Founder Melissa Zuk talk about the history of Purses for Nurses.
In a twist of fate, just as Melissa started selling her excess purses online in 2014, a friend (and now Purses For Nurses Board Member), Andres Arboleda, noted that nurses in rural parts of Africa had no bags in which to carry their supplies. They discussed donating purses as a solution when Melissa had a brainstorm: Collect and resell used handbags to fund volunteer nursing ventures. The benefits would be twofold: Volunteer nurses would provide education, health care and support to locals in underprivileged countries, while the used handbags would be recycled.
And so, a new nonprofit organization was born.
Purses For Nurses offers nurses a different type of volunteer opportunity.
While some organizations assign nurses for short periods of time at a high cost and make only limited use of their core skills, others offer longer term (six months or more), high impact programs at low cost, but with elements of danger and limited flexibility. We provide the flexibility for RNs to travel whenever they want, for as long as they want–at no cost to them– to communities abroad where their skills can have a high, lasting impact on the people they serve.
In the first year of operation, Purses For Nurses collected over 400 purses and secured pro bono assistance for marketing and legal services. By the second year, it was incorporated and increased its staffing from three to nine. Today, Purses for Nurses is a recognized 501(c)3 nonprofit, making connections abroad and planning its first volunteer missions. Our goal is to send nurses abroad regularly, averaging at least one trip per month to locations the world over. Ultimately, we envision communities in which trained healthcare professionals are readily accessible to heal, educate and empower those who need it most.