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The Flagstaff International Relief Effort (FIRE) is dedicated to providing resources and support to individuals and communities in need, to reduce poverty, political instability, and to minimize the impact of natural disasters. Currently, FIRE’s programs are focused in Mongolia.
Flagstaff International Relief Effort (FIRE) is a non-profit, non-government (NGO) and non-political organization. FIRE is a registered 501c.3 organization in the United States and has a registered NGO branch office in Mongolia. FIRE's offices are located in Flagstaff, Arizona, USA and Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. After 14 years of work, FIRE continues to evolve, meeting the challenges of a rapidly changing Mongolia. FIRE's sustainable programs focus on empowering the Mongolian community.
Since 1999, FIRE has shipped ten, 40-foot containers filled with donated winter clothing, medical supplies, and educational materials. Over the last 14 years, 23 FIRE medical volunteers have conducted more than 1,200 hours of training with 2,700 Mongolian medical professionals around the country and delivered $720,000 worth of medical supplies and 94,000 sharps containers (biohazard boxes for sharp medical waste) to 278 clinics and hospitals countrywide. Additionally, FIRE has tested 1,000 health care workers for hepatitis B and C with 142 being vaccinated against hepatitis B. 46 FIRE clothing volunteers personally distributed 76 tons of winter clothing to over 65,000 individuals, and 80 computers and 6,000 English language library books to one dozen schools. To date, FIRE's programs have provided aid in 15 of Mongolia's 21 provinces.
FIRE has one full-time Executive Director who splits her time between Mongolia and Flagstaff, AZ. The Flagstaff office has a part-time Business Manager who also serves as the US bookkeeper and a part-time Development Director who assists in diversifying FIRE's funding sources. In the Mongolia office, there is one full-time Medical Director and a full-time Program Coordinator, both of whom are Mongolian trained Medical Doctors and one full-time Administrative Officer who also serves as the local accountant. FIRE has seven members on its Board of Directors representing a wide range of expertise from health care and small and large-scale business management to Mongolian culture. There are also seven members on FIRE's Medical Advisory Board, six of whom have an MD and/or Ph.D., representing specialties in Emergency Medicine, Orthopedics, Medical Waste Management, Health Safety and Internal Medicine. FIRE has a dedicated volunteer base averaging over 1,000 volunteer hours per year in Arizona, Mongolia and remotely.
Over the last 14 years, FIRE's distribution trips have provided a significant understanding of the logistical challenges and cultural barriers within Mongolia. FIRE has developed a unique and efficient outreach method specialized in rural and urban Mongolia. Through working relationships with Members of Parliament, Governors, Mayors, Health Sector Authorities, donor organizations, hospitals, social workers and translators around the country, FIRE has become a recognized entity in many locations from one end of Mongolia to the other.
FIRE's ability to work with the Mongolian medical system in a culturally sensitive manner provides a unique opportunity for an exchange of cross-cultural knowledge and mutual respect between Western experts and Mongolian medical professionals. All of FIRE's medical programs are coordinated in collaboration with the Mongolian Ministry of Health under a Memorandum of Understanding signed in November 2009, as well as with the Western Pacific Region of the World Health Organization (WHO-WPR). FIRE and its directors have been traveling and doing business in Mongolia for twenty years, starting many years before the inception of FIRE, making it a well known organization specializing in exceptional research, training, collaboration, and logistical support.
The founder of FIRE is Flagstaff based photojournalist David Edwards who began traveling and photographing extensively in Mongolia in 1992. The collapse of the Soviet-supported economy in 1990 ended 70 years of communist government. This left Mongolia in economic ruin and one of its darkest periods ensued. In 1993, from a desire to give back to the struggling society that had given him so much, Edwards began hand-carrying duffel bags of winter clothing donated by the people of Flagstaff to orphanages in Mongolia. He was specifically moved by the thousands of homeless children who lived under the city in the heating duct tunnels. By 1997 Edwards and a group of Flagstaff residents founded a grass-roots aid organization, the Mongolian Orphans Association. They shipped the first 40-foot sea container in 1999. The name was changed to Flagstaff International Relief Effort (FIRE) in 2000 to reflect the evolving scope of aid programs envisioned for the future.
In 2005 FIRE expanded its programs to include medical mission trips inclusive of training and medical supplies distribution in conjunction with the clothing and educational supply distribution trips. In 2008, from a desire to have a more long-term, sustainable impact on Mongolia, FIRE made the decision to stop the winter clothing program and to expand the public health programs into multi-year, year-round programs. The final clothing distribution trip was in 2009.
- Meredith Potts
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