Expect a day filled with meaningful work when you volunteer at Friends of Ostomates Worldwide–USA. - OstomyConnection

Expect a day filled with meaningful work when you volunteer at Friends of Ostomates Worldwide–USA.

A typical day in the life at the FOW-USA warehouse in Louisville, Kentucky.
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Founded in 1986, Friends of Ostomates Worldwide-USA (FOW-USA) is a volunteer-run, non-profit organization that provides ostomy supplies and educational materials to ostomates in need outside the United States. To fulfill our mission, we collect donated ostomy supplies from several 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 our warehouse located in Louisville, Kentucky.

A team of volunteers unpacks new shipments.

Unopened boxes of ostomy supplies are sorted on designated tables for each specific brand. We have tables set up for ConvaTec, Coloplast, Hollister, and an additional table for miscellaneous supplies. Previously opened boxes with loose supplies are placed into large tubs to be later sorted individually. FOW-USA also receives various medical supplies. If we cannot ship them, they are 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.

We repack supplies for shipment to over 70 countries.

Ostomates in developing countries may not have access to affordable supplies and some manage their ostomy using plastic bags, metal cans, rubber gloves, rags, or towels. Their quality of life is poor and skin care is a major issue. With access to proper supplies, we are able to help these ostomates improve their health and quality of life. Due to dire needs around the world, FOW-USA partners with other organizations who do similar work, such as the International Ostomy Association and Friends of Ostomates Canada. We also fund memberships for the World Council of Enterostomal Therapists (WCET) to help educate ostomy nurses in developing countries.

Volunteers connect with organizations in receiving countries.

This includes hospitals, clinics, cancer societies, and ostomy associations. We 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 in 2010. The team loads ostomy supplies onto large pallets for shipping which often exceed one thousand pounds. Donations are shipped to over 70 countries, sometimes in very remote areas.

"With great joy and thanks from ostomates, I am writing to express our full gratitude for your always support and care. We may not have enough words to thank you, all we can is to thank the whole team of FOW-USA and you for much you have done to us. Because of FOW-USA, we are able to see many ostomates in our clinic, coming for bags supply, information and stoma care." – Lameck Odero Stoma Care Coordinator Nyanza Kenya Ostomy Association (NKOA)

We are able to carry out our mission because of your support. 

You can help by donating unused ostomy supplies, volunteering your time, or contributing much-needed funds to help ship supplies all over the world to those who need it most. No donation is too small and every contribution is appreciated. Donors send ostomy supplies to the warehouse at their own expense. All brands and sizes of ostomy supplies are accepted, including pediatric. 

Make a financial contribution online or mail donations to:

FOW-USA
4018 Bishop Lane
Louisville, Kentucky 40218-4539

Download this guide for tips on sending donated supplies to FOW-USA.