HHI Honored with Philly Awards

Heart to Heart International is honored to receive two Philly Awards from Nonprofit Connect for excellence in nonprofit marketing and communications.



The 2015 Philly Awards were presented November 5 in downtown Kansas City, Missouri by the KC-based Nonprofit Connect, an organization that helps link nonprofits and provide resources & networking. The awards exist to celebrate excellence in marketing and communications efforts by nonprofits as they work to achieve their mission.

HHI was awarded two Phillys – winning in the Media Relations Campaign category for our Operation Ebola submission.  That entry also earned HHI an Award of Distinction for highly placing in the judging process.

The winning media campaign focused on HHI’s efforts to inform the world that HHI was joining the fight against the Ebola epidemic as one of just a handful of organizations going to Liberia in the Fall of 2014. The campaign also featured a one-day, multi-city media outreach to showcase our first wave of responders, the medical professionals from across the country that would be joining Operation Ebola.

This campaign around Operation Ebola reached an estimated 400-million worldwide, helping to inform more people about HHI and its mission.  For those interested, we’ve collected some of the media coverage of both the launch of Operation Ebola and of our responders from cities around the country, including some of the international media coverage.

We’re honored to have been considered and to have won, and thankful for the recognition of our work to not just help people, but to increase awareness of Heart to Heart International. The more people that know, the more we can help.



The Compassion Gala: A Great Success!

The Compassion Gala was a fun and impactful evening benefiting Heart to Heart International!  Thanks to all who made it such a wonderful success!  Access the photos, the videos and more below…

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The Compassion Gala presented by Bank of Blue Valley was held on May 9th, 2015 at The Gallery Event Space in downtown Kansas City in the Power & Light District.  Just about 400 people attended the event. We were so happy to have so many people attend that were new to HHI – what a great way to introduce Heart to Heart International’s humanitarian mission to more people.

The Gala began with a VIP Reception and as evening turned to night everyone gathered for a tasty dinner and for the evening’s program emceed by Lara Moritz & Len Jennings of KMBC-TV 9.  Two well-deserved awards were presented as you’ll read about below, and the night was capped off with an exciting Fund the Mission and Live Auction overseen by auctioneer Tanna Guthrie.  Let’s not forget about the exciting Balloon Pop – more balloons next time! – and the wonderful music provided by Angela Hagenbach.

Gala Jim podiumGALA PHOTOS

Photographer Scott Reynolds snapped hundreds of photos at the Gala and of all the evening gowns and bow ties on display, and we’ve collected the best in a couple of albums on our Flickr account.

See the photos from the Gala and photos from the VIP Reception.



Heart_for_Humanity_award  2Heart for Humanity

We presented this year’s Heart for Humanity award to the American Academy of Family Physicians Foundation, a longtime partner with HHI, who continues to do great work with us, especially in Haiti.

Learn more about why we chose the AAFP Foundation and watch a video that showcases our partnership.


Volesky temperaturePower of One Award

This year’s Power of One Award was presented to Major General Gary Volesky for leading the charge in the fight against the Ebola epidemic, and by extension, all military servicemembers who took part in that fight.

Volesky could not attend the Compassion Gala, however the Power of One was accepted on his behalf by another Army officer who worked closely with HHI in Liberia.

See the video that announced the Power of One award and learn more about why Volesky and the U.S. military deserved the honor…



JosephineOne of the more emotional moments of the evening came as everyone watched the story of Josephine, a Liberian woman who survived Ebola, lost her entire family to the virus, and then came to work with HHI in Liberia to help fight the spread of the virus.  See this powerful video…

Josephine’s story debuted at the Gala, and as it happens, that day – May 9th, 2015 – is the day Liberia was declared Ebola-free.



Again, so many thanks must be given to all of our sponsors, the attendees, the entertainers, the awardees and to the Heart to Heart International staff and volunteers who made this first ever Gala such a success.

We can do more to help around the world now, thanks to your involvement with the Gala!

See you next year!



Power of One Award 2015

Heart to Heart International presented the Power of One award May 9, 2015 at the Compassion Gala to U.S. Army Major General Gary Volesky for leading the charge in the fight against Ebola in Liberia.

Major General Gary Volesky is the commander of the 101st Airborne Division and was named the overall military commander of Operation United Assistance – the U.S. government’s response to the Ebola epidemic in Liberia – in the Fall of 2014.  During the next few months, Volesky led U.S. troops into every corner of Liberia to build Ebola Treatment Units, establish field laboratories, and to provide logistical and operational support. The video above introduced Major General Volesky as the winner of the Power of One award at the Compassion Gala.

