Social Entrepreneurs

Shine A Light On Literacy: The Urban Aboriginal high school drop- out rate is over 50 per cent. Early childhood literacy is part of the solution, say the founders of Shine A Light On Literacy. 

Buy a flashlight today and help a child read tomorrow. That’s the premise of “Shine A Light On Literacy”, founded by the Vancouver Native Health Society, whose aim is to fund community-based literacy programming and create employment and training opportunities in one of Canada's most marginalized urban areas - Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

“Increasing the health and wellness of a marginalized community will be transformative in ways that people don't readily recognize,” says Joseph MacLean. “We can change a social liability into a social phenomenon through the application of triple bottom line economics.”

According to MacLean, 80 per cent of urban Aboriginals live below the poverty line. They are eight times more likely to end up in jail and six times more likely to commit suicide. MacLean explains how targeting Aboriginal literacy will have wide repercussions for society as a whole. 

“For every year that a person adds to their schooling they increase their income by eight point three per cent. Multiply four years additional schooling by the 7000 urban Aboriginals and do the math. Extend this beyond the urban Aboriginal community and we are talking about increasing the tax base by tens or even hundreds of millions per annum just from within the Downtown Eastside.”

Shine A Light on Literacy is just one initiative coming out of the Vancouver Native Health Society (VNHS). Established in 1991, VNHS delivers medical, counseling and social services with an emphasis on providing care to the Aboriginal community. All programs are accessible without fees to native and non-native individuals residing in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

Low literacy and poverty are entwined. The Shine A Light project is intended to break the cycle by increasing community-based, culturally appropriate programming.

“Our vision is to pump millions into programming - in a way that increases public awareness of the benefit of higher literacy - hence - Shine A Light on Literacy,” MacLean explains. 

Shine A Light will support the free distribution of over $160,000.00 worth of early childhood educational materials in the Vancouver area.

These will include 1500 book/music CDs, readers, toys and parental training material and thousands of handbooks, brochures and illustrated community asset maps.

MacLean and the VNHS team learnt the hard way if you want something done you must do it yourself. After funding requests were dismissed by government, they set up a plan to fund programs through for-profit micro businesses in an initiative called the Vancouver Aboriginal Social Enterprise (VASE).

Shine A Light is in the process of garnering support from community services agencies, enterprises, private foundations and companies. They have already secured donated space for Transit Ads, as depicted in the photograph above.

A summer internship has provided youth the opportunity to get involved, distribute flashlights and lend support at a grassroots level. 

“This has been great. The kids are great. They are directly involved in spreading the word about the program through our marketing and communications program,” MacLean says.

To become part of the solution, visit to buy your 'Literacy Light' now.



The founding sponsors and organizers launch Project Porchlight in Ottawa (October 29, 2005)
L-R: Rod Elliott, Manager, TD Friends of the Environment; Dave Thorpe, Director of Marketing - Giant Tiger stores; David McGuinty, MP Ottawa South; Mary Dila, Partner, gordongroup marketing; John Jeza, Director of Residential Programs, Ontario Power Authority; Alex Munter, Mayoral candidate; Rosemarie Leclair, CEO, Hydro Ottawa; Isabelle Guimont and Anne Wilkins, Natural Resources Canada/Energy Star; Stuart Hickox, Founder, Project Porchlight, Mike Perry, Board member, Project Porchlight; Elizabeth Rock, Executive Director, Habitat for Humanity (National Capital Region).

Emerging Social Entrepreneur: Stuart Hickox
Country: Canada
Organization: Project Porchlight
Location: Ottawa, Ontario

Note: This profile was written by Tina Barton in January 2006.

“If every household in Canada replaced just one regular light bulb with a compact fluorescent, the reduction in pollution would be the equivalent of taking 66,000 cars off the road.”

After reading this fact on the Canadian government’s Energy Star web site, Stuart Hickox asked his friend Mike Perry: "How hard can it be to get everyone in Canada to change one light bulb?"

