World Humanitarian Day

Meet the Women of HHI

World Humanitarian Day (WHD) is held every year on 19 August to pay tribute to aid workers who risk their lives in humanitarian service, and to rally support for people affected by crises around the world.

World Humanitarian Day 2019 is set to celebrate Women Humanitarians and their undying contribution in making the world a better place. This year’s campaign on Women Humanitarians supports the recognition that women deserve in the strengthening of global humanitarian response as well as in protection efforts under the international law.

“From supporting civilians caught up in crisis to addressing disease outbreaks, women humanitarians are on the front lines.”
— UN Secretary-General, António Guterres

To celebrate 2019 World Humanitarian Day, we are introducing you to just a few of the women of Heart to Heart International. These women highlight the passion and dedication that everyone at HHI has for making the world a better place.

Joan Kelly – Manager, Disaster Response

“I started my humanitarian career volunteering with a community organization in rural Tanzania in 2007. Learning that there was a lot I didn’t know, I studied international humanitarian aid at the University of Kansas and Cornell University to improve how organizations can save lives, best alleviate suffering, and restore dignity. Over the years I’ve worked for organizations around the world, promoting community-led programs that overcome an us vs. them mentality. Right before coming to Heart to Heart, I worked in Syria coordinating programs that focused on health, livelihoods, and the protection of vulnerable people.

I was raised in Kansas, and feel fortunate to work for Heart to Heart International that is in the Heartland providing humanitarian aid around the world. Whether responding to a Tornado in Kansas, the U.S./Mexico Border, or any where else in the world, I am constantly motivated by the communities that are doing everything they can to help others in need. For me, humanitarian work is a daily dose of optimism, with example after example of the best in people.”

Brittni Blaser – Coordinator, Disaster Response –

“I’m from Lawson, Missouri, and I worked as a CNA while I finished my Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Management and Global Sustainability at Park University. I’ve always loved to travel, so I spent one year exploring parts of Southeast Asia, Europe, and Australia. While in SE Asia, I volunteered with the Khmer Institute for National Development in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. I assisted the organization with their “Check My School” program that was working to get textbooks and running water in the schools. After my travels were over, I decided to get my Master’s. I finished my Master’s in International Healthcare Management, Economics, and Policy with a concentration in Global Health at SDA Bocconi in Milan, Italy. Prior to my completion, I did an internship with the Belize Red Cross working on their Zika project.

Once finished with my internship, I knew I’d be moving back to the United States and started looking for disaster response volunteer opportunities. This is how I came across Heart to Heart International. I applied for their Disaster Response Team while in Belize. The day after I moved back, I attended their training workshop, and a couple weeks later I deployed as a logistician for Hurricane Michael in Panama City, FL.

Between my experience at HHI’s workshop and working with the team in Florida, I knew that this was not only the profession I wanted to pursue but the organization I wanted to be a part of. I started with HHI a few months later as their Disaster Response Coordinator.

I can’t think of anything that is more rewarding than being a humanitarian worker. Working in Disaster Response can be very busy and a lot of hard work, but going into a community that has been devasted by a hurricane or tornado and watching that community put everything aside to help each other is one of the most incredible things I have ever been a part of. Another great thing about it is, participating in a response team with HHI and our volunteers. These selfless individuals put their life on hold to go provide much needed services to those survivors.”

Nachelle Kaughman – Manager, Volunteer Engagement

“I have been in the non-profit world for 13 years, helping connect people and resources. As the Manager of Volunteer Engagement with HHI for nearly a year, I have facilitated projects in Haiti and Puerto Rico. Whether corporate volunteer trips or individuals on the Disaster Response Team, I love to be the bridge between need and people who are willing to give of their time and skills to serve others. “ 

Courtney Leeper – Volunteer Coordinator –  

“I was born and raised in Papillion, NE. While attending school at Northwest Missouri State I had no idea what career path I wanted to choose, I just knew I want to make a positive impact on the world with my career. I came across the Emergency and Disaster Management major and quickly realized how much humanitarian aid organizations do and how much I wanted to be a part of it. After graduation, I joined NCCC AmeriCorps to attempt to get my foot into the world of humanitarian aid. Throughout my experience in AmeriCorps being deployed to both Hurricane Harvey and Maria, I realized that the organizations that were really making a difference in the lives of disaster survivors were nonprofit organizations. Which is why I applied at Heart to Heart International. What I love about the work I do at HHI is that I’m always working with volunteers who are just as passionate and dedicated about doing something to make a difference in the world as I am.”

