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Not Just Tourists

St.Catharines couple helps tourists deliver much-needed medical supplies to Third World countries
By Scott Leslie
Not Just Tourists
Carol Reynolds and Denise Taylor with students at a school in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic.

When you’re planning a big vacation, you might pack some of the bare essentials like a bathing suit and suntan lotion. It’s an entirely different story, however, when you’re volunteering for Not Just Tourists.

 


Not Just Tourists is a non-profit organization that enlists Canadian tourists to distribute surplus medicine and medical supplies in their luggage to medical practitioners in need in developing nations.

It’s all the brainchild of Ken and Denise Taylor, a married couple from St. Catharines. Back in 1995, Ken and his wife Denise were planning to take a cycling trip through Cuba when they learned that medications were extremely scarce in that country. Many Cubans were dying from minor injuries and illnesses―and they didn’t have to.
A family physician by trade, Ken decided to pack a few pounds of antibiotics in his suitcase and distributed them to the rural doctors there. After their first delivery, the Taylors learned Canadian tourists were able to bring approximately 22 pounds of medical supplies into Cuba per trip for humanitarian purposes. So the Taylors and several of their friends returned later that year with even more supplies.

After the success of their initial deliveries, the idea took off. The Taylors began contacting various health care clinics in Niagara for medical surplus. Ken and Denise would eventually convert part of their home into a small warehouse to store these donations which now includes everything from vitamins, gastric medications and inhalers to surgical gloves, syringes and first aid kits.


At Not Just Tourists, the delivery process is a straight-forward one. Each week, volunteers including doctors, pharmacists and nurses help the Taylors sort through the incoming donations of medicine and supplies. They then prepare each package of supplies before it’s delivered by one of their volunteer tourists. To make sure each delivery gets through customs smoothly, a cover letter is included to explain that it’s a humanitarian package. As confirmation, volunteers also have to obtain a signed letter from the doctor receiving the materials―or a photo of their transaction―and return it to the Taylors.

“It’s quite a rewarding feeling,” Denise says of their deliveries. “People are stunned. They cry―they’re just so surprised. They’ll show our delivery people how their storage cupboards are virtually bare. There’s just nothing there.”
Over the years, the Taylors’ little idea has caught on in a big way. Not Just Tourists now distributes over 20,000 pounds of medical supplies annually, and has expanded its service to 70 countries worldwide. The Taylors also receive a flood of surplus medicines and supplies from various hospitals, pharmacies, doctors’ offices, drug representatives and long-term care facilities across the Niagara Region and Hamilton―and have brought a team of 50 volunteers on board to help them receive and sort their donations. In fact, several other branches of Not Just Tourists have been launched across Canada.
To the Taylors, it’s all part of their dedication to getting medical aid to the people who need it most.

“There are shortages all over the world,” she says. “Right now, we’re sending hundreds of pounds of supplies into Syria via Turkey through UOSSM―a world-wide organization of Syrian born medical people. In addition, a number of Not Just Tourists volunteers take medicine and supplies to Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic every year on a humanitarian mission. There’s always a need out there.” HWS

To find out more about Not Just Tourists or make a donation, call 905.646.5110,
email notjusttourists@gmail.com or go to www.njt-pqt.org.

 

Contact Information:
905.646.5110,
notjusttourists@gmail.com
www.njt-pqt.org.

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