Waterloo grad mixing medicine and social entrepreneurship

St. Paul&rsquo;s Greenhouse recently hosted a screening of the documentary <em>The Cola Road</em>. The film follows the plight of the ColaLife organization, which works to bring affordable medication to developing countries by shipping them in the empty spaces of Coca-Cola crates.

The idea behind the project, which began in 2008, is that Coca-Cola is everywhere, even the poorest of communities around the world. The founders of the organization thought that if Coca-Cola can be delivered everywhere, so can medications.

The medication packages that are sent are called &ldquo;Kit Yomoyo&rdquo; or &ldquo;Kit of Life&rdquo; and contain everything needed to treat diarrhea, which claims the lives of many children in developing nations. Currently, the packages are sent to Zambia, where one in seven people die from dehydration, often caused by diarrhea.

Rohit Ramchandani, the public health advisor for ColaLife and a graduate of UW&rsquo;s applied health science program, was present at the screening to discuss the project and film, but also to discuss the importance of social entrepreneurship, which is the focus of St. Paul&rsquo;s Greenhouse.

&ldquo;There is a lot of big challenges that are facing the world right now,&rdquo; said Ramchandani. &ldquo;Students at Waterloo are well positioned to address these problems.&rdquo;

Ramchandani advised the audience to become the expert on their topic of interest if they have an interest in social entrepreneurship.

The idea to ship medicine in Coca-Cola crates came because their products make it &ldquo;the last mile.&rdquo; Coca-Cola is the number one selling product in Zambia. ColaLife founder Simon Berry felt they could do the same thing with medicine.

The kits are sold in stores for $1, ColaLife has found that 45 per-cent of people have used the kits.

ColaLife is now building their own distribution model, based off Coca-Cola&rsquo;s, as the demand for the medicine has led the organization to expand beyond the beverage company&rsquo;s crates.

&ldquo;Looking at innovation in terms of social return instead of economic return is a really interesting concept that we need to embrace more,&rdquo; said Ramchandani.

The film, directed by Claire Ward a former editor at <em>Maclean&rsquo;s</em>, was released in 2012. Find out more about the organization at <a href="http://www.colalife.org">www.colalife.org</a>.


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