Our people

Making a difference, one gauze pad at a time

June 30, 2023 | By Susan Warner

Massive piles of needles. Mountains of gauze pads and wound care items. Huge piles of syringes and catheters. Thousands of basic hygiene items.

This is what I and nearly 30 colleagues recently faced when we went to Yonkers, N.Y., to help sort surplus medical supplies at Afya Foundation’s warehouse. Instead, what would have been destined for a landfill will go to save lives at health care clinics and hospitals in Ukraine, Uganda and Haiti, saving thousands of people whose lives depend on these essential medical supplies.

Donning our Force for Good T-shirts, we sorted supplies to fill four pallets, which equates to more than 3,000 pounds saved from the landfills — and to at least 6,000 lives saved as a result of a three-hour volunteer session. It was part of our seventh annual Global Volunteer Month, which broke a record this year with 10,000-plus hours logged by our employees.  

Afya Foundation was founded by Danielle Butin, a former Fortune 500 executive who put her knowledge of health care and skills to good use by creating the link between medical supplies and critical needs in developing countries. Following a trip to Africa, Butin took her knowledge of the tremendous waste in the U.S. hospital system, with millions of tons of discarded materials, to found Afya, which means “healing” in Swahili. Today, those surplus medical supplies are now shipped across the U.S. and worldwide in times of disasters and to improve health care systems. 

Mastercard has volunteered with Afya since 2018, when we first packed up medical supplies bound for Haiti after a devastating earthquake. Since then, many Mastercard teams based in New York have volunteered in the Yonkers warehouse, sending medical supplies to those in desperate need. All told, Afya believes we’ve packed more than 40,000 pounds of medical supplies, saving nearly 100,000 lives.  

In its 16-year history, Afya has shipped more than 12.3 million pounds of medical supplies and has worked with 80 countries worldwide and 23 state in the U.S. “Thanks to partners like Mastercard, we’ve been meeting the urgent humanitarian needs caused by disasters and public health crises and addressed health disparities since 2008," Butin says. "Our supply chain  expertise, ability to match surplus to need, and our nimble approach benefits the environment and save lives. We are grateful for the Mastercard employees who keep coming back to us to help make a difference.”

We’d say it’s the other way around.  We are grateful for your dedication and genius to save lives and the planet.

Banner photo from left: Mastercard CEO Michael Miebach, third from right, with Laura Van Hoof, left, Ali Puthukkidi, second from left, and Nicole Battaglia at the Afya Foundation volunteer packing session. 

Susan Warner, Vice President, Mastercard Center For Inclusive Growth, and Founder, Girls4Tech