A Day In The Life Of A FOW-USA Volunteer

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Founded in 1986, Friends of Ostomates Worldwide (FOW-USA) is a 100% volunteer run, non-profit organization providing ostomy supplies and educational materials to ostomates in need outside the USA.

To fulfill their mission, FOW-USA collects donated ostomy supplies from many different sources, including individuals with surplus supplies, facilities that can no longer use supplies or are changing brands, ostomy nurses, and support groups.

Here’s what a typical day looks like for FOW-USA volunteers at their Louisville, Kentucky warehouse:

A team of volunteers unpack new shipments.

Unopened boxes of ostomy supplies are sorted on to designated tables for each specific brand. They have tables set up for ConvaTec, Coloplast, Hollister, and an additional table for miscellaneous supplies. Previously opened boxes that have loose supplies are put in large tubs to be sorted at a later time. Loose supplies are mailed to FOW-USA in individual packages, with item numbers placed inside the package for reference which helps volunteers sort faster.

FOW-USA also receives regular medical supplies. If they can’t ship them, they go in boxes to be taken to the Supplies Overseas group in Louisville, KY who recycles them. Gauze pads and small medical items that could be used for ostomy care are put inside repacked boxes as fillers.

FOW-USA volunteers unpacking and sorting

FOW-USA volunteers unpacking and sorting

Volunteers repack supplies for shipment to over 70 countries.

Ostomy supplies have always been a dire need in developing countries. These ostomates may not have access to or be able to afford supplies, so they manage their ostomy by using plastic bags, metal cans, rubber gloves, rags or towels. FOW-USA provides them with the proper supplies to improve their health and quality of life.

Because so many needs exist around the world, FOW-USA partners with other organizations who do similar work, such as the International Ostomy Association and Friends of Ostomates Canada. They also funds memberships for the World Council of Enterostomal Therapists (WCET) to help educate ostomy nurses in developing countries.

Lao Friends Hospital for Children

Lao Friends Hospital for Children receives pediatric ostomy supplies

Volunteers communicate with organizations in receiving countries.

This includes hospitals, clinics, cancer societies, and ostomy associations. They identify necessities and ensure that donated supplies are distributed free of charge to ostomates in need. It’s quite a process, for both the paperwork and the unpacking and sorting. Ostomate, Mickey Heideman has worked extremely hard to streamline this tedious process since he first started volunteering back in 2010.

Joy Rhodes and Mickey Heideman in the warehouse

Joy Rhodes and Mickey Heideman in the warehouse

The team loads ostomy supplies onto large pallets for shipping which often exceed 1,000 pounds. Donations are shipped to over 70 countries, sometimes in very remote areas.

Ostomy supplies sent to Philippines, Badjao Bridge

Ostomy supplies sent to Philippines, Badjao Bridge

None of this is possible without YOU!

No donation is too small and every contribution is appreciated. Warehouse Coordinator, Carol Heideman enters donor addresses into their system so that thank you letters can be prepared and mailed out right away.

Friends of Ostomates Worldwide is able to carry out their mission because of your support. Donors send ostomy supplies to the warehouse at their own expense. All brands and sizes of ostomy supplies are accepted, including pediatric. You can make a financial donation online or mail unused products to:


4018 Bishop Lane

Louisville, KY 40218-4539

FOW-USA Board of Directors

FOW-USA Board of Directors

For more information about Friends of Ostomates Worldwide visit www.fowusa.org.