Grant Creates Wider Reach for Hesperian Foundation

By Kristin McFarland
Wednesday November 26, 2008 - 10:38:00 AM

Despite the holiday trouble for emergency food and shelter programs, the Hesperian Foundation, the Berkeley-based non-profit publisher of community-oriented medical books, including the internationally known Where There Is No Doctor, can report an exciting new grant that will carry the organization to many more people in need of its aid. 

Hesperian is the new recipient of a three-year, $2.7 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, intended to help the organization expand and update Where There Is No Doctor. 

“It’s enough to begin expanding the book and to expand our reach to people who wouldn’t otherwise have access,” said Jennifer Ward, Hesperian’s communications and marketing coordinator. 

Where There Is No Doctor is a general primary healthcare manual widely used in developing countries. The book has been translated into 80 languages, sold at least 300 million copies and has seen use in over 108 countries. 

The grant will allow Hesperian to conduct a market study of the book’s use and potential, to refresh the book’s content, to explore sharing the book’s content online, and to revitalize its production and distribution.  

The grant does not cover any of Hesperian’s operating expenses, but according to Karen Susag, the organization’s fundraising director, Hesperian is on target for its financial goals, and on pace with last year, which was a record fundraising year for the organization. 

But why is Hesperian flourishing while local agencies are struggling? 

“I think people are still giving to Hesperian because of its mission,” Susag said. “Healthcare is on everyone’s mind and global health is going to come to the forefront.” 

However, the foundation is concerned about the economy, Susag said, and has started an 18-month planning program to watch out for its funds. Susag expects to receive more donations at the end of the year, when people typically make charitable gifts. 

“Our goal is to ask people to give more because fewer people can.”