Global Links is looking back on its successful 2023 regional and international projects that improved the health of 2 million people and recognizing hospitals that donated tons of surplus medical equipment, supplies and furnishings to accomplish that.

The nonprofit paid tribute over the past few weeks and at the end of last year to UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, UPMC Presbyterian, UPMC Shadyside and UPMC Mercy for 30-plus years of partnership with it. “Thank you for redirecting surplus medical equipment, supplies and furnishings to improve the quality of care for patients locally and around the world,” the nonprofit told them during site visits and in its February newsletter.

“These partners choose to give still useful supplies a second life,” it noted. “These materials could have been discarded, but instead they were redirected to Global Links to provide Health For All locally and globally.” In 2023, 263 tons of still-useful medical supplies were rescued from disposal.

The hospitals accrue medical and clinical furnishings surplus for multiple reasons, including upgrades, renovations, health care regulations, rebranding and more, according to a Global Links news release. Surplus materials range from sutures, surgical tools, bandages and gloves to exam tables, beds, IV poles, stretchers, wheelchairs and more.

In addition to the hospitals, Global Links last year collected surplus medical equipment and supplies from physicians’ practices, senior care and assisted living facilities, corporations, universities, vendors and distributors, and the general public. In 2023, all those donations amounted to more than $3.5 million worth of materials, including $678,967 in health and hygiene supplies that Global Links distributed to 70 U.S.-based nonprofit organizations, the majority in Allegheny County.

The nonprofit’s International Medical Aid programs in 20 countries support health improvement projects in communities lacking resources, primarily in Latin America and the Caribbean, according to its website. It collaborates with the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization, Ministries of Health, local health leaders and others to develop projects to improve public health outcomes in vulnerable populations. 

Angela Garcia, Global Links executive director, said the hospitals’ recognitions had been delayed because of the pandemic. “As we built our partnership with each hospital, we have a model,” she explained. “We built it together in Pittsburgh. Instead of one big event, we go to the hospital and customize the event to the hospital. It’s more uplifting for them. We’ve dug back into our archives as much as we can and show them the impact of all their surplus donations.”

And often those partnerships lead to ongoing programs. An example, Garcia offered, comes from the UPMC pediatric transplant team that some years back completed a one-year residency with Cuban doctors. The doctors continue to work together, she said.

Distributing 423 Global Links Medical Backpacks globally last year to 423 health care professionals is another Global Links project in 2023 the executive director noted.

Much has changed in the 10 years Garcia has worked for Global Links. Hospitals and other medical facilities dedicate more efforts to sustainability, including centers for that at all UPMC hospitals and Allegheny Health Network hospitals. Global Links changed, too, following the pandemic when travel, especially internationally, was limited. The nonprofit started efforts to provide home health medical equipment and supplies throughout Western Pennsylvania. 

Volunteers Billy Jones, of Spring Garden, Jeff Cieslak, of Ben Avon, and Myrian Perez, of Munhall, sort medical equipment, Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2023, at Global Links in Green Tree. (Alexandra Wimley/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

“We’re the natural partner,” she said. “We’re all working together, and it’s not a side project.  We connect the Pittsburgh health care workforce and the whole health care sector – Their human efforts to reduce waste and to collaborate with us to use that surplus help our vulnerable [people] in Pennsylvania and around the world.”

Global Link volunteers who sort, pack and ready the donated equipment and supplies for shipment, among other work, figure prominently in its success, Garcia said. “We make thousands of lives better through those thousands of volunteers,” she said. ”It’s magic to me. What else can we pull together out of our amazing Pittsburghers?”

The 2023 Global Links’ statistics for volunteers include 1,741 people helping the nonprofit, with some volunteering multiple times and encompassing the many groups that come to its facilities in Green Tree. They donated 8,731 hours to sort, pack and prepare for shipment those 262 tons of medical surplus, Garcia said.  The volunteer hours represent an increase of 30% over 2022.

As executive director, Garcia said she has been privileged to see the results of all this firsthand, regionally and globally.

Its partnership with the Western Pennsylvania Diaper Bank led to two large-scale distributions in 2023, reaching 1,203 households, which stunned its staffs and leaders. The June event ended with the groups running out of the products, a first for Global Links, which had conducted seven drive-up diaper distributions in 2020 and 2021 and would see 400-600 cars in a two-hour period. Initially one drive had been planned, but Garcia said they were able to secure a second sponsor for another in October. They ran out of diapers again. Diapers are not covered by SNAP or WIC programs.

