FIRE – Flagstaff International Relief Effort is a non-profit, non-government organization (NGO), headquartered in Flagstaff, Arizona with a registered NGO branch office in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, and representatives in Langtang and Kathmandu, Nepal. In 1999, FIRE was founded on the foundation of “placing aid directly in the hands of the people,” “without middle-men” in the challenging and depleted environment of post-Soviet Mongolia. After 19 years of work, FIRE continues to evolve, meeting the challenges of a rapidly changing world. Through sustainable and award winning programming, FIRE strive to empower communities and individuals by working with partners at all levels – local, national and international.
FIRE works to improve health, education and well-being through value centered, community-based programs encompassing cultural diversity and heritage.
Communities around the world are empowered with a higher quality of life through access to safe health care and sustainable resources for responsible development.
A core set of values lie within every aspect of FIRE’s organization – from the way programs are designed, implemented, and evaluated, to relationships with partners and co-workers. Encompassed in this is the ultimate value of respect: for each other, for our partners, for those marginalized by society, for the global community, for underserved issues, and for stakeholders and local leadership.
Responsible – Reliably meeting deadlines on-time, honoring commitments and expectations
Efficient – Achieving maximum productivity without wasted effort or expense
Sustainability – Ensuring our programs have a replicable design and local ownership for long-term impact
Partnerships – Strategically building partnerships with national stakeholders and trustworthy organizations
Empowering – Helping to build capacity and leadership in local communities
Communication – Open, honest, timely, and culturally sensitive communication
Transparency – Openly, clearly, and accurately sharing all information related to our operations and finances
The collapse of the Soviet-supported economy in 1990 left Mongolia in economic ruin and one of its darkest periods ensued. Flagstaff-based photojournalist, David Edwards began photographing in Mongolian in 1992. In 1993, from a desire to give back to the struggling society that had given him so much, Edwards began hand-carrying duffel bags of donated winter clothing from Flagstaff, and personally placed the aid in the hands of those who needed it most, without middle men. He was especially focused on orphanages. In 1997, Edwards and a group of Flagstaff residents founded the Mongolian Orphans Association. In 1999, MOA shipped its first 40-foot container of winter clothing and aid, and with volunteers, conducted a hand-to-hand distribution. The name was changed to FIRE – Flagstaff International Relief Effort – in 2000 after the second aid distribution trip.
In 2003, Meredith Potts, Edwards’ photography business manager at the time, stepped in as Executive Director, resuming FIRE’s aid distribution trips after a the organization took a short hiatus.
In 2005, FIRE expanded its programs to include medical mission trips inclusive of training and medical supply distribution, in conjunction with the winter clothing distribution trips.
FIRE’s aid distribution trips in Mongolia reached 15 of Mongolia’s 21 provinces between 1999 and 2009, shipping 10, 40-foot sea containers. 46 American volunteers went door-to-door guided by local social workers seeking out the most needy families directly on their doorsteps. 76 tons of aid was personally delivered to 65,000 individuals. 23 volunteer medical professionals provided $720,000 of medical supplies to 348 clinics and 1,200 hours of training to 2,100 Mongolian health care workers. 80 computers and 6,000 English books were also delivered to one dozen schools.
These distribution trips gave FIRE a unique and comprehensive understanding of the logistical challenges and cultural barriers within Mongolia. This has created a well-developed and efficient outreach model specialized in rural Mongolia.
In 2009, FIRE stopped the basic aid distribution trips to expand the public health work into sustainable, long-term programs. FIRE began partnerships with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) on a viral hepatitis research project and with Rotary International on a medical waste management training and supply distribution program. These programs paved the way for FIRE’s current hepatitis and liver cancer prevention programs, staying true to FIRE’s core value of person-to-person outreach.
All of FIRE’s medical programs are coordinated in collaboration with the Mongolian Ministry of Health and Sports under a Memorandum of Understanding signed in November of 2009, and in support of the World Health Organization (WHO) Representative Office policies.
Following the 2015 earthquake, FIRE expanded its aid projects into Nepal with medical treatment, food, shelter and clothing to residents of the Langtang Valley. Although our programming in Nepal is continually evolving, our work focuses on immediate needs, community development, and cultural heritage. Since the earthquake FIRE has helped build a bridge, distributed 4,800 pounds of food, blankets and clothing to the most vulnerable members of Langtang, created the first “Elder House” to insure the most vulnerable members of Langtang were warm, fed, cared for, and safe for the coldest months, distributed propane stoves and firewood the most vulnerable elders of Langtang and hosted three volunteer trips.
In 2016, FIRE was recognized by the World Health Organization and the European Association for the Study of the LIver as one of five INnovation Hepatitis Screening project in the world. Today FIRE continues to design and implement programs that are culturally sensitive, focuses on rural, underserved populations and can be replicated in other countries an dc communities across the world.
Since 2009, FIRE has screened 8,526 people in 7 provinces for multiple liver issues including hepatitis cirrhosis and cancer. 3,022 people have been vaccinated, 3,571 health care workers have been trained 155,000 sharps containers, 2,0000 health safety training videos, and 78,500 pieces of community awareness materials have been distributed. 523 kindergartners received examinations and training for proper oral health.