Volesky was unable to attend the Gala to receive the Power of One award, however he accepted the honor in a video message on behalf of all U.S. military and Department of Defense personnel who were involved in the effort to end the epidemic in West Africa.

U.S. Army First Lieutenant Nate Zimmerly attended the Gala to represent the U.S. military and its role in the Ebola fight, and to physically accept the Power of One award.  Serving as liason between aid groups like HHI and the military, Zimmerly’s primary role in Liberia was overseeing the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program (LOGCAP) and the planning, design, and construction of 12 Ebola Treatment Units, including the ETU that Heart to Heart International operated in Tappita, Liberia.

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1st Lt. Nate Zimmerly addressing attendees of the Compassion Gala in Kansas City, accepting the Power of One award on behalf of Major General Volesky.


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1st Lt. Nate Zimmerly accepting the Power of One award from HHI CEO Jim Mitchum (r) and Dr. George Poehlman.



Josephine: An Ebola Survivor Story

She is Josephine. And her story is one of survival and heartbreaking loss in the time of Ebola.

This video premiered at the Compassion Gala 2015 in Kansas City on May 9, 2015 – a very important date in the fight against the Ebola virus – as this date Liberia was declared Ebola-free.

Sadly, this is not the case any more, as a handful of EVD case have brought Ebola back into Liberia.  Learn more and find out what’s next for Heart to Heart International in Liberia.



Suspect Ebola Case Tests Heart to Heart ETU Staff

The call came over the radio.  A new mother was showing signs of EVD – Ebola Virus Disease – and was now considered a “suspect case”.  She had just given birth 5 days prior in the large hospital next door to the Ebola Treatment Unit (ETU) in Tappita, Liberia that Heart to Heart International (HHI) is operating.  This young mother had a fever, she was weak, lethargic.  And so the voice on the radio said the ambulance crew was on the way to retrieve her and the newborn baby, and deliver them to the ETU.

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In this tropical country, so close to the equator, an illness could be one of many things – dengue fever, yellow fever, lassa fever, malaria, among others.  But in this time of Ebola, no chances are taken.  So the hospital staff alerted the ETU staff.  And the ambulance crew that had been training for several days in a row on procedures and building teamwork, responded.  This was no training drill.  This was real.

Fortunately, the Ebola epidemic in Liberia has dropped significantly through a combination of a public awareness and education campaign by the Liberian government, the response of the US military, USAID, NGOs like HHI, International Medical Corps and others, and by the Liberian people themselves, as they embrace the changes to their culture in order to kick Ebola out of Liberia.  But still… the spectre of Ebola lurks.

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Outside the back entrance to the hospital, the ambulance crew began to don their PPE – Personal Protective Equipment.  These are the ‘space suits’ you see so many healthcare workers wearing – goggles, a body suit, triple gloves, mask.  Hotter than blazes inside it under the broiling African sun.  Because this was the real deal, as they pulled on the protective gear a few members of the crew began to sing a little Bob Marley tune – “don’t worry about a thing, cuz every little thing gonna be alright.”  I sang along as we all could feel the “what if” hanging in the humid air.

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Having one patient is one thing.  Having two, and one is a baby, is something more.  The newborn would have to go with the mother.  It took a little more coordination and thinking through the process, as you don’t move quickly or rashly when in PPE for fear of possible exposure.  But in the end, the training the crew has been doing paid off – the woman was loaded by stretcher onto the ambulance and the swaddled newborn was handed to a PPE-clad nurse to carry to the ETU.

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At the ETU, the donning tent was busy with staff dressing in PPE to take their positions as the mother and child were brought in through the patient gate of the ETU and directly into the Suspect Tent, where patients wait for test results before leaving or going to the Confirmed Tent.  Behind them trailed a sprayer, dousing the ground where they had walked carrying the patient, turning the path dark and wet with chlorine.

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A nurse drew a blood sample from both mother and child which was then hand-carried a couple of hundred yards to the US Army lab set up inside a wing of the hospital and placed inside a box outside the door.  Then, US Army Captain Jerod Brammer wearing his own PPE suit came to collect, spraying the outside of the box with chlorine before bringing the box inside to test the contents.

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The woman and child’s tests came back negative.  No EVD.  No Ebola.  And the woman and baby were taken back to the hospital, a better place for both than the sweltering suspect tent.  But this story doesn’t have a happy ending.  The woman died a day later.  Doctors shared that another medical condition likely caused her death.  The news tempered the joy of the job well done by the ETU staff and the negative test results.