“Everyone was floored,” Garcia said. “We had twice as many cars. People had lined up hours before. We served 700 before two hours were over.  …. The need to diaper children and know they qualify for assistance to live for food in our own backyard [is overwhelming].”

The second drive had a “true Pittsburgh collaboration,” she said. “We found out that it was promoted by a person at McKeesport Hospital we didn’t know,” Garcia explained. She went to a local grocery store and handed out flyers to people she knew. “That was the variable that doubled the need,” Garcia said. “This is what it takes. It’s over $100 a month to diaper a child. That doubles if you have two. We have already started planning the first one for the spring. It’s a universal need.”

Internationally she joined others on a two-week trip to visit programs Global Link maintains in Bolivia, a country it has been working with since 2001. It was her first time in that country, and the itinerary included visiting a hospital with a maternal health clinic in the Andes mountains that the nonprofit helped erect a lab and add other services.  The rural indigenous communities it serves have barriers to access it. The people started coming once the services increased. Expectant and delivering mothers receive maternal bags that have about $150 worth of products for them and their babies once they visit. 

“The challenge is walking around the flooded river for four hours to get to a hospital for three years that had nothing inside [before Global Links worked with it]. … They had raised the resources to build it, but it had no beds, no equipment,” Garcia said.

Doctors and staff and patients waited for the Global Links visitors as they made their four-hour journey themselves by van to reach it. “They were so thrilled to meet us and we to meet them. … They took us to their lab that we helped equip. That [hospital] is their only source of health care. They gave us lunch, gave us special leis [and] heavy necklaces that they made from their natural resources. That was their bounty,” the executive director said.

Global Links now includes laptop computers in its shipments, which enables patients at rural clinics to have virtual visits with doctors. It helps a great deal in Bolivia as the closest hospitals in the region the nonprofit works with is eight hours away. (Global Links)

“One woman in active labor going to have her baby came in an ambulance, stopped to get her bag before her delivery,” Garcia continued. “… It was a really powerful trip.”

Another effort reached 16,205 women and girls in Bolivia and Cuba with 16,205 reusable and washable feminine hygiene kits. Garcia said that project, which includes training for the recipients, is a partnership with the Days for Girls Pittsburgh chapter.

Garcia and her staff keep photos in their facility to remind them of the importance of their work.  She said she looks at one from Bolivia in particular.

All of Global Links’ work is possible, she said, because of its partnerships. The other key to its success is providing requested medical equipment and supplies for health care facilities and patients.

“We’re going to give them their tools, the supplies that they need or their patients’ need,” she said, “whether it’s a free charitable clinic or other nonprofits, all types of hospitals and clinics around the world. It’s the people-to-people connection. We have to listen [to them]. The community knows what it needs.

“Last year, Global Links had so many opportunities to see and fill the need. That is what gives me hope and energy. [Seeing that] People have a little less stress. They can take their children for care. They can get a breathing treatment where before they couldn’t afford the co-pay because we are going to get them that machine. “

In 2024 Global Links is working on helping more regional residents, including older adults who need expensive incontinence products and home medical equipment, that can be harder to address. To do so Garcia said it is looking to collect more surplus from assisted living, nursing care, hospice and hospital facilities and companies. Also, it needs to partner with additional nonprofits to distribute the items. Those organizations need to have a mission to be client-facing with accessible and open facilities with adequate space to reach them.

Last year the nonprofit provided 686 low-income seniors with home medical and mobility equipment, including the most needed medical items: shower chairs, canes, wheelchairs and rollators. Also, in partnership with South Hills Interfaith Movement, Human Services Center Mon Valley, Adagio Health and Allegheny County’s Department of Human Services Disaster Response 1,169 low-income residents received personal care kits with their food assistance, according to Global Links.

“We have more materials to give, and we need partners to be open multiple days a week and ones that people can get to easily,” Garcia said. “We know what works. We have to find that alignment through requests for partnerships – distributing our information to agencies to help spread our information and requests for partners in their networks. We’re looking to continue expanding to better serve Allegheny County. 

“I get excited when I find alignments. This is the only way we can do more work. There’s plenty of need. We will only have sustainable solutions with more partners.”

Helen is a copy editor at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but she's currently on strike. Contact her at

Helen Fallon

Helen is a copy editor at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but she's currently on strike. Contact her at