John Green Is Donating $6.5 Million to Sierra Leone's Healthcare System—And You Can Help

vlogbrothers, YouTube
vlogbrothers, YouTube

One in every 17 women in Sierra Leone, Africa, will die during pregnancy or childbirth—that’s the highest maternal mortality rate in the world.

To help provide the time, attention, and resources needed to effect systemic change in the country, bestselling author and longtime Mental Floss contributor John Green just announced that his family is donating a total of $6.5 million over the next five years to the Sierra Leone branch of Partners in Health (PIH), an organization that supplies poor communities with medical resources and works with local governments to establish long-term healthcare infrastructure.

In a video posted on his vlogbrothers YouTube channel (which he runs with his brother, Hank) Green explains that the high maternal mortality rate is partly due to a large-scale shortage of basic necessities like electricity, running water, and transportation. Without electricity, nighttime deliveries are dangerous and refrigerating blood for transfusions is impossible; without running water, it’s difficult to sanitize tools; and without ambulances, the best option for women who need emergency cesarean sections is a long ride to the hospital on the back of a motorbike.

Because the solution isn’t specific to just one thing, the country pretty much needs to build a better healthcare system from the ground up. With the help of PIH and donations from Green and other outlets, Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Health and Sanitation is dedicated to doing just that. In the Kono District, they’ll hire more community healthcare workers, strengthen primary care centers, and build a Maternal Center of Excellence in the government hospital with an NICU, operating rooms, and more.

If you think it seems like those objectives might cost even more than $6.5 million to achieve, you’re right. PIH’s overall fundraising goal is $25 million in the next five years, and they’re already more than halfway there.

Green is hoping to raise a little over $1 million each year, and every dollar helps. If you have a few to spare, you can donate to the campaign here.

There’s also a group of matching donors who have pledged to match up to $120,000 in donations per year. If you can contribute $2000 or more and would like to join that group, you can email John for details at sparksflyup@gmail.com.

vlogbrothers, YouTube

Sierra Leone might have the highest maternal mortality rate right now, but there are similar crises happening all over the world. With this endeavor, PIH wants to demonstrate that improving healthcare systems isn’t impossible and also be a guide for other organizations hoping to replicate their work.

Looking to give to other altruistic causes, too? Here are 15 more incredible organizations helping women around the world.

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San Pedro, California Is Home to the Country’s Only Volunteer-Run Post Office

A vintage postcard of San Pedro, California.
A vintage postcard of San Pedro, California.
Boston Public Library Tichnor Brothers, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

There are more than 30,000 post offices in the United States, but only one of them is staffed entirely by volunteers. As Fast Company reports, the nonprofit-run Assistance League Post Office has been serving customers in San Pedro, California, since 1964.

The Assistance League Post Office is one of many contract postal units around the country. Contract postal units are run privately instead of publicly, usually by a business. The post office in San Pedro is unique in that it's operated by a nonprofit organization.

More than 50 years ago, the San Pedro chapter of the Assistance League opened the post office to service its growing community, which includes the Port of Los Angeles. The location only sold stamps for decades, then expanded into a full-service post office in 1990. In addition to running the local postal service, the Assistance League of San Pedro provides low-income residents with orthodontia care, glasses, sexual assault survivor kits, and new school clothes—all resources that revenue from the post office helps pay for.

To make its charitable mission possible, the post office relies on volunteers. Post office chairman Gayle Merrick runs a staff of 17 volunteers—all retired women between the ages of 65 and 87. Their backgrounds range from medicine to education, and they commit to giving three to four days of their time to the post office each month. Many people who volunteer at the Assistance League Post Office stick around for a while; the longest-serving volunteer worked there for a quarter of a century.

The San Pedro post office closed to the public in the spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and its customers and volunteers are still waiting for it to return. Merrick tells Fast Company that she hopes to reopen by October 1, in time to help process local mail-in ballots for the 2020 election.

[h/t Fast Company]