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Direct Relief News
Emergency response and global humanitarian reporting from Direct Relief, an apolitical, nonsectarian non-profit with a humanitarian mission to improve the health and lives of people affected by poverty and emergencies.
2 days ago
In U.S., New Trends Fuel Coronavirus Resurgence
As coronavirus cases surge across the United States, officials scramble to roll back reopening measures in a renewed effort to contain the spread of Covid-19. The reverse course comes as record-breaking case totals threaten to overwhelm hospital systems in several states, including Texas, Florida, Arizona, and California. While the United States managed to "flatten the curve" in May through nearly universal stay at home orders, case totals plateaued at a relatively high level. Now, as preventative measures, such as mask wearing, have been met with controversy, leveling the curve may be more difficult. "I think we're in a much more challenging environment now in terms of compliance with these orders," says Direct Relief's head of Research and Analytics, Andrew Schroeder. "So, that's going to make it so that the tools that are in our toolkit are potentially more limited than they were the first time around." On this episode of the podcast, we speak with Schroeder about the trends behind the recent outbreak and what we can expect as the pandemic progresses, from reopening economies to rolling out mass vaccination campaigns.
Jun 22, 2020
Racial Health Inequities Persist. Here's How Two Minneapolis Providers are Bridging the Gap.
Black Americans suffer significantly worse health outcomes than their white counterparts--from higher rates of chronic disease to lower life expectancy. During the coronavirus pandemic, these disparities have only been amplified, with black patients dying at more than three times the rate of white Americans. Despite decades of research and community efforts, the United States' racial health gap--rooted in centuries of discriminatory laws and practices--persists today. To address these inequities, healthcare providers across the country are taking new approaches to care. On this episode of the podcast, we speak with two providers in Minnesota, Minneapolis about what they are doing to ensure their patients receive equitable access to care.
Jun 15, 2020
Dominica Nearly Eradicated Covid-19. Hurricane Season Could Change That.
On the Caribbean island of Dominica, hurricane season threatens to undo months of preventative measures taken to stop the spread of Covid-19. With only one public hospital and a handful of ICU beds, health officials acted quickly to contain the virus once the first case was reported in March. Since closing its borders, the island has reported a total of 18 cases, none of which have been fatal. But with hurricane season, and a tentative reopening scheduled for July, preventing an outbreak will be much more difficult. Crowded shelters and incoming aid workers would make it nearly impossible to trace the spread of the virus and isolate infected individuals. In these conditions, strategies used to contain the island's initial outbreak would be much less effective. On this episode of the podcast, we speak with Dominica's Deputy Chief Medical Officer about what the island is doing to prevent a large-scale outbreak, should a hurricane hit.
Jun 2, 2020
Deciding How and Where to Send Supplies During Covid-19
Many countries--previously considered Covid-19 hotspots--have moved into new phases of their response, lifting multi-month lock downs and reopening public spaces. While the changes signal progress for some, other countries are now reporting surges in case totals. The progression of the virus is of particular concern in countries with fragile healthcare systems where the virus could be especially lethal without the resources needed to stymie its spread and care for critical patients. In anticipation, Direct Relief has sent 66 ICU kits containing PPE, intensive care medications, oxygen concentrators and ventilators to health facilities in 22 countries across Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and South-eastern Europe. While the need is widespread, deciding who needs what most is a difficult choice, especially when resources are limited. On this episode of the podcast, we speak with Direct Relief’s head of Emergency Response Gordon Wilcock about how he and his team decide how and where to allocate supplies.
May 21, 2020
In the Midst of Covid-19, Florida Healthcare Providers Prepare for "Active" Hurricane Season
The prospect of responding to both a natural disaster and a pandemic at once has those in the public health sector concerned. A large-scale disaster would undoubtedly compound what has already been an all-consuming emergency, potentially flaring up new cases and stressing health systems beyond their peak Covid-19 capacities. In the United States, this hypothetical could become all too real in the near future, with Atlantic states entering hurricane season June 1st. In the Florida panhandle, which was devastated by Hurricane Michael in 2018, healthcare providers are gearing up for what has been predicted to be a "more active than usual" hurricane season, forcing them to make difficult decisions about which emergency takes precedence. On this episode of the podcast, we speak with two healthcare providers -- both of whom treated patients in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael -- about their concerns as they head into this year's hurricane season.