Introducing Project Porchlight


Project Porchlight’s ultimate goal is to deliver one free compact fluorescent (CFL) light bulb to every Canadian household. Launched in Ottawa-South in November 2005, Project Porchlight has already delivered over 23,000 bulbs, and sent out 50,000 coupons for redeemable free bulbs. Ekos Research, one of Canada’s most respected polling firms, provided post-project polling of 2000 residents of Ottawa South. Executive Director, Paul Adams, declared Porchlight, “A smashing success.” Over 75% of those polled had heard of the project, and up to 52% declared that they would choose CFLs when replacing burned out bulbs.

While other campaigns have distributed free lightbulbs before, none have linked the lightbulb to the concept of systemic change. Project Porchlight intends to change the way Canadians light their homes and the way they think about issues such as energy conservation and pollution. By establishing a presence in every province and every community, Project Porchlight aims to propel itself into the Canadian consciousness. Hickox and the Porchlight Board of Directors are currently developing a project business plan to expand the campaign across the city of Ottawa. The idea has the support of Mayor Bob Chiarelli who declared, “Porchlight is great for Ottawa.”

The Man Behind The Idea

A family man with a respectable job, Stuart Hickox, a writer and Director of Writing at an Ottawa marketing firm, experiences deep anxiety when considering the state of the planet. This anxiety, he said, is compounded by shame and alarm that in a country as vast, rich and dependent on resources as Canada, citizens feel issues such as “energy crisis” and “climate change” are too big to tackle themselves.

So when he discovered, almost by accident, that changing one light bulb to a compact fluorescent could drastically reduce energy consumption and with it pollution, he created a campaign to show how individual actions can create a world of difference.

And what better place to start than right here in Canada, he said.

“Canada has a responsibility to lead the world in this movement. If we can’t mobilize people here, how can we hope that other poorer, and less free, societies can tackle environmental issues? We need to lead by example. Once the public becomes aware that individual actions matter, and that each one of us has the power to effect positive change, we will see things happen.”

After consulting his friend Mike Perry, a lawyer, the pair decided that telling people to buy bulbs would not suffice; they needed to bridge the chasm between awareness and action. Their solution: to give people a free compact fluorescent bulb and show them how easy change can be.

So excited were they about this idea, the team was sure others would have already thought of it. But their research uncovered that while other campaigns had delivered free CF bulbs, no other campaign had linked the light bulb to the concept of country-wide change. “No other campaign had used the symbol of the light as a gateway to awareness,” Hickox said.

The Approach

With the backing of his workplace - gordongroup marketing and communications – Hickox registered Project Porchlight as a not-for-profit organization in the fall of 2004 and began developing a business plan.

As with many social entrepreneurs, the team grappled with whether they were “selling out” by applying business marketing principles to a grassroots campaign for social change. “Some of our board members bristled at the terms ��research’, ��marketing’ and especially ��branding’,” Hickox said. “From the beginning of our project, I felt strongly that a lot of really good social ideas failed to succeed because their leaders resisted business models for the sake of remaining ��grass roots.’ We found a balance.” 

Project Porchlight’s focus on branding and marketing has helped them garner support from some well-known and respected Canadian companies and associations including Hydro Ottawa, Giant Tiger, TD Financial Group, gordongroup Marketing + Communications, Natural Resources Canada, Clean Air Champions, EcoEnergy Choices Ottawa, Bridgehead, the Canterbury Community Association and others.

By taking the time to develop a clear mission and build a solid brand and communications approach, they secured funding without compromising their social message.

The project name was chosen to reflect their community engagement theme, Hickox explained. “The porch light is a symbol of community and welcome. We wanted it to also come to represent a declaration of change and public engagement. We then worked to develop a slogan and design around which we could build a brand.”

