None of the charities that ask us to support them for anything related to diabetes have ever excited me. Until now.
Charity Navigator, the independent and non-profit organization that evaluates America's charities, includes 37 charities that claim to work for people with diabetes. When my wife Catherine died six years ago, I suggested that our friends could make a contribution in her name to one of these charities. But that was only because at that time we lacked a better alternative.
Now we have a better choice. Insulin for Life USAwas incorporated in August 2012, and in November the U.S. Internal Revenue Service gave it 501(c)(3) status that recognizes it as a non-profit charity. This means that Insulin for Life USA is exempt from paying taxes and that donors to it may deduct their contributions on their federal income tax returns.
While Insulin for Life USA is a newly formed organization, it is a part of Insulin for Life Australia, which has been helping people with diabetes around the world since 1986. Other IFL-affiliated centers already existed in Austria, Canada, Germany, Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. IFL Australia coordinates the collaborative activities of these centers and continues to start new ones.
The president of IFL is Ron Raab, who himself has had diabetes since 1957 and who I know from several diabetes conventions that we have attended together. When I connected with him in 2010 at the Western Pacific Region Congress of the International Diabetes Federation in Busan, South Korea, I told him that IFL had become my favorite charity and encouraged him to get non-profit status in America. A few days ago he told me that IFL has now achieved that milestone.
The president of IFL USA is Mark Atkinson, Ph.D., a professor of pathology and pediatrics and Eminent Scholar for Diabetes Research at the University of Florida. The vice president is Francine Kaufman, M.D., a well-known endocrinologist who wrote Diabesity and who invited me to her home in Brentwood, California, in 2009.
Charity Navigator has rightly criticized many charities for paying high salaries to their CEOs and other staff. But IFL USA won't be one of them.
"Everyone associated with IFL USA is totally volunteer," writes Carol Atkinson, the program coordinator. We have no salaries presently. We are currently operating out of our home and using our pre-owned equipment. We anticipate compensating our staff when we are able."
What IFL does is to collect unexpired, unopened, and unneeded insulin, test strips, and other diabetes supplies from around the world and distribute them to children and adults with diabetes in developing countries. Each year, IFL distributes about 250,000 milliliters of insulin and 8,000 boxes of blood glucose test strips (or 400,000 strips). These supplies have been used to keep children alive in more than 60 countries.
IFL USA began 2013 with commitments to active, ongoing distributions in China, Ghana, India, and the Philippines. Beyond these partnerships, it also responds to international emergencies, like the year's first shipment, supplies for people in Mauritania. The year 2012 ended in a flurry of activity with shipments to Cambodia, Cooks Island, Ecuador, Tonga, and Mississippi.
You can help by donating supplies like these. Your generosity in making a financial contribution will help just as much.
February is American Heart Month. In the coming month we can begin to demonstrate how much heart we have by helping other people whose burden of diabetes is much worse than ours. But our contribution in February needs to be just the start of ongoing support.