The seeds were planted by his father, Dr. James Jackson, but a passionate commitment to carry on as the gardener of the mission - to collect and sort donated medical supplies and equipment to needy hospitals and clinics in poor, broken, war-torn countries - was made by his son, Dr. Douglas Jackson.
Doug Jackson’s father evidently shaped his life, but he shaped his own destiny when he decided to make “good deeds” his life’s work. So many innocent people on our earth live in sadness, despair and brokenness. Project C.U.R.E., and their motto of “Delivering Health and Hope to the World”, is a true lifesaver for many thousands of sick world citizens.
Here are the words of Doug Jackson who can best explain some of the history of Project C.U.R.E.: “Twenty six years after a humble beginning in my dad's and mom’s garage, Project C.U.R.E. is still growing strong. We are shipping more medical relief to more people in more countries than ever. We have consistently improved our process so that the medical supplies and equipment are the most appropriate, best quality we can provide. Our team of volunteers continues to expand exponentially. And now our website (www.projectcure.org) is even more user-friendly and informational. The statistics are impressive and the invitation is clear – we want YOU to join us!”
To best sum up (in my interpretation) the philosophy of Doug Jackson: Everyone deserves the chance to live a disease free, healthy life; and Doug believes the best way to rid the world of poverty, illness and heartbreak is by tapping into the resilience and courage of these people living in poverty stricken areas - and aside from helping to heal them – teach them how they can take care of themselves and their families. Showing them love and compassionate can’t hurt either. It’s our obligation to be caring and supportive of people, through no fault of their own, are dying and in crisis. After all… we are the lucky ones!
Every so often you get to meet some real life super stars. Doug Jackson and his parents deserve to be in that category for their dedication to making meaningful differences in the lives of those living with poverty and illness. The Jackson’s have devoted their lives to serving the global community, with a deep commitment to not only saving lives, but to social justice and equality.
How many hours a week do you put in for your organization? This is a full time job, plus. Sometimes people suggest that my life/work balance is a little out of whack, but we’re trying to save the world here. Literally.
What motivates you to do this? At some level, we all want to do something with purpose. My parents figured out early on that money doesn’t necessarily make you happy. Helping other people does. And I’ve learned that in my own life. I don’t know what the long-term results of our efforts will be, but I do know that we have saved lives and eased suffering for hundreds of thousands of people all over the world. That’s beyond motivation. That’s passion.
If someone wants to volunteer at Project C.U.R.E., what are some things they will be doing? We have tried to make Project C.U.R.E. as inclusive as possible. Volunteers are the core of what we do. So the first question to a volunteer is “what would make you happy here?” Most of our volunteers start in the warehouse. They sort medical supplies, clean and fix equipment and load semi-truck sized containers. Some people drive trucks, or use their own vehicle to collect donations at clinics and doctor’s offices. Other volunteers help with fundraising events – how fun is it to throw a party for a purpose? Or they work planning loads and negotiating customs. We have an exciting travel division at Project C.U.R.E. called C.U.R.E. Clinics where doctors, nurses, midwives and some non-medical friends visit the sites where we have delivered supplies and equipment. These travelers provide medical services, teaching, training and a lot of love and compassion. Donors can travel with us through PhilanthroTravel. So there are a ton of ways that people can become involved with us.
How many warehouses does Project C.U.R.E. have now? We operate four big distribution warehouses, and by big, I mean around 50,000 square feet, in Denver, Nashville, Houston and Phoenix. Thanks to a grant from the Pioneer Fund here in Denver, we have launched in Chicago, and we will be starting another distribution center in Philadelphia soon. These are all places where we load containers and ship them overseas. In addition, we have great friends who run Project C.U.R.E. warehouses from Sarasota to Harrisburg to Ithica, Grand Rapids, Portland, Austin, Albuquerque, and about a dozen other places. We transport those donations from there to one of the four distribution centers, process the medical relief, and deliver it on semi-truck sized containers to some of the poorest places on earth.