After refining their approach (free bulbs + message of “change within reach”), they tested the project concept in a small town in rural Ontario. A local hardware store donated 50 bulbs, and they delivered them door-to-door. “We chose a small town so that we could really engage people at the door, and because we wanted to take our concept out of the urban setting where we assumed awareness of CF bulbs would be higher. The test was a huge success,” Hickox said.

After testing the concept in December 2004, and circulating a funding proposal in spring 2005, by July Project Porchlight was ready to roll. Key to moving forward was securing the support of the local Member of Parliament, David McGuinty. Engaging a politician was a risk, but Mr. McGuinty showed incredible restraint and respect for the project.

During its first eight months, Project Porchlight aimed to reach every Ottawa South resident with a simple message: saving money and protecting the environment are as easy as changing one light bulb. Through articles in local media and advertising, they have recruited dozens of volunteers to assist with their door-to-door campaign.

“��Change Within Reach’ is a simple theme, and changing a light bulb is something anyone can do. We are amazed at how strongly our volunteers associate themselves with this project,” Hickox said.



Time constraints, remaining focused and political sensitivities are the biggest challenges for Hickox, who finds it difficult juggling his full-time job and family commitments with leading a movement for national social change.

During the first period of major growth he said he found it particularly difficult to balance the expectations of corporate leaders, politicians and partners, while at the same time allowing each potential player to feel a sense of ownership.

“As the project grew over the past year, each partner and sponsor wanted to define it in its own image. We have had to be firm and true to our vision.” The key, Hickox said, was enlisting the support and involvement of experts in CF bulbs and environmental activism, whose knowledge and experience boosted their chances of success.

The Future


“I haven’t felt this optimistic for a long time. It’s exciting to see so many people attracted to this campaign idea. And I love the fact that I’m just a facilitator, in fact, almost invisible. This isn’t ��Stuart Hickox’s light bulb campaign’…it’s now far beyond ��me,’ and we’re at the point where Porchlight will take on a life of its own, with the resources in place to sustain itself.”


Project Porchlight is currently active in two provinces – Ontario and Prince Edward Island – and has begun discussions with major utilities and governments in others.

A challenge has been made to all Members of Parliament to run Porchlight across Canada. Some interest has been expressed in the US, but Porchlight’s primary focus remains Canada, and in the short term Ontario.

Project Porchlight is working with the government of PEI on a concept that would result in the province being the first in Canada to declare itself “incandescent free.”

“We’re very excited about this,” Hickox said.

Team members describe the campaign as one of “education and enlightenment”.

“Once people understand the positive results of using CFL bulbs, they are happy to come on board,” said Suzy Fraser, communications coordinator. “So far the reaction has been extremely positive. People are excited by the idea of saving some money and making a difference for the environment at the same time.”

Project Porchlight has also teamed up with Habitat for Humanity to ensure low-income households are using energy efficient lights.

As a not-for-profit volunteer group, the team has no plans to sell bulbs.

Short biography of Stuart Hickox:


Stuart Hickox is a writer and marketing specialist with 15 years of experience in strategic communications management. He is Director of Writing at gordongroup Marketing and Communications in Ottawa, and is also a freelance feature writer who has traveled around the world to research and write stories for publications such as Maclean’s and Reader’s Digest. His work has been published in 14 languages. His current client list includes the International Criminal Court (DFAIT), Clean Air Champions, the Arar Commission, and Habitat for Humanity. He has a degree in Political Science from Carleton University, and one year of study in Nice, France.

Stuart was born and raised in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, but has lived in Ottawa since 1986. He is married to Suzanne Fraser, and has two young children (Jasper and Simon).


Social Entrepreneur: Patrick Cuenco

Country: Canada

Organization: Junior Hong Kong-Canada

Business Association

Location: Ottawa, Ontario

Note: This profile was prepared by Tina Barton in January 2006.



To increase the presence of youth in international trade, and enable access to China’s emerging consumer markets, Patrick Cuenco formed a junior component to Canada’s Hong Kong-Canada Business Association.


