By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published May 9, 2013
ATLANTA—Scott Walters doesn’t mind holding out a tin cup. In fact, he loves it.
“I tell people I have the world’s best job. I have the privilege of begging for the poor,” said Walters, the chief development officer for MAP International.
“It’s truly humbling and a joyful, joyful experience,” he said.
A member of St. Thomas Aquinas Church, Alpharetta, Walters travels around the community and the globe to raise money on behalf of the Christian health organization. With roots in providing medicine to poor communities across the globe, the nonprofit has expanded its mission to promoting health and preventing diseases.
MAP International is guided by its Christian values to help the poorest of the poor in the world. The deliveries go where they are most needed. One container is currently being prepared to ship to North Korea, even as the rhetoric about attacks against South Korea or the United States escalates.
When a possible donor questioned the shipment, Walters said he thought about Jesus’ mandate for his followers to love everyone, including those who hate in return.
“In the deepest sense, that is what MAP is all about,” Walters said.
The organization can serve as a resource for parish mission trips.
Walters said MAP can “offer a one-stop service for pennies on the dollar.” A missionary can receive $13,000 in medicines in “a travel pack” for $250.
Also, if a group is traveling to a specific country for the first time, the organization can tell them what medicines would be most in need there.
MAP International works with Catholic organizations, including Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Health Initiatives, and many parishes throughout the country. Walters said the senior leadership of the Catholic Medical Mission Board visited the Atlanta offices recently to discuss furthering their collaboration. MAP has the expertise in logistics to help the CMMB and others to improve shipping medicines and supplies to the least developed countries, he said.
Walters has had a career in the nonprofit world. He was a vice president at the Arthritis Foundation and the national executive director of the Kids In Need Foundation.
A native of Wisconsin, Walters is a member of the Knights of Columbus. He and his wife, Manuela, and family, live in Alpharetta.
“I am motivated by my Catholic faith every day on the job. I want to help others and I really want to help the least among us,” he said.
His work is to introduce the agency to donors here who can pay to ship life-saving medicines to the poorest places in the world, he said.
“Whether it’s people displaced by typhoons in the Philippines, those suffering from wounds in refugee camps outside Syria or the malnourished in Uganda—they are all our brothers and sisters and most deserving of help and hope. We offer real hope and lasting change,” he said.
The global organization was founded in 1954 as a ministry to provide essential medicine to clinics and hospitals in the developing world. It was originally named Medical Assistance Program, but today its name is MAP International. In addition to its name change, its mission has changed, too. It goes beyond only providing medicine, although that is the bulk of its work, to include community health initiatives, disease prevention, and work with children with disabilities.
A 3-month-old boy in Liberia in May 2012 was the organization’s 2-billionth client.
The agency has offices in eight countries with its headquarters in Brunswick, near Savannah.
At the simplest level, the organization gathers FDA-approved medical supplies from leading pharmaceutical companies and delivers them to more than 100 countries. The material is collected near the Georgia seacoast and is prepared in 20-foot-long shipping containers.
In 2012, the organization provided 652 tons of medicine and medical supplies, along with 2,601 travel packs worth $400 million, according to the organization. Its total revenue was $244 million, according to the agency’s tax returns.
Walters said much of his job is raising the $30,000 to ship the containers that are filled with about $1.5 million of medicine.
“Think of it this way. On average, for every dollar donated to MAP, we are able to provide $60 in medicines to the world’s least developed countries,” he said.
According to MAP, an estimated 35 million people benefit annually from its services.
Changes in the pharmaceutical industry and the soft economy in recent years have made Walters’ job a challenge.
For one, the industry no longer mass produces medicine that can be donated, if it isn’t needed. Instead, most manufacturers have adopted what’s called “just in time” production so there is little surplus medicine waiting in warehouses, he said.
Also, the economic times can be difficult with many demands on dollars from businesses and people, he said.
“They need to know every dollar is used extremely wisely,” he said.