When did you know for sure you would be following in your father’s footsteps? I decided to be an attorney when I was in 4th grade. I passed the bar when I was 23, and went to work for an agricultural manufacturing company as in-house counsel. It was the 80’s and we started doing mergers and acquisitions. That was a crazy fun experience for a young lawyer, and I wanted to do more. So I went back to Boulder and completed a PhD in Finance with the goal to land somewhere like Wall Street and make some significant money. Along the way, I watched my dad wrestle with the idea of giving your life in service to others, and I decided to do my “give-back” by teaching at a University in San Diego – tough duty, I know. When I was done with academics, I saw a chance to help my dad. So we got a grant of $75,000 to pay my buddy Dave, my friend Doreen and me to work at Project C.U.R.E. We budgeted that money to last for about 6 months, and then I think we all planned to go do something else. That was in 1997. Somewhere between then and now, I realized this was the most complicated, challenging and rewarding thing I could be a part of, and I got hooked.
What are your future goals for Project C.U.R.E.? I’ve been told we are the largest medical relief organization of its kind in the world. But we’re not doing enough. There are people all over the world who still really need help. In too many places, something as wonderful as childbirth can be a terminal condition because too many moms die from complications around the delivery of their babies. There is no suture, no delivery table, no lamp or gloves or anything else that doctor needs to deliver a healthy baby and save that mom. We have it here in the U.S. in abundance. We just need to get it there. So our goal is to operate 25 major distribution warehouses in the largest medical centers in the United States. If each of those 25 warehouses shipped a container a week, that’s about 1,250 containers a year, or five a day, to the people who need it the most. To put a dollar figure on that, it’s about $600 million dollars of medical relief. The material is there, and I’m convinced we can do this.
What are some of the barriers you face in getting the supplies you need? We have logistical issues in just getting the things picked up and moved. Sometimes trucking companies will collect donations along the East Coast and move them to Nashville for example. That’s why we need more collection centers and distribution warehouses. I’m growing concerned about how we in the U.S. put expiration dates on everything. It’s forced materialism. We live in a country that puts an expiration date on beer and blue cheese. Think about how stupid that is. So we put expiration dates on test tubes and latex gloves. And the shorter the period to expiration, the faster we have to throw them away. Its regulation and marketing run amok, and it’s tremendously wasteful. As a consequence, the recipient countries are now refusing things like consumable supplies – gloves, syringes, airway tubing, adult diapers – because of the expiration dates. They don’t have these materials in their hospital, or they are reusing gloves etcetera, but they won’t take the donations now because they think it must be bad, worn out or unsafe. It’s not true. It makes absolutely no sense, and the lunacy is costing people their lives.
Besides contributing monetarily, what else can the community do to help Project C.U.R.E.? I’d love to have everyone who reads this come to the warehouse and help volunteer. Or come on a trip with us and experience the world like never before. Or get a bunch of “Kits for Kids” and fill up the bag, bring it back to Project C.U.R.E. and change somebody’s world. I like to say that this is a big bus, and there is a seat on it for everyone.
Besides your father, who else has been a valuable mentor? I have been blessed with an incredible family. My dad is a role model and a true leader. My mom has been super-glue in our family and demonstrated to me what a woman’s strength can do. My brother is a genuine hero – a firefighter who literally puts himself out there every day to save other people. And he just met and married his wife who is absolutely precious and his perfect soulmate. Noel Cunningham taught me so much about selfless love and courage. And recently, I joined a Vistage group, and my executive coach Don has meant the world in thinking through some of the tough stuff of life. I believe that people come into our lives for a reason, a season or a lifetime and they either encourage us or teach us something.
Are there other organizations out there doing the same thing as Project C.U.R.E? Yes. But I like to think Project C.U.R.E. is the best. That’s hubris perhaps, but I look at what these volunteers do, and it’s amazing. They’re changing the world.
