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Balch Communications

Repurposed Medical Supplies Help Hospital in Africa
by David Balch

This story began in the fall of 2008 when Maurits Pesch approached his employer, Davide Nicosia, with a special request. He asked that NiCE LTD—Nicosia’s international design agency—commit to providing $400,000 worth of supplies and equipment to a needy medical center in Senegal, at a cost of five cents on the dollar.

Nicosia didn’t have to think twice. Despite the recession, NiCE LTD’s New York, Tokyo and Singapore offices were enjoying great success, and Pesch’s extensive research for the company’s annual charitable giving had led him to Doc to Dock—a nonprofit that works hand in hand with the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) and Project C.U.R.E. to help meet the needs of medical centers in developing countries. To Nicosia, this was an opportunity to leverage a relatively small amount of money to tremendous benefit.

“As an agency leader, I always look for the most impactful result," Nicosia says. "And Maurits found a way for us to maximize our generosity and bring the true meaning of the holiday season to some people who really needed this gift.”

Nicosia was also attracted by the “green” side of Doc to Dock. An outspoken champion of the environment, NiCE LTD has been a pioneer in the use of eco-friendly packaging for nearly 20 years.

“On one project, we figured out a way to reduce the amount of plastic in a shampoo bottle by 13 percent,” Nicosia says. “This provided huge savings to the client, but even more importantly, it caused a dramatic reduction in waste—something like 500 metric tons per year—just from redesigning the bottle for one shampoo brand.”

So you can imagine how excited Nicosia was when he learned that Doc to Dock was formed in an effort to capture the 7,000 tons of unused medical supplies and reusable equipment that are thrown into American landfills each day and redirect them to health care facilities in less fortunate countries.

And so it was. Nicosia wrote a $20,000 check on behalf of NiCE LTD’s clients—including Procter & Gamble and Kraft Foods, both of which have partnered with CGI on a number of projects—and the ball was rolling.

The process works like this: Doc to Dock collects donated supplies—sutures, gloves, gauze, syringes, tubing, oxygen masks, etc.—from a network of more than 300 participating hospitals. And "gently used" equipment is donated by facilities that have undergone renovation. They also promote collection drives at major medical conventions, encouraging cardiologists to donate stethoscopes, orthopedic surgeons to contribute splints, and so on. These items are then sorted by community volunteers for distribution to carefully selected recipients.

And that’s when the monetary gifts come into play. In this particular case, NiCE LTD’s $20,000 donation covered all of the administrative and delivery costs associated with transporting a fully-loaded, 40-foot shipping container from the Project C.U.R.E. warehouse in Houston to Senegal.

But handing over the check was just the beginning of the story, as far as Pesch was concerned. His was a personal quest, rooted in his first-hand knowledge of the difficulties facing the region. The son of Dutch diplomats, Pesch spent four years living in West Africa as a teenager, and returned numerous times as an adult. These trips undoubtedly served to strengthen his resolve to leave a positive mark on the world’s poorest continent—a place he had once called home.

Pesch kept in close contact with the organizers at Doc to Dock and Project C.U.R.E., and when the container left the U.S. on September 8, 2009, he made travel arrangements to greet the ship upon its arrival in Senegal.

That long-awaited rendezvous came on the fourth of October. And after nine tiring days of dealing with customs officials, the freight-forwarding agent, the ministries of health and finance, transit authorities, the port of Dakar, and all of the associated red-tape, Pesch—often reaching into his own wallet to pay expediting fees for a process that normally takes a month or more—successfully secured the container's release. A short time later, it was delivered to The Health Center of Nabil Choucair in the suburbs of Dakar, where unloading took Pesch and a team of 12 men four hours to accomplish.

Several days after the delivery, Pesch represented NiCE LTD at the “handing over” ceremony—a celebration that received national press coverage. After all, in a country where the unemployment rate is estimated at 48 percent, where one out of every three people get by on less than $1.25 a day, gifts of this magnitude don’t go unnoticed. Government officials were in attendance, as were members of the local community and, of course, the doctors and nurses who operate the health center—a facility that delivers 4,000 to 5,000 babies each year.

Mission accomplished, an exhausted Pesch finally was able to relax, knowing he had successfully completed a project initiated a year earlier—a gift that was, in fact, a lifetime in the making.

Still, the work of Doc to Dock is never done, a point that is not lost on Pesch.

“Who is going to do it next?” he now asks, looking back.

Who, indeed? Maurits Pesch and NiCE LTD left some big shoes to fill.

About NiCE LTD
NiCE LTD is a leading international design agency that has engaged in consumer product development, brand strategy and package design for such global icons as Estée Lauder, Calvin Klein, Tiffany & Co., Victoria’s Secret, Valentino, Alfred Dunhill, Benetton, Puma, L’Oreal, CoverGirl, Clairol, Pantene, Bath & Body Works and Kraft Foods. NiCE LTD operates with a goal of pursuing sustainable, environmentally friendly practices, while employing top designers from over 20 countries.

NiCE Gift

TOP: Davide Nicosia, creative director and principal at NiCE LTD.
CENTER: The container nears the end of its journey in Dakar.
BOTTOM: Maurits Pesch, regional financial officer (Asia) at NiCE LTD, joins in unloading the container at The Health Center of Nabil Choucair.