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From West Philadelphia to Haiti

Top row- left to right-Jean Thelisma, Beth Attig, Kim Wooding, Karla McIntosh
Bottom row-Marisse Thelisma, Johanne Louis, Michelle Edwards, Mitza Jeune

 Since its start in 2004, the Vermase Foundation, a faith-based non-profit relief organization based out of Upper Darby, provides food, medicine, clothing and other necessities to those facing famine, poverty, or natural disaster.  The group’s work in West Philadelphia, often through the First Haitian Church of God at 6219 Lancaster Avenue, is most commonly seen through comprehensive health clinics with screenings and education, and efforts to refer community members to low-cost health care services.

“That population is in real need,” said Johanne Louis, RN, MSN, CRNP, nurse practitioner at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Vermase nurse volunteer. “As a congregational nurse on Sunday, I see many patients with high blood pressure, diabetes, and other chronic medical problems. All too often, many of them go untreated due to lack of access, low-income, and sometimes not knowing how to get medications and important services.” 

While supporting Philadelphians in need, the organization’s care is also provided as far as Haiti, where it is still vital as the nation continues to rebuild after a 2010 cholera outbreak and 7.0 earthquake claimed the lives of more than 220,000, left more than 300,000 injured and 15 percent of the country’s population homeless.  The foundation sent hundreds of pounds of food and supplies to Haiti after the earthquake. The foundation aims to build a nursing home in Haiti next.

Last April, Vermase worked with the Lions Club and sent 650 eye glasses and hired five doctors from Haiti to see kids and check their eyes. Vermase also helps fund education for youth in Haiti.

With support from a Penn Medicine CAREs grant, the foundation was able to hold a health fair at The Haitian Church of God, and buy new stethoscopes, blood pressure cuffs, water, tables, and other equipment. Many of those supplies will be used in future health fairs.

For more information about the Vermase Foundation, visit their website.

About Penn Medicine CAREs

Continuing its commitment to underserved communities, Penn Medicine established the CAREs Foundation Grant Program in January 2012 to support and recognize faculty, student, and/or staff efforts to improve the health of the community and increase volunteerism in community-based programs. These programs have addressed health disparities, provided care to seniors, administered free medical care to homeless in Philadelphia, helped fund medical care for uninsured and underinsured, and more.

Each quarter, the Foundation awards grants of up to $2000 per project to community and hospital-based programs on behalf of the employee(s) or Perelman School of Medicine student(s) who volunteer their time to support the program. The funding is eligible for expenses related to initiatives in community health improvement services, health professions education, subsidized health services, cash and in-kind contributions, or community building activities.

For more information and apply, please visit and read about the program at the Penn Medicine News blog.


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