May 15, 2020
'Last Black Man in SF' Actor Jamal Trulove on his Unconventional Journey to Activism
Actor Jamal Trulove is not your typical activist. Framed by the police for a murder he didn't commit, Trulove spent six years in prison serving out a 50 years to life sentence. In 2015, he was exonerated after a retrial and reached a $13.1 million civil settlement with the City of San Francisco. Since then, Trulove has starred in the critically acclaimed A24 film, "The Last Black Man in San Francisco," and most recently launched an initiative to distribute Covid-related care supplies to undeserved communities in the Bay Area and within California's prison system. On this episode of the podcast Direct Relief journalist Noah Smith interviews Trulove about his experience behind bars and what motivates his activism.
May 6, 2020
Tracking Population Movement as States Reopen
With about half of states lifting their shelter-in-place orders and reopening to varying degrees, many Americans are stepping out of quarantine for the first time in weeks. Restaurants are serving in-house diners, storefronts are opening their doors to shoppers, and people are going back to their workplaces, creating scenes of pre-pandemic life and stirring hopes for a return to 'normal.' But without a vaccine, the threat of transmitting Covid-19 still remains, despite policy cues otherwise. "This is a very, very dangerous time to be changing these policies" says Direct Relief's Andrew Schroeder, who has been using anonymized data to track how people are moving during the pandemic. While the curve has flattened nationally, it has "plateaued at a very high level," he says, and rates of infection continue to climb in previously low-risk areas. Meanwhile, people have started moving about at significantly higher rates, even in states where restrictions have yet to be lifted, like California. According to Schroeder, this uptick in mobility could have dire consequences."We're seeing this high rate of correlation rate between the mobility rate and the death rate," he says. In this episode of the podcast, we speak with Schroeder about how people are moving during this new phase of reopening and what it means for the projected course of the Covid-19 pandemic.
May 4, 2020
Covid-19 Exposes Digital Divide in Healthcare
With people hunkering down due to Covid-19, more and more services are being offered online. Grocery shopping, therapy, even happy hours -- can all be accessed from a laptop computer. While virtual soirees are by no means essential, other services are -- healthcare being one of them. As health facilities seeks to minimize in-person visits, telemedicine has become a popular alternative to traditional doctor appointments. While this virtual method of care has expanded access for some, others have been shut out. On this episode of the podcast we explore how recent shifts in healthcare have exposed the digital divide, widening disparities between those with technological access and those without.
Apr 22, 2020
Covid-19's Misleading Death Toll: Who Has Not Been Counted?
The official death toll of Covid-19 200,000 worldwide. While that number has been used to gauge the impact of Covid-19, it may not provide a complete picture. This week I spoke with Dr. Satchit Balsari—an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. Balsari was one of several researchers who set out to determine the death toll n Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. His team estimated that thousands of deaths were not reflected in the official count. Many of these deaths were due to interrupted medical care and delayed treatment. It’s a trend we’re seeing now, as more and more people forgo routine medical care to avoid overcrowded hospitals. So what are the consequences of this? Do we really know how many people have died because of Covid-19? On this episode of the podcast, Dr. Balsari explains why the death toll has been under-reported and who has been left uncounted.
Apr 15, 2020
The Camp Fire Destroyed Their Homes. With Many Still Unhoused, Covid-19 Brings New Complications.
As Covid-19 forces millions into their homes, fire survivors who lost their homes in the 2018 Camp Fire have found themselves sheltering in extremely close quarters. “You have three adults and a dog living in a 17 foots trailer and its stressful," says Magalia resident Joan Coffin. Coffin and her family are just one of many living in trailers, RVs, and mobiles home units while they wait to move into permanent housing. Still recovering from the devastation of what was California's deadliest and most destructive wildfire, these families are facing a host of new challenges as the Covid-19 pandemic creates life alter circumstances. On this episode of the podcast, we take a look at how one trailer park community in Butte County is coping.
