Health Hero: Meet 16-Year-Old Mai Griffith

IMG_1046[1]-2Mai (pronounced M-A-Y) Griffith, a 16-year-old student in California started her own 501c3 called Hearts for Hearts to bring medical supplies and volunteer in third world countries that are in need.

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Mai is a sophomore at Santa Margarita Catholic High School. She volunteers at Saddleback Memorial Hospital in her free time and has a passion for serving others.

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Mai hopes to study medicine in college and use her practice to continue to help those in need of medical assistance.

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Each weekend, we’ll feature someone beautiful like Mai, doing something cool to make the world a better place.  I spoke with Mai and and her Mom today before they depart to NYC next week.  From there, she takes off for her journey to Ghana.

Mai, what first prompted you to start the foundation?

MAI:  “I first started volunteering at a hospital near my house. I met a lot
of people who were going through a lot of difficulty and that was what made
the first impression on me. Then, hearing about all of the violence and war
in the news like the war in Syria in the past year, and all of the refugees
who direly needed help, I couldn’t think about anything but helping these
people. It is very hard not to see all of the people calling out for help
in all of these places, especially with everything going on in the world
today.”

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Where do the medical supplies come from?

MAI:  “The medical supplies come from personal donations from people,
solicited donations from hospitals, and other non-profits whose goal is to
provide supplies to foundations like ours to deliver to the countries.”

 

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How did you even know to create a 501c3? Who helped you?

MAI: “People tend to donate more when they know that it is a legitimate
non-profit. Making it a 501c3 gave credibility to the cause and gives us
the platform to get corporate sponsorship in the future. My mom helped me
set it up, from being on a non-profit board before, she knows how important
that status is.”

Where do you get funding to go to third world countries?

MAI:  “We get funding from fundraising, selling pins with our logo on them,
and sugar scrubs that we make with our logo on them as well. Spreading the
word about our foundation also helps to bring in donations in many forms.”

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What do your parents think about what you’re doing?

ANN MARIE (GRIFFITH) DRYDEN, MAI’S MOM: 

“Mai is a very independent young woman and has compassion that is
truly lacking in our society these days. She is interested in medicine and
has been volunteering at a hospital for a year now and has been frustrated
that she can’t actually HELP anyone because of HIPPA rules and her age.
The whole reason she wanted to volunteer was to “give back” to others and
she kept being told NO.

Mai has volunteered on trips outside of the US so she started looking at
ways to volunteer in underdeveloped countries that need the help the most.
From that it kind of evolved into bringing medical supplies to starting a
501c3 in order to have companies be willing to donate the supplies.

As far as her going all the way to Ghana, I am admittedly nervous about it.
I have been in contact with the US Consulate in Ghana as well as reached
out to reporters in the area to see what they have to say about safety and
everyone says the Cape Coast in Ghana is really safe.

So I am feeling about as good about it as I can. When Mai watches YouTube videos
of helping people in these underdeveloped areas she is literally brought to
tears. So….how can I possibly say no. I love Mai for who she is and the
fact that she wants to do this.”

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We do too.  It can’t hurt that you’re a marketing and finance wiz yourself. I also noticed you have a TV background.  How did your background help Mai?

ANN MARIE:  “I was the Chief Operating Officer for a company called PowerDirect, which does a lot of demographic data for Fortune 500 companies, and we deliver jumbo door hangers for people’s doors. As odd as that sounds, our clients are big companies, such as Google, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Comcast, Best Buy, Verizon, Team Mobile and others.  I managed all aspects of operations and finance. It also includes marketing, advertising, television production, manufacturing, strategic planning and operations.

I’ve been in executive leadership roles for multiple companies for more than 15 years including HBO, True Designs/True Innovations and Sentinel Offender Monitoring. Clearly, my experience has had a tremendous influence on my daughter  as I always talk to her about my work.

As a female executive, I think that’s real important.  So, the first time Mai expressed an interest in doing something to help people my reaction was that it was typical for her because she’s always had a huge heart.  

