How Project C.U.R.E. Works

Project C.U.R.E. volunteer working with medical equipment
James Jackson's Project C.U.R.E. sends medical supplies all over the world.
Associated Press/David Zalubowski

Even as a young boy, James Jackson knew he would become a millionaire. He cut his teeth on marketing and business by trading his toys to children in exchange for more desirable ones, and then he and his brother went on to create a multimillion dollar empire of ski resorts in Colorado. But what James Jackson didn't know was how unsatisfying being a millionaire would prove to be. Feeling empty, he gave his millions away in the 1970s and pursued a career that had him providing financial advice from a Christian perspective. Impressed by his publications, the International Monetary Fund and the World Fund asked if Jackson could apply his business and bartering acumen to the developing world. Jackson set out for countries like Zimbabwe, Peru and Venezuela.

In 1987, Jackson visited Brazil, where he met Dr. Geraldo Neves. Neves was attempting to set up a medical practice that would serve an area of approximately 350,000 people, but all he had at his disposal was a run-down house, an empty canister of oxygen and dirty bandages [source: Metzler]. Jackson promised he would help Neves, and upon returning to Colorado, he asked his friends for donations. One of Jackson's friends had more than just a few hundred bucks to throw into the pot -- instead, he had $50,000 worth of medical equipment that he could donate. The friend worked as a supplier to hospitals and clinics and always ended up with a surplus of stock. Jackson continued gathering donations, using his garage as storage, until he had equipment worth a quarter of a million dollars to send to Dr. Neves.


With that donation, Project C.U.R.E. was born. C.U.R.E. stands for Commission on Urgent Relief and Equipment, and since the organization's founding, it has collected and donated medical supplies and equipment to more than 120 countries all over the world, including Bosnia, Rwanda and Iraq. Every year, Project C.U.R.E. has provided tens of million dollars of supplies. These supplies cover the range of supplies used in the medical field, from surgical gloves and hypodermic needles to hospital beds, dialysis machines and cardiac monitors.

So how does a hospital bed get from a warehouse in the United States to a clinic or hospital in the developing world? Find out on the next page.


Project C.U.R.E.'s Programs

Project C.U.R.E. volunteers working with medical equipment
Project C.U.R.E. volunteers packing medical equipment bound for Tanzania.
Associated Press/David Zalubowski

Though Project C.U.R.E. began in Colorado, it now has large distribution centers in four U.S. cities as well as smaller collection centers in additional cities (to check if there's a Project C.U.R.E. outpost near you, check the organization's Web site). These distribution and collection centers take in the medical supplies and equipment, which usually arrives from wholesale distributors and hospitals. The wholesale distributors often have surpluses, while the hospitals might be replacing a perfectly serviceable machine for a newer model. In either case, it's usually less expensive to donate the equipment than to dispose of it [source: Jackson].

Project C.U.R.E.'s mission is to "deliver health and hope around the world" [source: Project C.U.R.E.]. To do that, the organization can't just send this equipment off to the developing world randomly. Instead, hospitals and clinics from around the world apply for Project C.U.R.E.'s assistance, and before any equipment is provided, a team from the organization does an on-site needs assessment to evaluate how the supplies will be used. The organization estimates that it spends about half the year on these needs assessments, which may include meeting with local governmental officials to ensure that the supplies will clear customs and be used as directed. To date, none of Project C.U.R.E.'s shipments has ever been lost or confiscated.


These shipments are called CARGO. CARGO containers measure about 40 feet (12.2 meters) long, or the size of a semi-truck's trailer, and are delivered to their destination via cargo ship. The containers, which are hand-loaded to maximize space, usually include $400,000 worth of medical equipment that has been specifically requested by the partner clinic or hospital [source: Project C.U.R.E.].

In addition to their large CARGO containers, Project C.U.R.E. also packages smaller C.U.R.E. KITS, which are designed to be transported as checked luggage by medical professionals. The KITS, which weigh about 45 pounds (20.4 kg), contain $1,500 worth of medical supplies that can address short-term or emergency needs. The C.U.R.E. Kits for Kids are even smaller; these shoebox-sized kits contain simple health care supplies like burn ointment, soap, bandages and lice shampoo. They're provided to parents seen at the partner hospitals and clinics who have children under the age of 15 at home.

C.U.R.E. Clinics provide a chance for medical professionals to travel to partner hospitals and clinics for a seven to 10 day stint working with local doctors and nurses. During a C.U.R.E. Clinic, a medical professional may serve about 200 patients a day.

Find out how you can lend a hand on the next page.


Working with Project C.U.R.E.

Project C.U.R.E. boxes with volunteers in the background
A peek inside Project C.U.R.E.'s distribution center, where volunteers are working to ship a heart lab to Ethiopia.
Associated Press/David Zalubowski

Project C.U.R.E. offers many ways to get involved. Obviously, one of the main ways to work with the organization is to donate medical equipment. Some of the most needed supplies include anesthesia machines, electrocautery units, ventilators and X-ray machines. Though most of the supplies may come from hospitals or wholesale distributors, individuals looking to get rid of an old pair of crutches or a hospital bed can drop them off at one of Project C.U.R.E.'s collection centers.

Volunteers are needed to sort, catalog and pack all of this equipment in Project C.U.R.E.'s distribution and collection centers. Biomedical engineers and technicians are particularly needed, as each piece of equipment is tested prior to its shipment abroad. Medical professionals such as doctors and nurses are also welcome faces on the volunteer line, as they help volunteers who aren't familiar with medical supplies sort donations or gather them for packing. Finally, anyone, regardless of level of experience, can participate in sorting donations and hand-packing the kits and containers. Other volunteer duties might include cataloging the donations via Project C.U.R.E.'s extensive tracking system or fundraising. Project C.U.R.E. estimates that their volunteers give about 50,000 hours of their time each year.


You can also get involved by making a monetary donation, but do-gooder, beware: But before you write a check, ensure that you are actually donating to the Colorado-based Project C.U.R.E. As you might imagine, the word "cure" is a highly sought-after word when it comes to naming fundraising organizations. In 1997, the New York Times reported that a group known as Project Cure (not the subject of this article) had raised $2.6 million, of which only $3,500 actually went to fund research or medical care [source: Waldman]. To ensure that you're not scammed by a philanthropy con artist, investigate any organizations you're considering, and don't give your credit card number out over the phone. When you give to Project C.U.R.E., you can ensure your money actually goes to the shipment of supplies. The organization has a very low operating budget, and a donation of $150 could get a C.U.R.E. KIT on its way to the developing world [source: Jackson].

For more on organizations trying to improve the health of people all around the world, see the links on the next page.


Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

  • Barrett, Stephen. "Be Wary of Project Cure." Quackwatch. Sept. 1, 2008. (June 29, 2009)
  • Jackson, W. Douglas. "Project C.U.R.E.: Delivering health, hope and medical products to the world." Healthcare Purchasing. June 2003.
  • Metzler, Barbara R. "Passionaries: Turning Compassion into Action." Templeton Foundation Press. 2006. (June 29, 2009)
  • Project C.U.R.E. Web site. (June 29, 2009)
  • Svoboda, Elizabeth. "Do Unto Others." Science & Spirit. November/December 2004.
  • Waldman, Amy. "In a World of Good Causes, Beware Waste and a Few Crooks." New York Times. Dec. 9, 1997. (June 29, 2009)