Mar 30, 2020
Inside the Lives of America's 'Essential Workers'
A growing number of states have implemented shelter in place orders in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. In compliance, companies across the country have closed their offices and asked employees to work from home. Other businesses dependent on foot traffic have shut down entirely, triggering mass lay offs. While millions of Americans work remotely, or not at all, a select few are enjoying newfound job security. Employees from 16 critical industries have been instructed to go to work, despite existing shelter in place orders. These are workers whose jobs are needed to maintain 'vital infrastructure,' such as public health, emergency services, and agriculture. They have been deemed "essential workers." As a distributor of medical supplies, Direct Relief's employees have been exempt from California's shelter in place order. While most employees can work from home, those physically packing up and shipping out these medical supplies cannot. On this episode of the podcast, we go inside D…
Mar 19, 2020
For the U.S., Italy Provides Glimpse Into One Possible Future
Many experts put the United States 10 days behind Italy in terms of the level of the severity of the pandemic. The country has been one of the hardest hit regions in the world, with more than 3,400 deaths and counting. Hospitals have been inundated with patients requiring ICU care, challenging the capacity of the nation's healthcare system. Earlier this week, a group of Italian doctors briefed healthcare providers across the world on the situation in their country. On this episode of the podcast, Dr. Hayato Kurihara speaks about how his Milan-based hospital, Humanitas Research Hospital, has adapted to admit, and treat, a mounting number of critically ill patients.
Mar 17, 2020
Here's What Responding to a Pandemic Looks Like
Since January, Direct Relief has been equipping healthcare workers with personal protective equipment to keep them safe while treating COVID-19 patients. In total, Direct Relief has shipped out 30,000 pounds of personal protective equipment and nearly one million N-95 masks. But as infections soar and stockpiles dwindle, allocating these scarce resources becomes a challenge. On this episode of the podcast, we speak with Director of Emergency Response Leighton Jones who is responsible for managing Direct Relief's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We discuss how his team decides where to send supplies and why as health facilities across the world confront an ever-expanding public health crisis.
Mar 16, 2020
Social Distancing? Do it.
As the COVID-19 outbreak graduates to pandemic status, United States public health officials are urging individuals to practice social distancing. Schools have closed, social gatherings have been cancelled, and employees are being asked to work from home. As Americans grapple with the implications of a pandemic, health officials are advocating for drastic measures to prevent the American healthcare system from becoming overwhelmed. On this episode of the podcast, we speak with Direct Relief's Vice President of Research and Analytics Andrew Schroeder who has been tracking social distancing using population data. According to Schroeder, the U.S. is a tipping point: "A lot of what happens for the rest of the year will actually be decided in the next five days." In this episode, we discuss the projected impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and what, if anything, can be done to mitigate the most severe effects.
Mar 9, 2020
"The Tip of the Iceberg." An Infectious Disease Specialist Weighs in on the Coronavirus.
The outbreak of the novel coronavirus continues to evolve at a rapid pace. With an ever-rising death toll and an unpredictable course, the virus has people on edge. While questions about the disease abound, there are few definitive answers, according to infectious disease specialist Dr. Lynn Fitzgibbons. “We’ve had the ability to test, so far, probably just the snowflake on the top of the tip of the iceberg,” said Fitzgibbons during a talk at Direct Relief’s headquarters. Without comprehensive testing, experts must rely on incomplete data to make predictions about what remains an elusive disease. On this episode of the podcast, Dr. Lynn Fitzgibbons weighs in on what she expects as testing increases and the outbreak continues to unfold.
Mar 6, 2020
For One Australian School, Rebuilding Classrooms Came First. Then, Mental Health.
In Australia, New South Wales, firefighters have contained or extinguished all fires in the state. The milestone comes months after the bushfires erupted in September and swept across the country, claiming more than 30 lives and devouring over 3000 homes. In Buxton, New South Wales — a town of just 2,000 people — residents have started to rebuild after the fires raced through their town in December. Flames scorched homes and razed properties, forcing widespread evacuations. While local families have returned, they face a long recovery ahead. To help support their children, one school is revamping their curriculum. On this episode of the podcast, we take look at how The Buxton Public School is using mental health initiatives to support their students after an unprecedented bushfire season.