She has a tremendous amount of compassion.  At the age of 7, she had a lemonade stand and she’s always been into helping others. She volunteered at the hospital, but was frustrated about not really feeling that she was helping enough. She felt she could do more abroad.

The more we talked about it, we brainstormed on what was the best way that she could go about making it a reality.  Then, she did a fundraiser on the beach in Orange County to get people to donate.”

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Will you be going to Ghana with your daughter?

ANN MARIE:  “No, she’s joining another volunteer international group called Project Abroad, and they have chaperones, so she’ll be going with them. Originally, I thought the medical supplies would be shipped separately, but yesterday we learned it’s better to pack them in suit cases.  

We’re getting as many suit cases as we can donated. We’ve even been asking on Facebook.  It costs a lot, but we’re trying to get other kids to take a suitcase with them as each is limited to two bags.

The supplies end up going to 3 different locations:  The Cape Coast Orphanage, The Ankafu Leprosy Camp, and The Cape Coast Teaching Hospital. I reached out to Johnson & Johnson in Dubai trying to get them to give us test strips, so they can use the blood sugar testing machines that will arrive.”

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What safety precautions has she taken?

ANN MARIE (MAI’S MOM): “She’s done vaccines and anti-malaria because she’ll be dealing with kids with malaria. I contacted the U.S. Consulate in Ghana and reached out to different people who have already done things there, so we can get feedback before she goes there and everyone has said that she’s going to an area that is the original area in Africa that slave trading started, so it’s an area that is definitely not very developed.

It’s not a tourist area, but it means it’s less likely to have terrorist activity.  She has a straw that filters water. She’ll be in a place that she can get bottled water brought in from ACCRA, the capital of Ghana.

I made sure Mai really understood what she was doing because most kids her age are at the beach during the summer and here she is wanting to place bandages on sick children.”

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What will you and Mai being doing while in New York City?

ANN MARIE:  “We’ll be in NYC looking at Columbia University, where she’d like to do Pre-Med, and then she flies out on Friday, July 7.”

That’s wonderful.  Let’s talk to Mai again. Mai, we love what you’re doing. Good luck at Columbia and on your trip to Ghana. Tell me about your future aspirations.

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MAI: I’m interested in medicine and have a compassion to help, and I
aspire to be able to reach those across the globe who are in true need of
medical attention. I want to continue with my foundation and to grow it
globally so that I can reach more countries and areas that would benefit
from our help.”

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How can other people help support what you’re doing?

MAI:   “Other people can help by sending us medical supplies and products
they no longer need like band aids and other items alike. A lot of times
expiration dates on the boxes do not matter to the places accepting our
donations, so anything helps. Along with supplies, monetary donations
through the link on our site help to pay for shipping, costs and delivery
of the supplies.”

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If people want more information, where should they go?

MAI  “Our website http://www.hforhfoundation.org and our Instagram is @hforhfoundation

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Your trip is coming up soon. How do you feel about going to Ghana?

MAI:  I am extremely excited to go to Ghana, as I really want to be able to
help where I am needed and make a real difference. I am also a little
nervous as well, because it is hallway across the globe, and it is so
different from how I live at home. Overall, I really cannot wait because I
know this will be an amazing experience to contribute to the world we all
live in and to make it a better, safer place for generations to come.”

When do you get back from Ghana?

“I get back July 23. There’s a few hour layover in NYC and then back to Orange County.”

Thank you to Mai and her Mom for all they’re doing to help others, and for taking the time to speak with me. Wishing her a safe and wonderful trip and experience.

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http://www.hforhfoundation.org

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ABC News LA did a story on our Health Hero this week, which you can view here: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BzxYf7TwDSINNWVzWU9sWmtyMDA www.hforhfoundation.org

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Mai and her Mom can also be reached on Twitter at:  @hforhfoundation

 

If you know someone beautiful doing something cool to help others, let us know.

abc2   Contact:  Maria.Dorfner@yahoo.com. Subject: Health Hero

 

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Happy, Healthy Fourth of July, everyone!

 

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