“I always look for ways to elicit change in current systems to either improve or create something new to benefit society.” – Patrick Cuenco.


How Patrick Cuenco increased youth involvement in international trade

While many businesses expanding operations into China are technology-based and subsequently being developed by a young generation, technology and trade opportunities are more commonly offered to corporations and senior players.

Cuenco recognized youth are important players in Canada’s economy, and decided to create an organization that would promote international business opportunities to Canada’s young people.

“Young people can bring new blood to the organization: they are the future leaders, and bring new ideas about business that older members may have never thought of, such as online-based companies and trade,” he said, explaining the importance of youth inclusion.

So Cuenco approached the Hong Kong-Canada Business Association (HKCBA) with his friend Candice Bazinet, (then a project manager for Global Vision) with the idea to create a junior component for their organization. At the time, the HKCBA had no youth involvement at all.

However, Cuenco’s proposal initially met resistance from the “old boys club” and fell on deaf ears. The inclusion of youth, it seemed, was deemed unimportant and unbeneficial to international trade. But, through persistence and a strong belief in what he was trying to accomplish, Cuenco’s idea finally permeated all barriers to engagement. The HKCBA approved the idea and incorporated it into their official agenda.

The importance of youth involvement and international trade


International trade is an inescapable aspect of modern reality with today’s global village being primarily linked together through trade. As Cuenco observes, to see how trade affects everybody’s lives, a person only has to visit the fruits and vegetables section at the grocery store. “I have never seen a banana tree or pineapples growing in Canada, yet we always have supply.”

While international trade brings such positive factors as exotic foods, product variety, and cheaper prices, it remains a double-edged sword in its ability to also harm local industry. Foreign companies (and national corporations) take away consumers from local industries, thereby forcing the local businesses to cut jobs in order to reduce costs and monetary loss.

For Cuenco, one solution lies in getting youth involved in international trade so they may understand the complexities of the system from an early age, and develop ideas to improve the system.

“By educating young people or at least exposing them to these issues at an early age, they will be more aware of the issues, and perhaps be able to share their ideas and work in this field in the future.” 

With 70 per cent of Canada’s gross domestic product and one in five jobs linked to trade, Canada is clearly a nation reliant on international trade. Therefore, it is advantageous to the country to have more and more people who are educated and confident in international trade.


The importance of Hong Kong to Canada

Cuenco’s particular Hong Kong-China focus arose from attending a 2004 Junior Team Canada Economic Mission to China and Hong Kong. There, he represented the interests of several top Canadian forestry companies and trade associations, to develop trade relations with companies from China and Hong Kong. His eyes opened to the fact that not only was Hong Kong an easy gateway to China, but also a territory that shared a strong cultural affiliation and populace ties with Canada.

“There are 120,000 Canadians that live in Hong Kong, so it’s like the size of a small city in Canada,” Cuenco explained. While it is difficult for Canadians to conduct businesses with China directly, because of the language barrier and cultural differences, Hong Kong is an easy springboard because it is a British colony with similar laws and English as a dominant language.

“What we offer to youth is the opportunity to learn more about China through Hong Kong. China is by far the largest market in the world and Hong Kong is the freest economy in the world. By tapping into both markets, the business opportunities are endless,” Cuenco said.

What does the Junior Hong Kong Canada Business Association offer?

The Junior Hong Kong Canada Business Association (JHKCBA) celebrated its Ottawa inauguration in April 2005. The JHKCBA provides a forum for young, modern, and forward-thinking business leaders to share and develop trade opportunities between Canada and Asia.

The goal is to provide young Canadians the “how-to” knowledge and first-hand experience in developing business opportunities with Hong Kong, China and the Asia-Pacific markets. Opportunities include accessing vast networks of business contacts in Hong Kong, China, Asia, and Canada, participating in networking, and educational and professional development activities with like-minded individuals, and learning to transform business ideas into working models. “FYI Events” are held several times each year to further develop skills and knowledge needed to succeed in Asian trade.

