Humanitarian tourists

(Canscene) –Some travellers from Ontario and Alberta have been bringing more than just tourist dollars to countries such as Cuba — they’re also packing badly needed medical supplies.

A do-it-yourself humanitarian aid group called Not Just Tourists has been filling old suitcases with donated medicine and supplies such as syringe needles and eyeglass frames to send to developing countries.

Marian van Riel, a volunteer with Not Just Tourists, fills suitcases with medicine and supplies in her basement. But instead of mailing the supplies or recruiting special volunteers, the group hand-delivers them through ordinary travellers.

The group, which now has branches in Toronto, Ottawa, Edmonton and Calgary, starts by asking doctors and pharmacists to contribute items such as medications that are nearing the end of their shelf life.

Van Riel passes the full suitcases on to tourists such as Nigel and Angela Kilby, who also carry a letter from a Canadian doctor that explains the contents to customs officials.

The Kilbys took two suitcases with them to a rural clinic in Cuba last winter, where they were taken aback by the level of need.

Nigel and Angela Kilby, left, say they were hugged and kissed when they delivered supplies to a clinic in rural Cuba.
Source: CBC News Service
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