It was a quick comment from a colleague at national pharmacy meeting in 2006 in that led pharmacist Warren Meek down an unexpected path. A non-profit organization was in need of a pharmacist to help them with their aid work. So, he decided to get some more information.
“I didn’t have a reason to say no,” says Warren.
He had a sound pharmacy business career and was starting to look at winding down.
“I could have retired from something or retired to something,” he says. He decided on the latter.
Warren hasn’t completely retired from practicing pharmacy in Nova Scotia, he is still practicing part-time. His passion is volunteering.
Since 2007, Warren has volunteered his time and experience in Uganda and, more recently, in Tanzania with the Canadian Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) the Canada Africa Community Health Alliance (CACHA).
CACHA seeks to improve health for rural communities through partnerships to facilitate programs and initiatives for disease prevention, treatment, care, support, and education to the most vulnerable. One of the ways they do this is through medical outreach and health promotion.
Warren has been involved in several two-week medical missions where he and other pharmacists prescribe and dispense much needed and free medicine to their patients. In recent years, Warren has been responsible for procurement of pharmacy supplies, developing a patient-satisfaction survey, acted as a facilitator in group sessions with especially the Tanzanian health partners, and more recently was project lead to pilot an Electronic Medical Record system in a resource-poor area of Tanzania that has no or unstable electricity and no Internet.
Warren says visiting some of the small communities in places like Tanzania are like taking a walk back in time. They do not have the resources that we often take for granted here in Nova Scotia. He notes it can be hard for volunteers to readjust to being back in Canada after volunteering in places like Tanzania. The abundance we are surrounded with can be overwhelming after experiencing a country with so little.
Volunteers also struggle with the devastating need they see in these countries. There are often line-ups that stretch so long that the volunteers cannot see the end and they wonder if they are doing any good.
“We see 300 people a day,” says Warren. “We have a need that is so great and we don’t have the resources and time we have at home.” However, Warren says he feels that if he heals just one person, then it has been worth it.
Warren sees the good that organizations like the CACHA are doing in countries like Tanzania and Uganda. This is why he spends his time and money to volunteer a couple of times a year.