We are the founders of Watsi, a website that lets anyone fund life-changing healthcare for people around the world. You may have seen our project with /r/UpliftingNews, ask us anything!
Chase and Grace here. We're the founders of a non-profit called Watsi that lets anyone fund life-changing healthcare for people around the world. /r/UpliftingNews just launched a campaign to raise money for patients on our website, which you can see here. If you're not familiar with the work we do, check out our official site.
We're looking forward to taking your questions, ask us anything!
EDIT: Thanks so much for taking the time to come ask us questions about Watsi! We hope you'll check out our site and participate in the /r/UpliftingNews campaign if you're interested in supporting a patient.
Ah, there are so many incredible success stories!
One that stands out to me is Amon, a 17-year-old student from Kenya who was diagnosed with a life-threatening brain condition. We posted him on Watsi and donors funded his surgery within a few hours, but there were complications. During the surgery, his doctors realized that his condition was far more serious than they originally thought. He needed another surgery, and it was going to be risky. The hospital asked if we'd post him on Watsi again, despite the fact that his procedure was far riskier and more expensive than anything we'd ever done before. After a full day of debate, we decided to go with our hearts and post him on Watsi again.
Our entire team held our breaths during the time we knew he was in surgery. But now, he's made a full recovery, and it's a story we're constantly inspired by.
Hi. This is my First Ever Reddit post! I've just discovered your site thanks to r/UpliftingNews. I am so impressed by what you're doing and want to help, but the cynic in me wonders how well you can trust your advisors in the field. What can you tell me to convince me to begin donating?
Hi there! Thanks for making your first post :)
This is an awesome question, and something we've spent a lot of time working on.
tl;dr We've put processes in place to ensure we only work with organizations we'd support ourselves.
We only work with the best health organizations in the world, and we do a ton of due diligence before partnering with them. This includes references, site visits, a pilot phase, and a full financial review by not just Watsi, but the IRS (i.e. every partner must maintain a US 501c3).
We send funds directly to our partner organizations to cover the cost of the patient's healthcare, not to individual doctors or patients. This in itself isn't bulletproof, but it means it would require a widespread conspiracy (e.g. between doctors, nurses, accountants, patients, and/or auditors) within our partner organizations to defraud Watsi donors.
We require our partners to uphold our standards of complete transparency. We publish all operations and financials associated with each patient (even screenshots of funds transfers, check out our Transparency Document) publicly, along with the name of the representative and organization who submitted the patient, so that they're publicly accountable for the accuracy of the information.
We conduct random audits to ensure that everything is going smoothly. In the past, these have included scanned receipts and photos proving the procedure happened (we've even received photos of tumors being removed from patients during surgery). We also visit our partners and meet with patients to verify that they received the healthcare Watsi donors funded for them.
The caliber of the organizations we work with blows our minds. That said, there's always a risk when you're operating in the world's most challenging environments that something will go wrong. We're constantly working to improve our policies to prevent this, but if you have any creative ideas, we'd love to hear from you!
In short, we donate to fund healthcare for Watsi patients daily, and we would never partner with an organization that we didn't feel comfortable personally supporting and putting our names behind.
Hope we convinced you :)
- Chase and Grace
Thanks for your answer. I think you've convinced me enough to make a donation. Keep up the good work!
Awesome! Thanks again for the great question.
Watsi is awesome. Thanks so much for starting it up! It's so cool that we're at a point in humanity's development that something like this can be done.
My only sad thought is that there's NO WAY we can afford to make such a difference to the thousands if not millions of people in developed countries who can't afford healthcare. Uh, that appears to be basically just the US, as the rest of the developed countries seem to have universal health care.
I'm sure you've thought about this a bit. What are your thoughts on what can be done to help those trapped here and unable to afford health care? Are there similar charities or economic/social/political efforts underway that we can support to improve this situation?
Thanks for the kind words! We really appreciate it.
We definitely think about this. The reason Watsi focuses on developing countries right now is simply that it's more often the case that a relatively small amount of money stands in the way of someone receiving life-changing healthcare. That said, we'd love for Watsi to be everywhere in the future.
Have you heard of Give Forward? It's essentially Watsi in the US.
- Grace and Chase
How did the concept for Watsi come about?
About three years ago, I was serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Costa Rica. A woman boarded a bus I was on and started asking the local passengers for donations to pay for her son's medical care. Lots of people donated and I couldn't figure out why they trusted her. It turns out they trusted her because she was passing her son's medical record around the bus. When she got to the back where I was sitting, I donated. And then I had an epiphany: there should be a website that makes it possible to fund medical care for people around the world. The experience inspired me to start Watsi and name it after the town I was traveling through at the time.
what is your favorite thing about what you do?
That we're lucky enough to spend every day working with an amazing team trying to solve a problem that's more important than we are.
We also get to go visit the patients Watsi donors support, which is pretty awesome. Here's a blog post about a recent trip to East Africa.
- Chase and Grace
what kind of verification process do you take to make sure the people requesting money are not taking advantage of your organization?
Great question. I think we mostly answered it above in response to SphericalBoy, but you'll find more info on this topic our FAQ. Thanks!
What happens with patients when they don't reach their goal?
Great question! We keep patients posted on Watsi until they're fully funded and we only accept as many patients as we think we can fund based on current donor demand. For more info, check out our FAQ.
- Chase and Grace
Thanks for answering! I'm glad to find out about Watsi and I made a donation.
Thanks for donating!