Mar 3, 2020
As U.S. Ramps Up Testing for Covid-19, Cases Expected to Rise
Since January, Covid-19 has swept across the globe, with confirmed cases on every continent, but Antarctica. The virus, which began in Hubei Province, China, has now infected more than 90,000 individuals worldwide. In the United States, 7 people in Washington state have died — the first virus-related deaths in the U.S. As testing increases, the number of cases in the U.S. is expected to rise dramatically, with the potential for widespread impacts. On this episode of the podcast, we speak with Direct Relief's head of research and analysis, Andrew Schroeder, about the latest in the Covid-19 outbreak.
Feb 28, 2020
Beyond Tampons and Pads: A Solution to Period Poverty?
A period product that has been around for decades is now being considered by experts as a possible solution to period poverty. The menstrual cup—first introduced in the 1930s—has gained popularity in recent years as a zero-waste option for women looking to reduce their environmental impact. But, according to a recent study published in the Lancet Journal of Public Health, the menstrual cup might also be a viable solution for low-income women who can't afford to buy monthly period products. While the cup is a cost-effective alternative to disposable pads and tampons, is it enough to end period poverty? On this episode of the podcast we speak with several experts, including Lancet researcher Penelope Phillips-Howard, to find out if menstrual cups are as promising of a solution as they seem. Direct Relief has partnered with Kind Cup, a California-based company founded by activist and entrepreneur Christine Brown, to provide menstrual cups to health centers serving low-income women i…
Feb 10, 2020
Free Healthcare: How One Clinic is Making it Happen.
While government insurance covers the poorest of the poor, there are still millions of Americans who fall into a gap: They make too much to qualify for Medicaid but can’t afford to buy insurance on the marketplace. In 2019, there were 27 million Americans who lacked health insurance. To ensure every American has access to care, more than 1,400 free and charitable clinics are providing primary care and specialty care services to patients free of charge. On this episode of the podcast we take a look at how one free clinic is filling an unexpected need in coastal California.
Jan 15, 2020
In America's Heartland, an Unlikely Activist Tackles the Opioid Epidemic
As communities across the country grapple with the opioid epidemic, a Midwest-based group is using unconventional methods to promote the health of drug users. Through street-based outreach, the IHRC has equipped drug users across the state with Naloxone—the drug that reverses opioid overdoses. Since 2016, the group has helped prevent more than 2000 opioid-related deaths. On this episode of the podcast, we speak with Kyle Wiand, a former drug user and outreach specialist for IHRC, who speaks about his experience with drug dependency and how IHRC motivated his recovery. Direct Relief, through a donation from Pfizer, has donated more than 73,000 doses of Naloxone to IHRC since 2017.
Jan 11, 2020
10 Years Later, Remembering the Haiti Earthquake
10 years ago Haiti was hit by the deadliest natural disaster in its history. On January 12, 2010 a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck the island nation killing more than 220,000 people and internally displacing another 1.5 million. The disaster exacerbated existing humanitarian challenges and upended the lives of millions, exerting an indelible influence on the trajectory of the nation. In response, Direct Relief deployed it's most advanced emergency response mission to date. Heading up the effort were Andrew MacCalla, Direct Relief's current Vice President of Emergency Response, and Brett Williams, former Director of International Programs. The two spent years together in Haiti after the earthquake, forging partnerships with healthcare providers and delivering medical supplies to hospitals and clinics caring for victims of the disaster. Now, 10 years later, the two reflect on how the Haiti Earthquake shaped not only the nation, but themselves.
Dec 19, 2019
An Aging Population Calls for a New Approach to Elder Care. This Clinic is Up to the Challenge.
The United States population is aging, quickly. Within the next decade, the final cohort of baby boomers will turn 65, increasing the number of older adults from 50 million to 75 million. By 2034, older adults are projected to outnumber children for the first time in U.S. history. This demographic transformation is changing the landscape of healthcare in the United States. As Americans grow older, the demand for geriatric care grows in tandem. In response, healthcare providers must develop new and innovative ways to meet the evolving needs of their patients. On this episode of the podcast, we take a look at how one health center is revamping elder care. We speak with Dr. Vasquez of Urban Health Plan's Center for Healthy Aging and patient, Doreen Percival, who gives a frank account of her life as an older adult. (Direct Relief, in collaboration with BD, has provided Urban Health Plan's Center for Healthy Aging with funding to support their comprehensive elder care program and increas…
Dec 10, 2019
A Year of Disasters Brings Another Year of Response
When a major disaster strikes, Direct Relief's emergency response team is deployed shortly thereafter. Despite the logistical difficulties of getting to a disaster zone, Direct Relief staff are often some of the first to arrive. They witness the brutal effects of a disaster first-hand and absorb the reverberating shock that shakes those in its path. On this episode of the podcast, we speak with Direct Relief emergency response manager Gordon Willcock who touched down immediately after two of this year's most severe storms—Cyclone Idai in Mozambique and Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas. He tells us about what he saw during his on-the-ground response and the unsettling trends he expects to accompany future disasters.