Some members are now importing products from Hong Kong and successfully selling them online to the world. Cuenco’s own involvement in JHKCBA helped him obtain his current position as a trade consultant in Ottawa.

Membership for JHKCBA is $35, with an age range of 18-30 years old. Anyone is welcome to their events, however JHKCBA members either get in free or at a discounted rate.

Guided by its parent body, the HKCBA (Ottawa Section), the goal is to motivate other HKCBA sections throughout Canada and the world to implement and adopt this concept.

Evaluating the impact of JHKCBA

“Starting the JHKCBA was an achievement in itself, but hopefully the future will bring further growth and expansion and youth will approach us for resources and help on China and Hong Kong trade” – Patrick Cuenco.

The Ottawa-based group currently has about 50 members, and associated branches have since formed or are in the process of forming in Montreal, Winnepeg, Halifax, Vancouver and Toronto. Meanwhile, Cuenco is actively promoting the JHKCBA concept to the Canada Philippines Business Council (CPBC) and the Canada China Business Council (CCBC).

The concept has also extended offshore to Hawaii. After meeting with Cuenco, the president of National U.S. Hong Kong Business Association based in Hawaii, showed interest in starting the youth concept in the United States. Cuenco’s team will work with them this year to develop their program and help foster relations with the JHKCBA.

JHKCBA arms youth with the confidence to enter the formerly adult dominated-realm of international trade, and the knowledge that they can start thinking big from a young age - to implement solutions to problems, or become international players.

JHKCBA also provides an alternative form of business education – a real life interactive business forum for youth - that exists outside of the typical schooling structure. Many students are attracted to this unique opportunity to learn, Cuenco said.

Recent youth and trade-related projects

Cuenco has helped develop a youth organization called YouthInside, which aims to “educate, inspire and engage” youth to become engaged in international trade.

Cuenco has to date succeeded in this venture, particularly after being invited in December 2005 to speak at a Hong Kong-hosted World Trade Organization summit on youth and international trade. The invitation was extended by both International Trade Canada and Canada Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong because his youth involvement had reached their ears.

Although Cuenco attended in the capacity of Canada’s program, he and fellow entrepreneurs Elissa Smith and Matthew Heubert used this unique privilege to meet with international officials and advocate for the inclusion of youth in future world trade meetings. The team is delighted with the reaction they received, particularly from 

Hon. Jim Peterson, Minister of International Trade, who informally invited YouthInside to create an advisory committee to ensure Canada becomes more relevant to youth in terms of trade and international investment.

Short biography of Patrick Cuenco

Patrick Cuenco graduated with high honours from the Sprott School of Business, International Business program at Carleton University in Ottawa, and completed business graduate studies at the Escuela de Negocios de la Universidad Adolfo Ibañez in Viña del Mar, Chile. 

He currently works at Grey, Clark, Shih and Associates, Ltd, an international trade and lobbyist firm.

Before joining GCS, he developed and managed several small to medium enterprises, managing client relations, cash flow, accounts and more.

He is a contributor to the Canada Philippines Business Council (CPBC) on trade development initiatives, an active member of the Canadian Institute of International Affairs (CIIA), and fluent in Spanish, French and English, having lived and studied in Chile, France and Canada.


A guest speaker at Ottawa’s International Writer's week,

CEO-cum-author / adventurer Scott Griffin discussed his social entrepreneurial experiences with the Flying Doctors in Africa.

Winged Social Entrepreneurs


> Tina Barton


Problem: Not enough people in Africa with access to medical care, especially in far-flung areas. 

Problem: A successful businessman bored with life in safe ol’ Canada and looking for adventure.

Solution: Join the Flying Doctors of East Africa and try to make the operations more efficient while experiencing the spirit of Africa.



My Heart is Africa


Scott Griffin uses the word “humanitarian” a lot when describing his role in East Africa with the Flying Doctors Service.

