Once upon a time, in a virtual land called Craigslist, an organization was born. In the midst of tickets bought and sold, pets lost and found, missed encounters remaining missed, a group of strangers joined up in a common effort to make things better. To their secret surprise, they found themselves stumbling into something more – something big and trembling with potential. Something that threatened to make a difference.
Naturally, it all started in San Francisco. And, if you want, you can come join us too.
Hi there. This is our SF story...
On January 6, 2008, a would-be volunteer responded to a Craigslist ad. Turned out, the ad had been posted by Dr. Sujatha Sankaran, an internist recently returned from an eight month stint as the sole physician to a fishing village in coastal Ghana. She had an idea she thought could change a corner of the world and she wanted to start a nonprofit to make it happen. The would-be volunteer was Nikka Rapkin – a corporate lawyer armed with all the public health know-how to be gleaned from Mountains Beyond Mountains, and maybe not a whole lot more than that.
But still, something happened during that meeting. There was a big problem out there, one that had a solution, and yet nobody seemed to be doing anything about it. They shook hands and that’s where it began.
This is the story about what happened next. Which was amazing.
They posted on Craigslist again. And again. And again. And each time, the call was answered by individuals with drive, ambition, a skill set, experience in the field, a piece to add to the crazy dynamic and super stellar THING this organization was becoming.
Let’s say you lived near a river. Let’s say it was a big river – a very wide and deep river, with rapids and frothing whitewater currents, man-eating river sharks – something sinister and impassible. One day, you wake. You think: A bridge. Let’s build a bridge.
You stand on your front porch and you holler: hey, anyone got a rock?
One by one, strangers, who cease to be strangers, come and set down their rocks. People get excited and begin bringing more rocks. You have joy and mortar mixing parties. At the exact moment you start worrying about your lack of engineering experience, newly credentialed techies from Cal show up with blueprints. Folks on the other side of the river see what’s happening and shout back at you: can we help? And. Slowly. You have a bridge.
People come to our organization for a variety of reasons. Partly because we are the underdogs in a great battle against the nastiest kind of villain – the sneaky insidious one nobody knows about. Our bad guy is cardiovascular disease in the developing world. It’s an epidemic – taking impoverished countries by storm, setting back the clock on decades of public health advances – and it’s something we can fight and win. Eighty percent is preventable – and, if we do act on it, developing nations will save – no exaggeration – tens of billions of dollars a year. There’s something for everyone here.
And if you need roots for a global community, what better place than right here in San Francisco, amidst the community-seekers and believers who get that a BBQ in the Lower Haight really can prevent diabetes in Karnataka? And that preventing diabetes in Karnataka could build a house and keep a family fed?
We’re about to set the keystone for our first bridge – the first of many. A project in Elmina, Ghana, that will impact over 50,000 people, just for starters. We’re also throwing our first big shindig, at the Museum of the African Diaspora. If you want to give us a hand, or a few dollars, or even just say hello, you should show up. It’s on Friday, September 11 at 6:30. It will be fun (Afrolicious is playing), but mostly it will be a celebration of the Bay Area’s community and camaraderie that made this happen.
On Craigslist, you can buy a couch. You can find a bike, a bike tire, a spoke. A one night stand. You cannot buy a lung or a kidney, but (according to the Best Of), you can get a one of a kind pushpin for $0.05. You can also start a nonprofit and make the world a fundamentally different and better place.
We swear you can.
Sujatha and Nikka
You can learn more about ICHA (International Cardiovascular Health Alliance) in the links below.