Now our psychosocial team plans to help take the baby to the mother’s village. To family.  But also to a world that was already difficult and hard for babies, even before Ebola came to Liberia.

UPDATE 12Feb15: The worst news.  A few days after the mother died, her baby passed away too.  According to our Chief Medical Officer, the cause of the newborn’s death was not determined.




Heart to Heart’s Ebola Treatment Unit Opens

While members of our Ebola Response Team have been treating Ebola patients and working in facilities across Liberia for many weeks, Heart to Heart’s own Ebola Treatment Unit has been coming together.
The 50-bed unit has been under construction in the town of Tappita.  And now, just about 90 days from when Heart to Heart declared it would go to Liberia to fight Ebola – the ETU is up and running.

The Ebola Treatment Unit is in Tappita, a town about an 8 hour drive from Liberia’s capital of Monrovia, in Nimba County.  The unit was built here as the town serves as a crossroads in this remote corner of Liberia. HHI took on the responsibility of running an ETU there as part of the coordinated international response to combat the spread of Ebola.  This is just one of several ETUs that are already in operation, or will soon be, across Liberia. The goal was to rapidly expand the capacity to combat the virus.  While the epidemic is still raging in West Africa, the efforts of our team and the greater response is having a positive impact in Liberia.

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The ‘suspect’ ward, where patients will await test results to determine whether they have contracted Ebola or another illness.


The construction of this Ebola Treatment Unit was managed by the US Army Corps of Engineers and the 36th Engineering Brigade based in Ft. Hood, Texas. The 50-bed ETU is a large compound, akin to a mobile hospital, with areas for patient triage and large tents for suspect cases and for patient treatment.  It also has ‘back’ areas for staff and for the supplies needed to operate the unit and to treat people with Ebola.  The facility also generates it’s own power thanks to two large diesel generators that allow the ETU to operate 24/7.  

ETU wide


Members of our Ebola Response Team take some downtime in the ETU’s supply area.


Major funding for the ETU in Tappita comes from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Office for Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), as well as from generous donations from individuals who continue to help support HHI’s overall operations in Liberia to combat Ebola.

Our team members remain hard at work.  The Ebola Treatment Unit is open.  Progress is being made in the fight against Ebola.  Please continue to support this critical effort.

Donate Now & Help stop Ebola

suspect ward racks


NC Doctor Gives Radio Interview on Ebola Fight in Liberia

One of our Ebola Response Team members has returned from Liberia working with Heart to Heart International to combat the Ebola epidemic.
Dr. George Poehlman is a retired family physician living in North Carolina.  He spoke recently to WUNC 91.5, the public radio station in Chapel Hill, NC, about his time on the front lines of the Ebola fight.


Dr. George Poehlman (r) with other Ebola Response Team members


HHI had contacted Dr. Poehlman to assist in our work in Liberia due to his medical experience and background working overseas.  As he told reporters with WUNC 91.5 he has “experience living and working in Africa, some experience with tropical medicine, and an understanding (of) the culture and the people is critical in the work against Ebola”.

Listen to Dr. Poehlman’s radio interview:


In the interview, “Dr. P” discusses some key actions that he sees as making a positive impact in slowing down the epidemic in Liberia.   He talks about the reasons he’s in a voluntary quarantine after returning, even though he’s considered low-risk and the seclusion is not necessary under CDC guidelines.  And he adds that it’s a good way to protect himself from the flu outbreak in the US!  It’s a great interview given by one of our outstanding Ebola Response Team members.  Give a listen.



Dr. Poehlman was also interviewed by WRAL-TV and said this about his time with Heart to Heart International: “I was trained to take care of people and look out for people and that’s what I did, and I’m pleased to have been there. I was honored. I was humbled.”


US Senator Visits HHI’s Ebola Treatment Center

U.S. Senator Chris Coons is the first member of Congress to travel to Liberia since the start of the Ebola outbreak.  During his four day trip, he visited with deployed American troops, met with Liberian political leaders and explored Heart to Heart International’s new Ebola Treatment Unit in the town of Tappita.

Senator Coons tours ETU

HHI’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Rene Vega (center, in blue) escorts Senator Coons and Ambassador Deborah Malec, along with Liberian health and government officials, on a tour of the Tappita ETU.


Senator Coons of Delaware currently chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs.  He said his trip to Liberia was partly to remind Americans that the Ebola epidemic is far from over, to make a holiday visit with the troops and to provide some oversight of the funds committed to fighting Ebola.