Judy Hastert Laboratory Manager

Before joining Heart to Heart International, Judy Hastert worked in laboratory microbiology and quality. She and Carla Orner were recruited by HHI to work on parasitology on a water sanitation project in Guatemala. The project checked kids for parasites and treated them appropriately. Both women fell in love with the work of HHI.

“I appreciated being able to use my skills, things that not everyone else can do, to help out in the humanitarian field. There was such gratification to that feeling,” Judy said.

Judy and Carla continued volunteering with HHI, setting up point of care labs around Kansas City and performing laboratory training and audits in Haiti. Carla was ultimately hired as Program Director and Judy as Laboratory Manager. They have helped set up point of care testing at laboratories across the U.S., trained laboratorians across the globe and helped organize volunteer service trips to rehabilitate a hospital in Cameroon.

One story from that trip to Cameroon still resonates with Judy. “I took a team of BD volunteers to Fotabong, Cameroon, to train Community Health Workers.  22 women were chosen for this role, which was considered an honor. Those women would take their notebooks home each night and STUDY!  We couldn’t trip them up with our quizzes. They were so invested and so excited about supporting their community is this way. Every day they would get together and brainstorm, creating an original song that would promote or talk about one of the topics of the day – anything from breastfeeding to nutrition to sanitation.  Our classroom got quite a reputation on that trip because there was so much laughing and singing emanating from the space, just pure joy.”

Judy said that one of the things that helped make her decision to join HHI was realizing that she didn’t want to spend the rest of her career on personnel management. She wanted to use her specific skill sets in a way that helps people.

“One of the best things about this work is working with such exceptional like-minded people who want to expand access to health care and serve the underserved. The people who spend their lives working in safety net health clinics or providing health care in developing countries with no water, no electricity and no money are exceptional. Anything and everything we do to support them and this work is very meaningful, very gratifying work.”

We are so thankful for our women humanitarians!

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Nepal Earthquake Relief by the Numbers

The impact of Heart to Heart International’s relief operation in Nepal following the earthquake went beyond our medical team trekking into the mountains to treat earthquake survivors. Additionally, HHI provided a large amount of disaster supplies, medicine and materials to sustain relief efforts.  Here are the numbers…

Supplies arrive in Nepal

Several pallets of relief supplies, originating from HHI’s Operations Hub, arrive at a depot in Nepal for distribution.


The big cubes in the back of the truck (pictured above) are just a few of the 40 stacked and plastic-wrapped pallets of supplies that HHI shipped via a FedEx Airlift in response to the devastating Nepal earthquake.  This shipment was delivered to the relief organization Nazarene Compassionate Ministries for distribution.  In total this shipment contained just more than 15 tons of supplies.

Shipment breakdown:

3,768 HHI Care Kits and Johnson & Johnson Hygiene Kits (both types assembled by HHI volunteers)

3,600 water filters, each providing up to 208 gallons of clean water per day

Tents to provide shelter for at least 120 people, and 180 disaster blankets

500 bottles of Biaxin to provide more than 2,000 courses of anti-biotic treatments

Food shipment Nepal

Boxes of prepared meals – 142,560 in total – are loaded onto a truck in Nepal. The meals were provided by one of HHI’s partners Stop Hunger Now.


Part of this shipment included thousands of meals from the organization Stop Hunger Now.  At our Operations Hub, we bundled 142,560 of their nutritious, dehydrated meals into the shipment bound for Nepal.

Fast Food Fact

The amount of food in HHI’s relief shipment could provide 6,788 people with 3 meals a day for a week, or 1,697 people with 3 meals/day for a month.


WMI loading supplies

Water treatment systems from Water Missions International being loaded in Charleston, SC, bound first for HHI’s Operations Hub, then on to Nepal.

Because of our longstanding relationship with FedEx, we were in the position to help other aid agencies get their own relief supplies into Nepal.  For Samaritan’s Purse and Water Missions International, we shipped an additional 26,000 pounds of supplies, mostly systems and materials to provide clean water.