Hi guys, thanks for partnering with us for the recent campaign in /r/UpliftingNews!
If any other subreddits or outside organizations want to do something similar, how would you prefer they proceed?
They can email grace at watsi.org. We'd love to work with them! Thanks, Razor.
What's been the most difficult thing about your work?
We face the same challenges that most startups do. The most difficult thing about our work is knowing that every decision we make will affect the lives of real people. It's not something we take lightly.
Is Watsi's growth currently limited by the # of donors, or by the # of eligible patients?
The biggest blocker to Watsi's growth right now is engineering capacity. We're manually generating as many donations and finding as many patients as we can, but there's a limit to how much we can hand-crank.
But in direct answer to your question, the unfortunate reality is that there are a billion people in the world who need healthcare and can't afford to pay for it, and not as many donors currently supporting them, so donors are the limiting factor to our growth.
- Chase and Grace
I want to help with this if I can. I am in the same city and love what you are doing. If I can be of engineering help, let me know.
I know recently you were looking to hire another developer - what kind of problems do you encounter that could be solved by software or what kind of features are you looking to add to the Watsi experience?
P.S. I love you, I love Watsi, and as long as I'm on sound financial footing, I'll have a standing monthly donation.
We love you more! And that's awesome, thank you :)
We encounter interesting problems on the patient side and donor side that could be solved by software. Helping hospitals integrate Watsi into their workflow more efficiently, managing patient data, improving existing features like updates and monthly donations, introducing new features like gift cards and ambassadorship (fundraising on behalf of a patient), raising the bar in terms of transparency...the list goes on. There are a ton of creative things we can't wait to get started on.
If you know any great engineers who'd be interested in getting involved, we'd love to talk with them! Feel free to send them our way --> connect at watsi.org.
What's with all the 'Treatment did not happen' lines in your Transparency Document? I clicked on the profile link but no further information is available.
Great question, sorry there isn't more info on the Transparency doc!
Our hospital partners work in incredibly challenging environments to deliver healthcare to Watsi patients. Occasionally, a patient whose healthcare is funded on Watsi doesn't end up receiving the treatment that Watsi donors supported. This can happen for various reasons (communication challenges, the patient doesn't come back to the hospital, the patient changes their mind about care, the diagnosis changes, treatment is delayed indefinitely for medical or logistical reasons, etc.).
But whatever the cause of the cancellation, we believe it's important that donor funds go where they intended them to go. We are committed to reporting all outcomes transparently, even the ones we wish were different. So in these cases, the donors who supported the patient receive an email update letting them know what happened and giving them the option to receive a full refund or reallocate their donation to another patient. We're working on getting these updates onto the website (so you'd see them on the patient's profile) but right now they're only sent to donors via email.
Hope that answers your question!
Hey guys! Thanks for doing this AMA. Being a social entrepreneur, I'm truly inspired by the work you guys do.
Growing the number of donors is probably one of Watsi's biggest challenges, but is there one problem or challenge (tech and/or operational) that would surprise most people?
Thanks for the question! Hiring engineers is honestly the hardest problem we're facing right now. We have a long list of exciting things we want to do, we just need the technical capacity to do it.
Do you guys have any partnerships with healthcare groups like Partners In Health and MSF? If not, are there any plans to pursue them? Sounds like a cool concept, best of luck!
Yep! Two of our partners are PIH mission hospitals (Possible Health in Nepal and Project Muso in Mali).
No partnerships yet with MSF but we'd love that...
What's your favorite kind of ice cream?
Definitely rocky road.
I have a few questions,
1) Why did you choose the name Watsi? Is it an acronym or a name on its own?
2) Do you see yourself putting projects to help war victims in Iraq, Ukraine, Palestine etc.. who need more attention because of more sever illnesses or do you avoid those due to politics?
Watsi is the name of the town in Costa Rica where the original idea was born, full story here: http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/2ad52m/we_are_the_founders_of_watsi_a_website_that_lets/citwxgt
I would love for Watsi donors to support war victims everywhere. Definitely not avoiding due to politics. Hope to work in those countries soon!
Wonderful work you're doing! Quick question: I know it may not be within your capacity right now, but could there be a system implemented through which donors could contact recipients and vice versa? I see an opportunity here for some pretty awesome connections. I'm sure many of the recipients would love to have a way to thank their donors, and receiving a personal note would certainly encourage donors to contribute again.
Thanks for the support! We work a lot on connecting donors and patients as closely as possible. Direct contact can get tricky because of logistical capacity (as you mentioned) and patient privacy (especially for kids). But if we can figure out a way to ensure it's an awesome, positive experience for everyone involved, it's something we'd love to move towards in the future.
I first heard of Watsi though Humble Bundle and I've made sure to donate a large percentage of my purchases to it :). How important was Humble Bundle to Watsi and do you have any more plans in the future to connect to other eager gamers?
That's so awesome that you heard of Watsi through Humble Bundle!
a) Some of the coolest people I've ever met
b) Our largest corporate supporter to date
In short, they've donated more than $1.5M from gamers (like you, thanks so much for sliding towards us!) for Watsi patients. It's made a huge impact on our ability to fund emergency treatments (where we don't have time to post patients on our site to fundraise), privacy cases (where patients don't want to be featured publicly for social stigma reasons), and to experiment with creative ways to help our hospital partners provide healthcare to more people. They are simply badass. Hope to participate in many more bundles in the future and find ways to connect the gamers more directly with the patients they're supporting. Thanks for being a part of it!
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