Coons: “There are more than 2,000 U.S. troops currently serving on the front lines of our fight against Ebola, building hospitals and field clinics, but no Member of Congress has visited them yet. I think it’s important to show them our support, especially during the holiday season while they’re away from their loved ones. Congress also just approved more than $2.5 billion in emergency funding to fight the spread of Ebola in West Africa, and to ensure the virus does not overrun the region again. It’s Congress’ job to perform responsible oversight of that investment.”

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Accompanying the senator on the tour of HHI’s Ebola Treatment Unit was US Ambassador to Liberia Deborah Malac and Major General Gary Volesky, commander of the 101st Airborne and overall commander of US troops in Liberia.  Maj. Gen. Volesky had been to the Tappita site previously, as construction for the ETU was managed by the 36th Engineer Brigade, from Fort Hood, Texas.

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As the Huffington Post reported, Coons said he took plenty of precautions to avoid contracting the disease. “Every place I’ve gone I’m washing my hands with chlorine. Instead of handshakes we’re doing the ‘elboa,'” he said, referring to bumping elbows.  Though the trip was considered a ‘low-risk’ visit the senator will follow protocols established by the Centers for Disease Control, his health will be monitored and his temperature taken every day for three weeks as a precaution.

Coons also told the Washington Post he had seen first-hand how international groups, like Heart to Heart International, along with local Liberian efforts had changed the trajectory of the epidemic in the country.





KC Chiefs’ Tamba Hali nominated for Man of the Year

The Kansas City Chiefs defensive stand-out has been nominated for the Walter Peyton Man of the Year award, in part due to his generous support of Heart to Heart International’s efforts to fight the Ebola epidemic in Hali’s native land of Liberia.

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Photo © Kansas City Chiefs

The prestigious Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award presented by Nationwide is unique among NFL honors because it is the only award that recognizes a current NFL player for outstanding community service activities as well as excellence on the field. – NFL.com

At Heart to Heart International we feel this nomination is so well deserved, because #91 stepped up in a big way.  Not only did Tamba Hali help to get the word out about our plans to open an Ebola Treatment Unit in Liberia, he made a substantial donation to the effort.  Here’s an excerpt from his nomination:

How has your nominee put the needs of members in the community ahead of their own?
With the team in the midst of its bye-week, Hali put off travel to remain in Kansas City this October. Instead of embarking to a tropical paradise, he and Heart to Heart International formally announced the construction of a 70-bed Ebola Treatment Unit. In fact, Hali was so moved by the passion of Heart to Heart International that he pledged $50,000 to the cause.

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Hali, flanked by Dr. Lee Norman of the University of Kansas Hospital and HHI CEO Jim Mitchum (in blue jacket), after the October announcement that HHI would go to Liberia to combat the Ebola epidemic. Photo © Kansas City Chiefs


As reported on KCChiefs.com, the Chiefs organization nominated Hali this year for his prowess on the field, for his support of HHI and for doing so much for people in the Kansas City area.

We are very proud to have Tamba represent the Chiefs Kingdom as this year’s nominee for the NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year Award,” Chiefs Chairman and CEO Clark Hunt said. “As a player, with his teammates and in the communities he serves, Tamba demonstrates tremendous heart. He does not seek personal recognition for his tireless hard work. He prefers action over words. So, we are delighted to see him nominated for one of the most prestigious honors in our game.”

The Man of the Year will be announced January 31st, the day before the Super Bowl.  Of course we’re pulling for Tamba! So deserving!!



Our People of the Year

They’ve come from many backgrounds, all walks of life, from the US, Liberia and other countries – all sharing the same goals of saving lives and halting the spread of the Ebola virus.

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These are our People of the Year, these are our heroes.  These doctors and nurses, logistics specialists, humanitarian aid workers, cooks, security, ambulance drivers and chlorine sprayers  – all who have given their time and talents to step into the hot zone of the Ebola epidemic with Heart to Heart International.  We couldn’t be prouder of their service with us and for humankind.


Recently, TIME magazine chose to recognize the heroic efforts of those on the front lines of the Ebola fight, choosing the Ebola Fighters as their “Person of the Year 2014”.  They saw that the people who have chosen to fight the epidemic, that put their lives on the line each and every day to help people and to help stop this terrible disease, are truly heroic in every sense of the word.

We at Heart to Heart recognize the actions of our own Ebola Response Team members – their courageous, valiant efforts.  We know it’s difficult work.  Several have already come face to face with the terrors of the virus.  And we know that we couldn’t tackle this without them.

ERT members in PPE

Our team members are hard at work.  Our Ebola Treatment Unit nears completion.  Progress is being made.  Please continue to support this critical effort.

Donate Now & Help stop Ebola