The Power of Giving: A Local Man's Mission to "Integrate Health"
Thank you to Patrick Aylward for spreading cheer and service at Firelands Center for Women and Newborns. Patrick, along with his wife and father, delivered hats and booties for the infants in the center at Firelands. The cozy items were hand-knit and donated by a group of women in Togo, South Africa. Why did a group of women in South Africa choose to donate to a center in Sandusky, Ohio? Here’s the history.
Healthcare plays a vital role in living a long, healthy life. In many parts of the world, healthcare is not easily accessible to people who desperately need it. Patrick Aylward experienced this first hand and sought to make a change.
Born and raised in Sandusky, Patrick Aylward currently serves as the Chief Operating Officer of a nonprofit organization known as Integrate Health, founded in 2004. The organization's mission is to make quality primary healthcare accessible for all. Their goal is to achieve Universal Health Coverage, beginning in Togo, West Africa.
Patrick always had a desire to make a difference from a young age. After graduating college, he joined the Peace Corp in efforts to help others and impact change. Patrick was stationed in Togo, South Africa, where over half the population is highly impoverished. Many people in the communities are living with HIV and do not have access to treatment.
HIV, or the human immunodeficiency virus, is a virus that attacks the body's immune system. If gone untreated, it can lead to AIDS.
Patrick said, "The closest place to get access to life-saving treatment was the capital, more than eight hours away. Without access to treatment, HIV was a death sentence, and many women diagnosed with HIV could not even tell their family because they faced fierce stigma. In addition, we found a lot of children who were infected with the virus at the time of their birth because their mothers didn't have access to drugs that could prevent this. It didn't need to be this way".
Seeking to fill the gap, Integrate Health was founded by Peace Corps volunteers, including Patrick, in partnership with a dynamic group of individuals living with HIV in northern Togo, known as Association Espoir Pour Demain (AED-Law).
Patrick worked alongside his Togolese colleagues, helping them improve financial management, source medicines, develop systems and launch new programs, including the first pediatric AIDS program outside the capital city. Over time, the organization grew and was able to provide life-saving medical care and fight against the stigma that isolated so many people living with HIV.
Today, the organization provides healthcare to more than 200,000 people at 18 clinics in Togo, and they are expanding rapidly. They also have expanded out from HIV treatment and now also provide primary care for all mothers and their children.
The amazing women in Togo not only have hearts to serve their local communities but also for those across the globe. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, a group of Togolese women from AED-Lidaw & Integrate Health hand-knit hats and booties for infants to ensure they are safe and warm. They used their connection with Patrick to donate the cozy items to the Center for Women and Newborns at Firelands Regional Medical Center.
Patrick stated, "When they learned that they could provide a gift to women sharing a common experience across the globe, they felt a universal connection."
The generous donation by the Togolese women is a reminder of how healthcare can unite us from across the globe.