Nov 27, 2019
Cutting Through the Noise by Giving Thanks
While disasters seem unending and politics divisive, giving thanks offers a refreshing shift in perspective. This Thanksgiving, we sit down with Direct Relief President and CEO Thomas Tighe — who gives an uplifting look at the current state of affairs and answers the question on everyone's mind this holiday— What are you grateful for?
Nov 21, 2019
Power Remains an Open Question for California Health Centers
This week, 144,000 Northern Californians were knocked off the grid in the latest round of planned power shut offs by utility giant, PG&E. Last month, the company cut power to more than 2 million customers in a move to prevent wildfires sparked by their electrical equipment. The sweeping outages had unanticipated consequences, particularly for people's health. On this episode of our podcast, we sit down with Direct Relief journalist, Paul Sherer, who reported on the effects last month's outages had on health centers. He spoke with multiple clinics in rural California that struggled to keep the lights on—and the water running.
Nov 12, 2019
Haiti is Facing a Humanitarian Crisis. This Doctor is on the Front Lines of it.
Haiti is in the throes of a humanitarian disaster provoked by months of violent protests. Demonstrations have blocked supply routes, choking a nation already crippled by poverty. Accessing health care in these conditions is challenging, if not impossible, exacerbating existing health problems. As medical care grows scarcer, preventable disease becomes deadlier. On this episode of our podcast we speak with Father Rick—a priest-turned-doctor treating patients at one of Haiti’s few operational hospitals. He gives us an on-the-ground look at the situation in Haiti and a prediction for what lies ahead.
Nov 6, 2019
The Climate is Changing. Now, We Must Adapt.
Massive wildfires, severe storms, drought—the effects of climate change are in full swing. While reducing greenhouse gas pollution continues to be a priority, adapting to the new climate is a must. Increasing climate resiliency has become a major concern for community leaders—from fire fighters to public health officials. Last week, these leaders gathered to brainstorm ideas about how their communities can adapt to reduce the impacts of climate-related disasters. On this episode of our podcast, we get a seat at the table as those on the frontlines of climate change take proactive measures against extreme weather events.
Oct 31, 2019
Stress Headaches and Fluttering Heartbeats. The Kincade Fire is Eroding Mental Health.
The Kincade Fire has displaced more than 200,000 people in Northern California’s wine county, upending the lives of residents across Sonoma County. As the fire continues to blaze, evacuees grapple with uncertain futures. Many don’t know if their homes are still standing or when, if ever, they’ll be able to return. For agricultural workers—the region's economic backbone—the fire poses more ominous questions about the future. These workers rely on the land for work. If this land is destroyed, so is their livelihood. These kinds of uncertainties have heightened anxiety amongst evacuees, causing physical health problems to emerge. Headaches, heart palpitations, and high blood pressure are just some of the symptoms medical staff are seeing in their patients. On this episode of our podcast, we speak with Pedro Toledo of the Petaluma Health Center, whose staff is combating anxiety-induced health problems through mental health services. The health center has staffed multiple sh…
Oct 22, 2019
Rags Instead of Tampons. Here's What Period Poverty Looks Like in the U.S.
Pads and tampons are a simple necessity, yet women across America are going without them. The cost of these products make them inaccessible for many low-income women struggling to make ends meet. These women often forgo menstrual hygiene products in order to afford for other basic necessities. Without tampons or pads, women resort to using rags, toilet paper, or even adult diapers. The problem has garnered national attention and stoked advocacy campaigns across the United States. While activists work to pass policies that would increase women's access to period products, women on the margins continue to struggle with the problem on a monthly basis. In this episode of our podcast, we explore the realities of period poverty in the United States and the movement working to end it.
