A Container of Medical Supplies for St. Albert’s

In early July, the 590’ cargo ship Maersky Visby left Baltimore’s Seagirt Terminal carrying a 40-foot container destined for St. Albert’s Mission Hospital in Zimbabwe. The container was shipped by Brother’s Brother Foundation (BBF), with a support from Better Healthcare for Africa (BHA). The container was filled with donated medical supplies requested by St. Albert’s and provided by Hospital Sister’s Mission Outreach (HSMO), BBF and BHA. Here is a map tracking the course of that container, and a description of the key events in its preparation and travels. 

By Darrell E. Ward

View Tracking the St. Albert’s Container in a larger map


BBF begins planning to ship donated medical supplies to three African countries, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Liberia. Luke Hingson, president of BBF, contacted BHA for help in reaching Dr Elizabeth Tarira, director of the Zimbabwe Catholic Health Commission, which oversees Zimbabwe’s network of Catholic mission hospitals. BBF then works with Dr. Tarira, who also directs St. Albert’s Mission Hospital, to identify the Catholic mission hospitals in Zimbabwe most in need of aid.  

December: BBF Medical Director Dr. Chip Lambert makes a reconnaissance trip to visit the hospitals identified for possible shipments. The list for Zimbabwe list includes Catholic and Methodist hospitals, and a Salvation Army hospital.  


Feb. – March: Luke, a representative of HSMO, and I spend a week visiting Zimbabwe mission hospitals targeted to receive container shipments. The visits enable us to understand each hospital’s needs and to explain to the staff how the supplies are requested and shipments are carried out. Our trip together concludes with a morning-long meeting with Zimbabwe Association of Church-related Hospitals (ZACH), an organization formed to work with customs officials and faciliate the importation of donated medical supplies for member hospitals. I then spend another week visiting St. Albert’s, and Luke spent several days visiting Nyadire Mission Hospital, affiliated with the Methodist Church.  

March – May: St. Albert’s director Dr Elizabeth Tarira works with the St. Albert’s executive board and staff to identify the hospital’s needs. She then begins selecting supplies and equipment from HSMO’s online inventory. Along with basic medical supplies, St. Albert’s requests beds, mattresses, 25 wheelchairs, including one for a child with cerebral palsy, suction equipment, and a treadmill for the rehabilitation department (interestingly, most of the hospitals we visited requested treadmills for rehabilitation).  

During this process, BBF, HSMO and Elizabeth (who can communicate only when she is in Harare) discuss whether equipment manuals and surge protectors/ power converters are available for the requested equipment, and whether the reagents and other consumable supplies required required for the equipment are available in Zimbabwe. These questions affect which equipment is ultimately sent. A biomedical engineer who helped BBF with mission hospitals in Liberia helps answer these questions.  

April: BHA acquires a used treadmill from Ohio State University for St. Albert’s. HSMO sends a truck to pick up the treatmill, along with medical supplies donated by other organizations in Columbus, OH.  

Treadmill donated to Better Healthcare for Africa by Ohio State University and destined for St. Albert’s is picked up by Hospital Sisters Mission Outreach.

Late May: HSMO begins assembling the supplies requested by St. Albert’s, then ships them by truck to Brother’s Brother Foundation, Pittsburgh, PA.  

Items from Better Healthcare for Africa included in the shipment: Several models for the St. Albert’s midwife program (purchased using contributions from individual donations to BHA) and the treadmill donated by Ohio State University. BHA also provides $5,200 toward the cost of shipping the container.

June 9: The shipment arrives at BBF. BBF loads the goods into a 40-foot container, filling the remaining space with manually operated hospital beds, mattresses and other items. Here is the packing list of HSMO items and of packing list of BBF items.

Walkers and stands for intravenous fluids (IV stands) in the BBF warehouse prior to loading into the St Albert's container.

The full container is shipped by truck to Seagirt Terminal, Baltimore, MD.  Luke notifies Elizabeth by email of the container’s progress. She replies:  

“Thanks for the good news about the container. The dream has become a reality. Our project has taken off! I really thank God and ask him in prayers to bless and reward each and every one who has worked so hard for such a good cause. Friends, thank you so much for being there for us. Together we will make a difference for our needy brothers.”   

Her email also points to the ongoing conditions that hospitals in Zimbabwe cope with when she also notes: “This morning I received a mail from Dr Thistle [at Howard Hospital, a Salvation Army mission hospital], asking if St. Albert’s can spare some IV fluids because they are in a crisis. I am sure that the Team at St Albert’s will assist.”   

June 21: The container arrives at Seagirt Terminal C324, Baltimore, MD. 

June 30: The container is loaded on board the cargo ship Maersk Visby.  

Early July: The Maersk Visby departs the Port of Baltimore.  

July 8: The Maersk Visby is located east of Anguilla, Virgin Islands, traveling south southeast at 17.7 knots.  

Aug. 1: After stopping briefly at Port Elizabeth, South Africa, the Maersk Visby arrives at the Port of Durban, South Africa, where the St. Albert’s container is off loaded.  

Mid- to Late August: The container is loaded onto the vessel Ridge, which departs the Durban Container Terminal for the Port of Beira, Mozambique.  

Aug. 26: The Ridge arrives at the Port of Beira, where the container is off loaded.  

Late Aug., early Sept.: The container is trucked from the Port of Beira to Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital. ZACH works with government officials to clear the container through customs.  

Sept. 10: Elizabeth sends the following email saying that the container arrived at St. Albert’s on this day.
“Dearest friends, Brothers Brothers, Better Healthcare for Africa, Hospital Sisters Mission Outreach,   

This is just a short note to let you know that the treasure container for St Albert’s Mission Hospital has reached its destination safely. The container was delivered to the Hospital yesterday and I am still in Harare. I made haste to write before even I see the goods so that we can share this joy all of us. We beneficiaries especially and you also for having accomplished a good gesture in the name of the Lord. On behalf of all the beneficiaries I would like to extend our sincere gratitude and thanks. Thanks again. We have made it. The dream we had this February has become a reality. 
Your friend, Elizabeth”