Three hundred years before the birth of Christ, a Greek scientist named Archimedes explained the power of a lever this way: “Give me a place to stand and I will move the earth with it.”
A lever amplifies input force and provides greater output force. OBI’s platform hinges on a fulcrum of divinely-inspired purpose, so our resources are multiplied in wondrous ways that enable us to bless more people in more places; we call it our Loves & Fishes strategy.
Early this year when reports of Zika sweeping Brazil surfaced, I contacted our friends at New Orleans Mosquito Control. In 2006, we partnered with them after Hurricane Katrina in stopping an explosion of mosquito breeding in thousands of temporarily abandoned swimming pools. We used mosquito-eating fish called Gambusia and it was a huge success in stopping a looming epidemic of West Nile Virus and Saint Louis encephalitis.
I wondered if we could deploy mosquito fish all over Latin America and help to stop Zika, but our friends explained that Aedes aegypti, the mosquito that carries Zika, is far more elusive than the ones we wiped out of New Orleans. They gave us a crash course in the life cycle of Aedes aegypti and then began teaching us methods that would work in countries less developed than the U.S.
In February, our OBI Latin American country directors began to launch awareness campaigns to teach people of where Zika comes from and what they could do to protect their families. We also sponsored some conventional control methods like bed nets for pregnant women and fumigation.
Don Thomson, our national director of OB Japan, contacted me saying that he and his team wanted to help by calling on Sumitomo Chemical Company, a Japanese firm that is one of the largest manufacturers of treated mosquito bed nets in the world. Bed nets are available everywhere, but the best ones, called Olyset nets, are manufactured by Sumitomo in multiple factories in Asia and Africa. Aedes aegypti mosquitoes usually bite during the day, but occasionally at night, plus pregnant moms struggling with fatigue often nap during the day. We wanted to do all we could to protect them, so I encouraged Don to look into the possibility.
Some years ago Sumitomo perfected a process to embed a synthetic reproduction of a natural insecticide found in chrysanthemums directly into the polyethylene fibers of the net. The chemical called Permethrin has been used globally for over 30 years and is non-toxic to humans but repels mosquitoes and kills those that land on it. Sumitomo guarantees the chemical to work for at least five years. Another feature is that Olyset engineers designed the net’s openings with incredible precision: as large as possible, but just small enough to prevent mosquito entry. This makes a huge difference in air flow and therefore comfort and the willingness of villagers to use them.
Don explained our work in El Salvador to Sumitomo and how we are positioned with the Ministry of Public Health there to import and distribute nets to pregnant women, even in the most remote areas. The company agreed to donate 8.870 nets, all we had to do was pay for shipment. In round figures, the nets were worth about $71,000 wholesale and over $100,000 retail. The cost of freight was under $4,000.
The way I look at it, on top of the primary benefit for unborn babies, by paying for the freight we were able to “earn a return on investment” of over 17:1. Every donor’s dollar provided at least $17 worth of lifesaving nets. We ultimately served almost 9,000 pregnant women instead of only 200 had we used that same $4,000 to buy the nets on the open market. Leverage is a beautiful thing!
Don is going to call on Sumitomo again to show them photos, videos and newspaper articles about the free distributions happening all over El Salvador. I asked him to see if Sumitomo would be willing to donate another container of nets, this time for Honduras. An important aspect of why our strategy works in that we regularly supply corporate donors with great proof of performance. This primes the pump for more donations.
This is just a snapshot of OBI’s “Loaves & Fishes” leverage strategy—and how we multiply every dollar that you entrust us with.