It was early 2002 and the nation of Malawi was suffering the most severe famine in over 50 years. The Malawi Project had been formed two years earlier and was facing limited resources. Project members had already made a major commitment to helping build a hospital complex north of the capital. With a relatively new organization, a relatively small team, and a major need facing them, the challenge seemed insurmountable. Then a friend of the Project mentioned an organization in western Canada that might help. “They can only give you one trailer of supplies,” she said, “but maybe that will help you get things off the ground.” The Medical Director Suzi Stephens R.N. immediately placed the call. It was answered by Shirley Gremyachev, the Director for Universal Aid, a not-for-profit group donating supplies to aid groups in a number of nations.
After a lengthy discussion, Shirley confirmed the availability of a trailer of supplies.” I can only promise one,’ she noted at the time. It was immediately dispatched to Malawi. Then eight more shipments were added. In 2003 the number of shipments for the year reached 25, and 10 more were added in 2004. It would become a 20-year relationship, both professional and personal, that saw literally hundreds of container shipments of food, medicine, and medical supplies going to Malawi from Shirley’s organization, and a group of other humanitarian groups she introduced to the Malawi Project.
Shirley passed away on Saturday, July 17 after a lengthy illness. She will be deeply missed by her family and by those who worked with her in a multitude of humanitarian efforts around the world. Her efforts to help people will not be forgotten.
Top Picture – Shirley with the dogs she loved.
Bottom Picture – Shirley and Yuri at the time of her 50th Birthday celebration.