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Member Profile April 2014


Collaboration Santé Internationale


Mining Watch Canada Profile

Pierrette Defoy-Dolbec visiting a health centre in Guatemala

This month CCIC has met with the Pierrette Defoy-Dolbec, Executive Director at Collaboration Santé Internationale (CSI) based in Québec City, to learn more about this unique NGO which delivers medical equipment and medicine to developing countries. Mme Defoy-Dolbec spoke with passion about the many partnerships that allow CSI to fulfill its mission and the important role of volunteers...among other things!


CCIC - For over 40 years, Collaboration Santé Internationale (CSI) has been sending medication, equipment, medical supplies and school supplies to developing countries through its distribution network, which is active in four continents. Which main partners help you fulfill your mission?

Pierrette Defoy-Dolbec - CSI has been operating for the last 46 years, mainly in Africa, Latin America and in the West Indies. During this time, we have been able to develop knowledge and expertise, which we use to choose partners on the ground based on their experience, commitment, credibility and ability to complete missions on time. The selection process is very important and is crucial to the success of all projects, as sustainability is always an objective in our health and education projects. CSI was originally founded to support the development projects of missionaries, and later began supporting NGOs, associations and other groups that have received our aid.

We have many partners. Here are a few examples: Les Amis de la Saint-Camille and the Association Saint-Camille-de-Lellis (Benin), Cassira (Guatemala), Entraide sans frontières (Madagascar), Fondation pour le Développement Économique et Social (FODES-5, Haiti), the Hôpital Aristide Le Dantec of CHU Dakar (Senegal), the École La Sagesse (Senegal), students of nursing and medicine at Laval University and McGill University, and a number of CEGEPs in Quebec that offer health training and health care internships in developing countries. CSI has changed with the times without altering its values and mission. Our 46 years of operation are an indication that we meet a basic need in the unique niche in which we work.


CCIC - Can you give us an example of the materials sent in your containers and explain how they are redistributed?

Pierrette Defoy-Dolbec - MIt’s a long chain! When you stop to think about it, it is very interesting and much more complex than meets the eye. It is important to mention one of the major activities at the heart of our work: the recovery and collection of material all across Quebec and even into Ontario and New Brunswick. This activity is enough to supply CSI in terms of equipment, supplies and furniture, all of which is sent in containers. We have two mobile teams, each made up of a qualified driver and a handler. We do an average of 900 collections annually for a total of 140 shipments per year. We collect from the public and private sectors and from individuals. Our organization has assumed all costs related to this activity but would now like to ask for contributions from our donors to help defray some of the costs involved in the collection.

The collected material can be categorized into highly specialized material (e.g., medical, dental, ophthamological), educational material (e.g., boards, chairs, desks, shelves) and finally what we call “supplementary material” (e.g., sheets, blankets, hygiene products, tools, bicycles, diapers, fabric, sewing machines). A full 40-foot container contains 2,600 cubic feet of materials!

We collect incubators, scales for children and adults, anaesthetic equipment, operating tables, hospital beds, crutches and wheelchairs. If you look on our website (French only) under the Documentation tab, you will find our most recent newsletter, published in April. More detailed examples are listed on page 17 of this newsletter.

In addition, CSI purchases $100,000 worth of medication per year through the IDA Foundation in the Netherlands, the largest not-for-profit supplier of pharmaceuticals and medical supplies. This medication is used in our health care support programs and shipped to our partners.

Any partner asking for our support must provide evidence of their needs in terms of the type and amount of medication required. The partner is responsible for clearing the container through customs, sending its contents to the final destination and distributing them. Transportation can take two to three months, including customs clearing by the partner in the target country. For example, to send a container to Neisu in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, it has to go from Montréal to the port of Mombasa, Kenya, then by road to Beni, near the Uganda border, eventually reaching Neisu by travelling over 600 km of roads that are in poor condition, which takes three weeks.
All throughout the transportation stage, CSI conducts follow-ups and maintains contact with the partner and all intermediaries.


CCIC - How would you describe your activities in terms of sustainability? How does CSI help develop human resources locally through training?