Griffin, a successful businessman and certified pilot, shrugged off his every day life in 1996 to join the Flying Doctors of East Africa, an organization that flies doctors to remote areas of the continent to administer medical assistance.

He put his piloting skills to the test on his journey to Africa, when he flew solo across 7,000 nautical miles (approximately 65 hours of flying time) from Toronto to Nairobi in his single engine Cessna 180 airplane.

Surviving storms, equipment problems, low fuel reserves, and self-doubt, he thought he was ready for anything…but Africa is a continent full of surprises.
Griffin used the same plane to transport himself to Ottawa’s International Writer’s festival on April 18, where he shared such surprises with a rapt audience present for a recount of the life-changing experiences that lead to his book – My Heart Is Africa.

“I gained a greater and larger sense of humanity, and that inevitably leads you to want to give back,” he said in an interview displayed on his publisher’s website.

“My Heart is Africa” portrays the lives of doctors, nurses, aid workers and eccentric characters, amongst courage and culture, landscapes and limitations.

Griffin made the decision to join the Flying Doctors of East Africa after researching and rejecting what other organizations offered. The Flying Doctors didn’t require specific medical-oriented skills, and the skills Griffin possessed seemed a good fit: he flew and owned his own plane, and had much experience in the business sector as a CEO.

While he had hoped to use his biz-savvy skills to transform the Flying Doctors into a self-sustaining entity, he soon discovered the Flying Doctors Service was not permitted to take care of its own finances and had to rely on money doled out from the “Society”.

Problem was the Society were “unwilling to let the money go”, and Griffin discovered his two years of service was too short a time to make a change.

Speaking to Ottawa’s Embassy Magazine before his arrival for the International Writer’s Festival, Griffin said that aside from financial stresses, the very nature of the Flying Doctors Service caused stress.

“The whole sort of evacuation service of the Flying Doctors is quite complicated. It’s even more complicated than running an airline because at least an airline you can schedule, but when you have medical evacuations - you could have two one day and none the next - so it’s very, very difficult.”

Mr. Griffin told Embassy that the organization’s goal is to become pan-African, although language barriers and logistics problems need to be reconciled before the aid group can expand beyond southern and eastern part of the continent.

Although he dipped into topics of government corruption and extreme poverty at the Writer’s festival, Griffin was more inclined to cast Africa in a positive light for its ability to make people focus on the interaction rather than the transaction between people.

Too often, especially in North America, commercial transactions are given prominence, he said. But in Africa, a continent where people have very possessions, humanity is often all they have to offer.

“We found that people in Africa took a genuine interest in our welfare – a startling difference from Toronto where interchanges seemed more focused on the transaction than on the participants.”

In his book, Griffin noted he preferred operating with the Flying Doctors Service over conducting business in Toronto because the Flying Doctors staff were passionate about their mission “with a vocation that went beyond making money”.

At the Writer’s Festival, he recounted an anecdote about an inspiring Nazi prison camp survivor who devoted her life to the Flying Doctors after release. When Griffin met her, she was 80 years old, and still flying her own plane to deliver medical treatment to Africa.

After an afternoon of intense treatment administered under a “healing” tree, a group of remaining patients, who had not been seen to, surrounded the pair as they were packing away their medical gear. They broke into song, with voices that touched the heart of Griffin’s companion.

“A song was all they had, but you could see that was worth more to her than anything,” Griffin said. “I saw glimpses of the beauty she had once been.”

Griffin continues to help raise funds and memberships for the Flying Doctors Service’s parent organization, the African Medical and Research Foundation. He returns to Africa twice a year for AMREF board meetings.

Griffin said his experiences in Africa had changed the way he regarded social interaction.

“I think I place lesser value on the transaction and more on the people participating in the



History and Overview of The Flying Doctors of East Africa


The Flying Doctors Service of East Africa was born from the vision of three international surgeons who recognized the need to reform medical care in Africa and adapt it into a roving system.