Water Missions International – We shipped 12 complete water treatment systems for WMI, each providing up to 10,000 gallons of clean water per day.

Samaritan’s Purse – We moved 5,000 pounds of personal water filters, water storage bladders, collapsible jerry cans and Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) to Nepal for this organization.

IEHK Nepal Depot

A portion of the Interagency Emergency Health Kit for HHI’s medical team is staged in a depot after arriving from the Netherlands.

Fast Fact

The IEHK contains enough medicine and supplies to provide healthcare for up to 10,000 people for a period of three months.

As our medical team was enroute to Nepal, a large amount of medicine to treat a lot of people was on the way too.  The Interagency Emergency Health Kit (IEHK) is a prepackaged emergency medical kit we purchased from a medical supplier in the Netherlands to support our team’s work.  Once our team had completed its mission on the ground, we donated the remaining supplies of the IEHK to the International Medical Corps, an NGO that we’ve worked with for years, including in Liberia during the Ebola epidemic response.

And moving all of these supplies to the other side of the world for us – our partners at FedEx.  Here’s a great infograph put together at the height of the response, highlighting the large amount of aid ferried from one side of the globe to the other.

FedEx Nepal Infogfx

Summing up the numbers – in the weeks following the Nepal Earthquake we shipped 87 pallets of medicine, disaster supplies and food.

HHI’s total to date –  29 tons of relief aid sent to help the people of Nepal.


First Images from HHI Advance Team in Nepal

Our Advance Team has reached Nepal and is already at work coordinating our Nepal Earthquake Relief response, preparing the way for our Medical Team which will arrive soon.

Advance Team 1

Because of the earthquake damage, internet communications are sporadic.  But our team was able to send back a few images of what it looks like on the ground in Nepal.

These pics are from the village of Kokona.  Dr. Gary Morsch tells us there were about 20 deaths from the earthquake here.  The village is essentially deserted, with those remaining sleeping outdoors due to the fear of more earthquakes.  There was another aftershock here, which our team felt.

Advance Team 2Passing by this alleyway, our team learned that five people had perished in the collapse of this home.


Advance Team 3Dr. Morsch explains the photo above: “Delivering rice to a village where we saw so much destruction.  The man in the Scout uniform is the village leader, and he asked for our medical team to come tomorrow.  That means Sue and me, until the full medical team arrives!”

Our medical team – two doctors, three nurses and a paramedic – are scheduled to arrive Friday in Nepal.

Please support our Nepal Earthquake Relief response.

Donate Now

Advance Team Departs for Nepal

Our advance team is on the way to Nepal.  They will lay the groundwork for our medical team to arrive two days later, ready to provide aid to the survivors of the Nepal Earthquake.

Gary departs 3

Our Advance Team is a three-person team – a doctor, a nurse and another HHI staff member.  All three are departing from different points on the globe.  In these photos, Dr. Gary Morsch, founder of HHI, is seen departing from the Kansas City airport.  The team’s nurse, Sue Mangicaro, is leaving from New Jersey.  And Julie Hefner, just recently our Liberia country director, is flying out of Monrovia, Liberia – all three bound for Kathmandu, and the earthquake disaster zone.

Gary departs 1

As he was departing from Kansas City, HHI’s hometown and HQ location, Dr. Morsch had the honor of hauling giant bags of supplies to check in for the flight, beyond his own personal gear.  This ‘luggage’ contains medical supplies, medicine and quite a bit of work and camping equipment – tents, sleeping bags and mats, gloves, water filtration and satellite phones – gear needed for a team to operate in a disaster zone.

Gary departs 5

Our medical team is made up of two doctors and four nurses.  They are packing right now and will arrive two days behind the advance team, ready to hit the ground and begin providing medical care to earthquake survivors.

You can help with Nepal Earthquake Relief.  Please give as you can.

Donate Now


photos by Peggy Breit & KMBC-TV9

Relief Supplies for Vanuatu

The people of Vanuatu are still in great need.  Cyclone Pam left a path of destruction across the south Pacific island nation and Heart to Heart International is helping.  Our assessment team is in Vanuatu coordinating this relief effort.

vanuatu shipment 2

As part of the relief effort, we’re sending more than 2,000 Heart to Heart Care Kits (above) – individual hygiene kits that serve as the front line of health defense.  This shipment is all packaged up and ready to depart our Operations Hub and we’re working on lining up more pallets of aid and supplies to rush to the people in Vanuatu.

