Dan Hovey: A Fearless Leader at Direct Relief
Meet Dan Hovey, Emergency Response Manager for our giveback partner Direct Relief, and our fearless guide during our trip to Nepal in May.
When disaster strikes, it’s Dan’s job to coordinate how to get Direct Relief’s much-needed items to the site as quickly and efficiently as possible. (He’s like the CTT of Direct Relief! 😉 )
We had the pleasure of spending 7 days traveling across Nepal with Dan. Read on to learn more about what he does with Direct Relief to help people around the world.
LIV: How did you come to work at Direct Relief?
DH: Before Direct Relief, I spent most of my career as a warehousing and logistics manager for a company that sold and distributed musical instruments throughout the U.S. It was a stable job with a great company, but I never felt quite fulfilled by my work. In my late twenties, I decided to leave my job and traveled to rural Zimbabwe to be a volunteer teacher at an English primary school. After the most transformative 7 months of my life, I came back and knew I needed a career change, but the process wouldn’t be as easy as I’d hoped. I applied to over 50 non-profits from New York City to Los Angeles before I ended up getting an email from Thomas Tighe, the president of Direct Relief.
In April of 2015, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal killing over 9,000 people and leaving another 3.5 million homeless. Direct Relief was preparing a donation of 162 pallets of medicines and medical supplies for the Nepal Ministry of Health and other local healthcare-focused organizations, but due to the severely damaged infrastructure in Nepal, they needed someone in Kathmandu to help receive and distribute the planeload of medicines. That’s where my warehousing and logistics background came in. Four days after I was hired by Direct Relief, I was in a dirt field next to the Kathmandu Airport managing the last mile delivery of these lifesaving medicines to health facilities throughout Nepal.
LIV: Direct Relief is rated very highly among humanitarian organizations. What makes it so extraordinary?
DH: While there are many ways that Direct Relief stands out among other humanitarian organizations, a couple have always stood out to me. The first would be our model as a support organization. Direct Relief knows that there are well-trained and skilled health professionals in nearly every country around the world. These healthcare providers are deeply invested in their local communities and understand the needs on the ground better than anyone. The problem is an access issue–the hospitals and healthcare workers that we support simply lack access to the medical resources that we can provide them. Direct Relief distributes only high-quality, FDA-approved medicines. We feel that just because someone lives in a developing country doesn’t mean they should have to sacrifice quality. The medicines that we donate to the some of the most resource-poor countries on earth are the same medicines that you would get at your local pharmacy when you’re sick.
Secondly, Direct Relief takes our donors’ intentions very seriously. For example, if an earthquake struck Nepal tomorrow and you donated $10 towards our relief efforts – every penny of that $10 would go to support the people of Nepal. None of your donation would go towards raising more money and we wouldn’t allocate the donation to a different emergency unless we received your permission first.
LIV: What has been the most impactful trip you’ve been on and why?
DH: In the last four years at Direct Relief, I’ve responded to disasters in 10 countries and 4 U.S states. On every one of those trips I’ve developed close personal relationships, learned and experienced the local culture, and left with a life lesson that I still carry with me every day. Some trips have resonated more than others, but each trip has impacted me in some way.
LIV: Is there one story you’ve been told or event you’ve witnessed with your time at Direct Relief that still moves you?
DH: On a trip to Nepal in 2016, I was fortunate enough to meet with Shanti Lama. During this meeting, the stoic Shanti shared her life story with me. At 16, Shanti was kidnapped and sold into forced prostitution, contracted HIV, was outcasted from her community, and then became one of the leading anti-trafficking advocates in Nepal. This meeting with Shanti on the rooftop of our guesthouse in bustling Kathmandu is something that will continue to inspire me for the rest of my life. Shanti is the definition of a human rights warrior, her perseverance and spirit is what I try to embody in my work and personal life as well. Since our first meeting, Direct Relief has been able to provide Shanti with over $125,000 in support of her extensive programs throughout Nepal – reaching over 12,000 vulnerable women to date.
How does Direct Relief determine where to send resources such as Liquid I.V., and how much to send?
Direct Relief only ships medical aid that has been specifically requested by our local healthcare provider partners. In an emergency situation, Direct Relief will share a list of our inventory with the doctors or pharmacists with the most knowledge of their current needs. Once they place a request, Direct Relief will honor that request completely. If they request 520 cases of Liquid I.V., then that’s exactly what they will receive. This is important because in emergency situations, the local supply chains have been damaged or destroyed. By sending donated items that aren’t needed, you are doing more harm than good. Local officials are forced to commit their limited resources to moving and disposing of unrequested and unwelcomed donations.
How do donations of Liquid I.V. impact the sites of natural disasters?
Liquid I.V. is an oral rehydration salt (ORS). Oral rehydration salts are a simple and safe way of treating people who are suffering from dehydration, and one of the most-requested items we see in a humanitarian emergency. After a disaster, the local water supply is almost always impacted. People are oftentimes forced to drink contaminated water that can lead to severe diarrhea, vomiting, or waterborne illnesses such as cholera. The first line of defense for a person who has become dehydrated due to diarrhea or vomiting are oral rehydration salts. Over the past year, Direct Relief has dispatched donations of Liquid I.V. in support of vulnerable people in 26 developing countries.
What are the best ways people in developed countries can make an impact on developing ones?
This is an excellent questions, and one that friends and family ask me often. Do your research– there are reputable organizations such as Charity Navigator that can help guide you through the process of giving. Secondly, it’s important to send only what is needed on the ground, and it’s up to the people who live there to make that decision. Good intentions can have negative consequences when the giving is misguided.
LIV: Thank you for all that you do, Dan!
(Check back soon to hear more about Shanti Lama and her organization, The Shanti Foundation!)
Interview by Samantha Colicchio, Liquid I.V. Brand Storyteller