What is unique about PC? Here’s a short list. We have never forced our way into anyplace. We wait for an invitation. We launch every project with a Needs Assessment where we actually travel to each site, sit down with the doctors and nurses and find out what they need. We have less than 25 staff and over 16,000 volunteers. We operate on less than 2% overhead and have received recognition from Charity Navigator, the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Forbes, 5280 Magazine, the Denver Business Journal, 9 Who Cares, Colorado Biz, ICOSA and so many more. There’s a lot more. I think this is a very special place for a very special time and I’m proud to walk this road with these people.
Doug, you have served as a director for several organizations, can you name a few? HOPE International, Christian Executive Officers, YMCA, and the Leadership Denver Association.
You say technology is going to change everything. How so? How has it so far? Technology is providing some very interesting opportunities. Right now for example, a doctor in the U.S. can perform an examination on someone in Africa, have the charts read by a specialist in Australia and consult on the case with a surgeon in Europe. The technology is there – and they never have to leave their office. Telemedicine will be an incredible game-changer. At Project C.U.R.E., we are amassing a database of thousands of repair manuals for medical equipment. The idea is to provide access to these manuals to hospitals in the third world through a Project C.U.R.E. library online. Nothing like this has ever existed before. And we’re just in the fledgling stage. We’re involved in a program called Saving Mothers, Giving Life. Through some of the cool technology, moms all over the world will soon be able to receive texts that will help them with information on a daily or weekly basis as they go through their pregnancy. It’s very exciting.
Has there been a moment when you thought you needed to move on and do something else with your life? Back a few years ago, I was under a lot of pressure to get a different job and make more money. The conflict of values was tough and ultimately became the root of irreconcilable differences. That’s still sad. But I love what we’re doing at Project C.U.R.E., and I can’t imagine doing anything else. I’ve thought that working as an Ambassador in a tough part of the world would be a fun gig, but that’s not likely and even if it happened, it would be for a short time and I’d want to be back here working hard to save lives. I suppose at some point, I’ll be a dinosaur and our Project C.U.R.E. board will want someone with more energy and new ideas. Until that happens, we’re going to work hard make hay while the sun shines.
You seem so fearless; do you have any fears you can share with us? There has been a time or two, in a couple of situations, when things could have gone the other way, and very badly very quickly. That was scary. But thankfully, they didn’t and it all worked out ok. At the time, it’s important to stay calm and focused. Usually, it all works out. I guess my biggest fear is running out of time. My years on this earth have already gone so fast, and there is so much more to experience, and so much more to do. I’d like to re-up for another 100 years.
What can any of us really do about the inequalities in the world? A wise man once said that you can have equal opportunity or equal results, but never both. Pick one. So probably the best thing we can do is to help provide other people with the opportunity to make their way to become self-sufficient and create their future. At the root of that is health. We can have the best schools and programs in the world, but if people are sick, nothing works.
If you could rid the world of one thing, what would it be? That’s a tough one. Maybe a poverty mindset. There are some incredibly resource-rich places in the world, whether both natural resources and human resources. But those resources are mis-managed by people who are desperate to control the outcome. To these people, it’s a zero sum game – if you get more, I get less – and they live in a selfish, cruel, controlling way. The alternative is respect, love, freedom and compassion. For example Zimbabwe was once a 50% net food exporter. Now they can’t even feed themselves. That’s a result of one man’s poverty mindset, his incredible greed and his need to control others. It never works, and the world would be better rid of that.
(Join Dr. Jackson at Project C.U.R.E.'s upcoming fundraising event: "3rd Annual High Rollers for Health & Hope" on Friday, November 22, 2013, at the Grand Hyatt Denver - The Pinnacle Club. For more information, go to the: www.Blacktie-Colorado.com Calendar: November 22th: https://www.blacktie-colorado.com/calendar/event-detail.cfm?id=26134 )