Pierrette Defoy-Dolbec - As a not-for-profit organization, CSI plays a unique role in Quebec and perhaps even Canada: since 1996, CSI has been the only organization to be accredited by the Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux to receive surplus medical equipment and supplies from the Quebec health network for the purposes of international humanitarian assistance. The niche in which we work can be summarized as “providing health professionals with the resources they need to work more effectively in developing countries and help vulnerable populations.”

CSI is not a service organization, but it meets its partners’ needs in terms of installing equipment and updating the knowledge of its staff. Partners who request our support must determine their needs. This arguably gives our partners more of a sense of responsibility. It gives them their own voice and credibility and gives them a stake in the project. We recognize their expertise. We consider them equal partners on the same level as CSI. This relationship in turn makes the project more sustainable.

CSI participates in human resources training on occasion. In one project, for instance, a biomedical engineer from Quebec travelled to Yurimaguas, Peru, to install equipment with technicians from the hospital. Together, the engineer and the technicians developed a handbook of maintenance procedures for the equipment.


CCIC - CSI relies on many volunteers to reach its objectives. What is their role within the organization, and how do you recruit them?

Pierrette Defoy-Dolbec - CSI has relied on the work of volunteers since its beginnings. Each year, over 40 volunteers (for a permanent team of 10 people) participate in the different operational sectors of the organization: pharmacy, medical supplies, sewing, storage, recovery, checking and fixing collected materials, recycling metal from anything that cannot be reused and administration. CSI benefits from the professional skills of its volunteers (including 5 pharmacists, 1 surgeon, 3 nurses, 1 pharmaceutical company representative, 1 engineer responsible for ensuring that equipment functions properly and a wide variety of others).

In 2012–2013, CSI logged 13,659 volunteer hours, divided up as follows:

Never has CSI had to issue a public call for volunteers. Through word of mouth alone, we receive more applications than we can approve from people who know the organization, friends and family. Many of our volunteers have been involved with us for several years.  


CCIC - What main advances have you seen in the field of global health in the last 25 years? What are the biggest challenges facing the field?

Pierrette Defoy-Dolbec - Health is one of the top two concerns of families in developing countries: it ranks just below food and just above education. Population growth in developing countries is one factor influencing the evaluation of advances in the health field in terms of the ability to meet health needs. The main advance is arguably that people seem more concerned about their health than they were 25 years ago, and this concern is having a positive effect on people’s interest in learning about diet (conquering malnutrition), practising hygiene, accessing potable water and having their children vaccinated. In terms of advances in access to quality health care and diversified services, it is difficult to quantify because of the myriad of factors at play such as the politics, economy and security of each country. But there have definitely been advances in access to health care, especially for pregnant women and for children. Take, for example, the management of a health centre in a village 50 km from Bamako, Mali, by the Fondation Salimata Keita. This organization does remarkable work by providing access to quality health care, especially to women and children, thanks to skilled medical staff, properly equipped facilities and the availability of the medication needed for the prescribed treatments.

One challenge is the balance that must be reached between providing access to quality health care and diversified services to the most disadvantaged people, at minimal or symbolic costs (on the one hand) and retaining and recruiting qualified professional staff who must be paid (on the other). Another challenge is that of funding the health network (public bodies and those operated by local organizations) or helping them fund themselves over the long term. Acquiring equipment, supplies and medication remains a challenge due to lack of availability and funds.


CCIC - Why is it important for your organization to be a member of the CCIC?

Pierrette Defoy-Dolbec - Canadian international assistance organizations are facing significant challenges. Changes at CIDA have led to a difficult period of transition for CSI and probably other organizations as well. All the different causes are worthy, which makes the environment very competitive in appealing to donors. While Canadian donors give generously as individuals and businesses, they tend to support organizations that provide local assistance. The CCIC provides a common voice for organizations that share the same values, organizations that fight poverty and stand up for social justice. It defends the importance of international assistance, which is a Canadian value. The CCIC could have a multiplier effect with the Canadian government and perhaps with Canadian individual donors and businesses. 



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