UK born surgeon Michael Wood had first moved to East Africa in 1946 at the bequest of his wife, where he established himself as a General Surgeon. He soon discovered how often he was being called to emergencies beyond the confines of the city of Nairobi, where no hospitals existed, and medical practitioners had to charter flights in order to get to these remote locations. As the number of these emergencies escalated, Wood decided to learn to fly.

In 1954, he went to England on a Marks Plastic Surgery Fellowship with Sir Archibald McIndoe (from New Zealand). Together with Dr. Thomas Rees, an American surgeon and also a beneficiary of the Marks Plastic Surgery Fellowship, they developed the idea of the African Medical and Research Foundation (AMREF ) and its Flying Doctors Service.

Wood’s incentive for founding the Flying Doctors Service can be found on the AMREF website (

Wood wrote: “It dawned on me that only a small percentage of the inhabitants of the earth had access to medical care - I was staggered by a statement which a friend quoted to me that 50 per cent of the population of the world was born, lived and died without ever seeing a doctor”.

The trio took inspiration from the Australian Flying Doctors Services, which had already improved the safety and standards of Australia. They set out to do the same against a backdrop of much higher stakes – Africa.

AMREF provides healthcare training and support in the form of primary and community healthcare projects throughout Africa.

Now the largest indigenous health non-government organization in sub-Saharan Africa, AMREF has a full-time staff of 600 in countries along Africa's eastern coastline from Ethiopia through South Africa. Ninety-seven per cent of its staff is African.

Meanwhile, The Flying Doctors Service operates 24hours/day, 365 days of the year through its control centre located at Wilson Airport in Nairobi. The service provides clinical support and training to health workers, doctors and nurses in remote locations, and brings specialist doctors and surgeons to remote areas to deal with locally prevalent diseases such as leprosy, fistulae and other life-threatening ailments.

During the course of its existence, the Flying Doctors Service has flown over 10 million miles, evacuated over 25,000 patients, and provided life-saving and life-changing medical assistance to many more thousands of people.


Critique of The Flying Doctor’s Service

Dr. Anne Spoerry, who joined the flying doctors in 1964 after gaining her pilot's licence at the age of 45, spoke to BMJ Journals about the evolution of the Flying Doctor’s Service.

(With notes and quotes from )

"When we first started we were flying to hospitals and doing operations mainly in Tanzania and Kenya. AMREF was much smaller then-it was just Michael Wood, who was the director, as well as being a specialist plastic surgeon. We had a doctor who specialised in community health and another who specialised in health education," Dr Spoerry said.

However, it soon dawned on the doctors that much more than service provision was needed. The catalyst for change was Kenya’s rapid population during the 1970s.

AMREF began establishing community based health centres, where staff could learn a different, preventive approach to health care. Newly trained staff then began setting up health centres in more remote rural areas, which had never had health services before.

Dr Spoerry believes AMREF's biggest success has been in establishing community based health projects run by local people.

"It has always believed that people from the local community should volunteer for the work and be recompensed by the same community. That way the project is owned by the community and can be handed over and sustained," she said.

"It is all about helping people improve their standard of living, because you often find that health improvements go hand in hand with improvements in sanitation and food."

"It is rewarding to work in these conditions where you really make a difference to life and death situations."

Dr Spoerry has witnessed dramatic changes in the health of the patients she served - mainly due to vaccination. She believes the elimination of diseases will continue.

"Smallpox has been eradicated, and I think the same will happen with polio. I rarely see cases of measles now and hardly any whooping cough, and the improvements in child health have been incredible."

However today's problems are of a different nature, and the fight is now on to control AIDS and malaria.


To learn more about AMREF and The Flying Doctors, or to get involved, visit the website at


Article by Tina Barton, June 2006.

With quotes and excerpts from: catalogue/pressReleases


Visit the following links to read more Flying Doctor articles: