited to grow Watsi with his continued guidance.
My name is Cat Lockman, and my first trip to Africa was earlier this year in January. I visited Kenya, staying on-site at Lwala Community Alliance’s facility in the very rural North Kamagambo area, in Migori county. It wasn’t the first time in my professional role that I’d visited rural communities or local nonprofit groups, but it was definitely the most memorable for me – both personally and professionally. While there, I piloted the first steps of a new partnership with Watsi, a unique crowd-sourcing funding model.
Piloting this program was one of the first projects in my new role at Lwala Community Alliance, where I serve as the Director of Partnerships and Communication. Keep in mind that most of my career time is spent in Washington D.C., New York and other places that people in the international development field gather to talk program design and impact evaluation. In this field of work, it’s how we know we’re doing a good job.
By contrast, in the village of Lwala, I spent a good deal of my time visiting local women in the community in their modest homes – like Alice’s home, pictured above in this photo behind her. Through those visits, women shared their perspectives on what program impact means to them as I gathered their personal stories to launch the Watsi program.
First, I felt very odd and somewhat uncomfortable dropping in on women during really busy days without an invitation and asking them to talk about their personal stories. This felt a lot more personal than writing a needs assessment section on a proposal!
I walked around the village and outlaying areas with one or two of Lwala’s community health workers. The local community is quite rural, about an hour from a main, paved road — and made up of small farms, dirt roads and paths. We’d approach a family’s home, call out a greeting, and pop right in to family courtyards busy with children and animals, food prep and dishwashing operations. Everyone was occupied with chores, and every single woman whom we approached stopped what she was doing to invite us in for a visit. Am I this welcoming in my own home to neighbors who stop by unannounced?
With Lwala’s community health care workers translating, we explained the Watsi program. We wanted to feature profiles of local women enrolled in our maternal health program who were receiving home outreach visits during their pregnancy, and who planned to deliver their babies at Lwala’s community hospital. These are the core program elements of Lwala Community Alliance’s incredible program that’s helped over 90% of local women deliver babies with a skilled birth attendent — a big change in an area were that’s typically on 30-35%.
Through conversation, women like Alice shared personal stories. She’s 33 and having her 4th baby. Monthly visits from Lwala’s community health care workers have helped her stay strong and positive. Our outreach workers have taught her about good nutrition and encouraged her to prioritize her own health so she it fit to care for herself and her family. They’ve motivated her to take time for the sometimes long walk to and waits for pre-natal appointments. And with visual aids and sometimes even videos (courtesy of donated iPads) – they’ve taught her about the health warning signs that mean she should immediately come to the hospital. Alice has a birth plan for her baby, and talked through the list of items she’s preparing for the birth of her child, and about her approach to saving small bits of money over the course of her pregnancy.
Honestly, I was so touched by Alice and other women’s personal stories, that I felt too small to translate what they were telling me into the mental logic frames for program evaluation that I typically think in. I didn’t know how to rate “feels hopeful about the future” or “thinks dreams are possible”. I had no idea that was part of our maternal health program.
The professional message I have to share is that Lwala Community Alliance is successfully wrapping up the Watsi pilot program, with plans underway to expand it. My personal message is that the gracious women I visited help me see impact in a different way. This quote touched my heart with compassion, and helped me appreciate the un-measurable impact of the maternal health program in Lwala: “They cared about me”.
I won’t be setting aside my logic frames, but my passion for the work became much brighter. And I’m grateful for the gracious women who ignited my passion for the work of the Lwala Community Alliance team by kindly sharing their own stories with me. I feel very honored to help deliver more than babies — we’re delivering hope.
Not a bad place to see ourselves in print for the first time!
We’re excited to announce that we’ve partnered with Burma Children Medical Fund to fund healthcare for people on the Thai-Burma border.
Burma is the site of the world’s longest running civil war. There are hundreds of thousands of refugees and internally displaced people who don’t have access to medical care, but the intense political situation makes it nearly impossible for them to get care in neighboring Thailand.
BCMF is one of the few organizations that’s managed to build a strong relationship with the relevant Thai authorities and is able to facilitate the movement of patients with no legal status in Thailand for medical treatment.
They tell us, “Each year at BCMF we find our caseload increasing. Sadly, BCMF continues to see patients affected by the conflict who cannot access health care in their home state.”
Because of the complicated logistics of getting these patients to a hospital for care, some of their treatments are more expensive than you’re used to seeing on Watsi.
We’re honored to support BCMF’s work (via Burma Border Projects), and hope you’ll join us in helping their patients gain access to critical medical care.
What would you do, if someone came up to you in the middle of your day and told you it was the year 2080?
You might look around you, at things like phone chargers plugged into walls, and think, “Haven’t we thought of a better way of doing this yet?”
It seems obvious that certain things will be obsolete in the future. We tend to see today’s innovations as indicators of tomorrow’s progress. While we don’t always know what’s coming next, we know it will be different than before. And we usually think that’s a good thing.
The world’s most innovative and successful companies know this well. Companies like Apple and Google have risen to dominance because of their ability to provide people with solutions that outpace their problems.
Did any of us think, when Apple introduced the iPhone, that we really needed so much power in our pockets? I certainly didn’t. But today, I can’t live without it.
Paul Graham, one of Silicon Valley’s most prominent investors, says, “Live in the future, then build what’s missing.”
We live in a world where access to Facebook can bring down a government, where a rendition of the Harlem Shake can spread from a college dorm room to a Norwegian army base, and where children in Pakistan can express solidarity with victims of a school shooting in Connecticut.
The future is clearly social. But that doesn’t always translate to the social sector.
Despite the world being more connected than ever before, we continue tackling global challenges by anonymously sending help to amorphous groups of people. We Skype with friends in other countries, but our efforts to create a more equitable world still amount to transactions between strangers.
Connecting people is the future of social change. We’re building Watsi, a nonprofit that enables anyone to directly fund medical care for someone who can’t afford it, because we believe that we can make a big impact on global health, just by connecting people to each other.
Connecting people to expand access to healthcare is just the beginning. The world is well on its way to 2080. We need to think about what we want the future to look like, because it’s up to us to build what’s missing.
Chase talks to The Next Web about what it’s like to be YC’s first non-profit.
Last month, an awesome underground tech/design magazine called Offscreen Magazine pledged 50% of its profits to Watsi.
The results are in, and in less than a month, Offscreen and its customers raised $2000 to fully fund medical care for Abezash, Ngaikiinyi, Ruth, and Ponleu. Everyone will get post-treatment updates on the patients they supported via Offscreen.
It’s amazing to come across a company that’s not only creating an awesome product, but also interested in leverage its network to expand its impact on the world.
More than 2 years since we first imagined a global crowdfunding platform for healthcare, we pitched Watsi to a room full of the biggest investors in the world at Y Combinator’s Demo Day.
Now we’re off to raise the operational funding we need to make Watsi a massive force for change in the world. Wish us luck!
Lavender’s mother, Alice, had the cost of her pre-natal care, hospital delivery, and post-natal checkup covered by 7 donors on Watsi.
Alice told a team member at Lwala, “When you deliver in the hospital, you feel free because you are in the hands of clinic staff. You feel safe.”
Access to maternal healthcare changes lives.