Campus & Community

Community Gifts helps disaster victims with Real Medicine

3 min read

This is the first in a series of Gazette articles highlighting some of the many initiatives and charities that Harvard affiliates can support through this month’s Community Gifts through Harvard campaign. community gifts logo

Harvard’s annual Community Gifts Campaign is a great – and convenient – way for Harvard employees to aid their favorite charities. Last year, contributions of over $900,000 helped more than 600 human service agencies and charities in the Greater Boston area. This year’s goal is to raise $1 million. And, with the world still reeling from the effects of the 2004 Indonesian tsunami, Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma, and the earthquake in South Asia, Harvard employees have the ability to help those in dire need of assistance around the world as well as locally.

The Real Medicine Foundation (RMF) is one of the many charitable organizations to which employees may choose to make donations in this year’s campaign. The RMF, whose volunteer force includes Harvard faculty, employees, students, and alumni/ae, has been active in helping those affected by virtually all of the world’s recent natural catastrophes.

Read more about the
Real Medicine Foundation

Currently, the RMF, including several master’s degree students from the School of Public Health, is involved in aiding the victims of the massive earthquake that struck Northern Pakistan, India, and Afghanistan in early October. Funds raised by RMF supply those in need with tents, food, and medicines. The RMF is also sending clothes and medical supplies from the United States and Canada by air and sea, and is coordinating the dispatch of a psycho-trauma team to support victims.

Psycho-trauma teams are quick-response psychological support teams composed of physicians, psychologists, and community workers. They were devised shortly after the 2004 tsunami in Sri Lanka, an Indian Ocean island nation, where more than 30,000 were killed by the Dec. 26 waves. Using these support teams, the RMF provided support and counseling to the children from Sri Lankan coastal towns devastated by the disaster.

More recently, the RMF has been helping children displaced by Hurricane Katrina. A mobile psycho-trauma team headed by psychologist Kevin Becker, director of the Institute for Trauma & Crisis at Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, traveled to Memphis, Tenn., on Sept. 11. “Children who experience adverse events like natural disasters and other traumatic events frequently go on to develop serious psychological aftereffects that can last a lifetime,” said Becker. “Timely and appropriate support is key to preventing these long-term impacts.”

In addition to initial work in shelters for people displaced by the hurricane, the RMF teams have been assisting the Catholic Diocese of Memphis, which welcomed 330 displaced children into its school system. Working with representatives from each of the 29 schools in the district, the RMF helped to develop personalized models to help the staff respond to and anticipate the needs of the students.