Oct 7, 2019
To address the national opioid epidemic, this health center acts locally
The opioid epidemic has impacted communities in every corner of the country, posing new challenges for healthcare providers. As opioid-induced overdoses continue to soar, doctors have had to adapt to the changing needs of their patients. In Santa Barbara County, the Neighborhood Clinics have adopted a multi-tiered approach to battle addiction and promote recovery. The harm reduction program integrates behavioral health therapy with medically assisted treatment. In order to prevent potential opioid-related injuries, the clinics provide every patient in their program with a supply of Naloxone— a drug that reverses opioid overdoses. On this episode of our podcast, we follow Dr. Fenzi as he gives us a first-hand look at what the Neighborhood Clinics are doing to tackle opioid addiction in their community.
Sep 25, 2019
Puerto Rico extends empathy to neighboring Bahamas
Two years ago, Hurricane Maria devastated the island of Puerto Rico, knocking out power to millions and causing the longest blackout in U.S. history. Now, two years later, the neighboring islands of the Bahamas are reeling after a similarly catastrophic storm—Hurricane Dorian—barreled through the islands last month. Since the Category 5 storm’s lingering assault on Grand Bahama and the Abacos, Puerto Rico has extended an empathetic arm of support to their beleaguered neighbor. From dispatching doctors to sending aid—Puerto Rico has been on the front lines since the beginning. In this episode of our podcast, we speak with Direct Relief’s Puerto Rico-based emergency responder Luis David Rodriguez. Rodriguez recounts his experience living through Maria, and the parallels he witnessed during his response effort in the Bahamas.
Sep 23, 2019
Giving girls their days back
Millions of women around the world miss days of school and work because they do not have access to menstrual hygiene products. Without proper menstrual care, a women's period can become debilitating, forcing her to stay home and forgo her daily activities. In many cultures, stigma further compounds the challenges women face. It is common for women to be sent home from school during their periods or not allowed to enter their homes for fear of disease or death. In order to empower women during their periods and reduce stigma surrounding menstruation, Days for Girls, an international nonprofit organization, sews and distributes reusable sanitary pads to women in countries where access to menstrual hygiene products is limited. Direct Relief has supported Days for Girls in shipping over 3,500 menstrual care kits to women in 23 different countries. The organization has supported more than 1 million women in over 100 countries.
Sep 11, 2019
During a disaster, hygiene matters more
In Southeast Asia, Tropical Storm Podul and Tropical Depression Kajiki collided to produce widespread flooding throughout the region, displacing roughly 100,000 people in the country of Laos. As shelters swell with evacuees, personal hygiene becomes more important than ever. In these close quarters, disease and infection are easily spread. That's because, without basic supplies, like soap, it's difficult for evacuees to maintain habits that prevent primary health care problems. To stymie the spread of coughs, colds, and infections, Direct Relief has partnered with the ASEAN Humanitarian Assistance Center to provide flood victims with personal care kits. These kits contain personal hygiene products like soap, towels, and toothbrushes—items many people forgo when evacuating their homes. While evacuees confront a barrage of post-disaster concerns, these kits help victims take care of the basics, so they can focus on rebuilding.
Sep 6, 2019
Hurricane Dorian: Voices from the field
An on-the-ground look at the Bahamas response effort through the voices of Direct Relief staff.
Sep 3, 2019
Hurricane Dorian: The challenge of reaching hard to reach places
Amid the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, Direct Relief confronts the logistical challenges of supplying the Bahamas with urgently needed medical supplies. Despite flooded air strips and closed ports, staff use unconventional transportation methods to ensure supplies are delivered.
Aug 30, 2019
Hurricane Dorian: What to remember when evacuating
In disasters, people will rush to save their families, pets and meaningful heirlooms, often forgetting something of equal consequence -- medication they need to manage a chronic disease like diabetes or asthma. In doing so, they quickly can find themselves facing a medical emergency. Direct Relief Pharmacist Alycia Clark explains the steps people should take when evacuating to protect their health. Reporting by Amarica Rafanelli.
Aug 19, 2019
Carlos Delgado steps up to bat for Puerto Rico's kids
Carlos Delgado steps up to bat for Puerto Rico's kids by Direct Relief