These specific Care Kits were recently assembled on Valentine’s Day during a Share Your Heart event held by the Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas.  Hundreds of people turned out for this one-day build, assembling 10,000 Care Kits.

Now they’re on the way to help people in need on the other side of the world.

vanuatu shipment 1




Cyclone Pam: Vanuatu Relief Aid

The images tell the tale.  Cyclone Pam, a Category-5 monster, laid waste to so much of Vanuatu – destroying crops and homes, leaving so many in this south Pacific island nation homeless and in need.

cyclone pam damage

Photo courtesy of UNICEF PACIFIC / AFP – Getty Images


Heart to Heart International is responding.  An assessment team will soon be on the ground in Vanuatu to coordinate our relief effort.

Look for more updates soon.

In the meantime, please help us with this effort and keep us prepared to help others in times of need by donating today.

Donate Now

Med Student Volunteer Team to make Ripple Effect

The second winner of the 2014 Ripple Effect Contest has her ‘boarding pass’ and will join three other medical students on a humanitarian service trip to Haiti in the summer 2015.

RE SUNY student

Kathleen Iles is presented with a ‘boarding pass’ by Steve Hower of HHI (left in photo), and David Allyn of Welch Allyn, after being named a winner of the Ripple Effect contest.


Kathleen Iles, a first-year medical student at SUNY Upstate Medical University, was announced March 17th as one of two winners of the 2014 Ripple Effect Contest, a joint initiative of Heart to Heart International and Welch Allyn designed to inspire medical students to “change the world by giving back to their communities.”

The Ripple Effect Contest encourages medical students to use social media to share how they will create their own “ripple effect” of good in their community or globally.  Entrants were asked to ‘like’ the Ripple Effect program page on Facebook and share a picture with a short essay or a short video showcasing their “ripple effect” — a brief narrative about how they would “change the world” by using their training to help those in greatest need.

Iles, along with three other medical students to win the humanitarian service trip, will work alongside physicians and aid workers in impoverished communities in Haiti this summer. She will join inaugural 2013 Ripple Effect winners Oluwatoni Aluko, from Meharry Medical College, and Meghan Meghpara, from Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine on the trip, as well as the other 2014 winner Matthew Schilling, from Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine.


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.

Mosaic Liberia Staff post

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


Heart to Heart Readies Aid for Typhoon Hagupit Relief

Super Typhoon Hagupit (named Ruby in the Philippines) is poised to slam into the Philippines leaving a path of destruction and affecting the lives of millions in its path.

Hagupit Ruby track 5dec14

Many of the thousands of people we helped a year ago will be impacted by this new powerful storm.

Exactly one year ago, Heart to Heart International led teams of medical volunteers to the Philippines to provide aid and comfort for thousands of people affected by Super Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda.  Heart to Heart also shipped nearly 50 tons of relief supplies, food and medical aid to help those in need, in our largest airlift in six years.

We are following the progress of Hagupit/Ruby very closely, and are already in contact with trusted partners in the Philippines, preparing to provide whatever aid we can in the aftermath of Hagupit/Ruby.

Keep us prepared and ready to send aid.

help us respond. Donate.



VIDEO: Working Together to Fight Ebola

A new video gives a glimpse into the early days of Heart to Heart International’s Operation Ebola in Liberia and showcases the importance of partnership to combat the Ebola epidemic.

For many weeks, Heart to Heart International CEO Jim Mitchum has been in Liberia overseeing the building of the organizational infrastructure needed to support the opening of an Ebola Treatment Unit (ETU).   Along with Country Director Julie Hefner and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Rene Vega, our team in Liberia has been putting all the pieces into place, hiring staff, and coordinating with multiple aid agencies as part of the global response to the epidemic.

Watch the video to learn the reasons why HHI has taken on the responsibility of running an ETU.  Hear from our new Liberian staff members about their desire to bring healthcare to their people and why it’s so important that HHI has come to help.  And learn how we’re working in partnership with other NGOs, like the International Medical Corps, to tackle this continuing humanitarian crisis.


Video by: Blake Nelson