The Orion Foundation

May 08, 2008 10:57 ET


Attention: Assignment Editor, Health/Medical Editor, News Editor, Government/Political Affairs Editor TORONTO, ONTARIO, MEDIA RELEASE--(Marketwire - May 8, 2008) - The Orion Foundation today announced that, after the successful collection and distribution of nearly $100 million in anti-viral medicines for sub-Saharan Africa over the past year, the program is still going strong and is increasing its targets for the coming year.

Yet, if you're like most Canadians, the odds are that you've never even heard of this remarkable group that could well be considered the "Mighty Mouse" of Canadian charities.

Founder James Arion describes his organization in very matter-of-fact terms: "We're a non-governmental agency focusing its resources in a few key areas like the HIV African assistance program."

In fact, The Orion Foundation is much more than that; the organization owes the success of its efforts to a sympathetic resonance with a growing number of Canadians who wish to see HIV meds delivered to the areas where they are most desperately needed.

Board of Directors member Grant Young is outspoken on the subject:
"Our efforts to assist those in Africa are a direct response to the increasing awareness and commitment of Canadians all across the country."

His words echo the perspective of Orion's CFO. James Arion is proud of the work his private group has been doing and sees his mission as a logical expression of Canadian values.

"For the past two years, the Foundation has been doing its own small part to advance and assist in the stated policy objectives of the past three government administrations, as they have been expressed on many occasions over the past four years."

The group has acted independently, responsibly, (and, as it turns out), very efficiently, too. The Orion Foundation is a very "lean machine," as Board Member Bert Levy is quick to explain:

"In 2007 we survived and throve on less than 1% of donations expended on staff and operating costs," he smiles. "That's lower than any other registered charity of which we're aware!"

Yet, while Orion may be small and lean, it's proven to be powerful for sure, for this group has shown a consistent ability to "punch above its weight." It's taken dogged determination, networking, financial acumen and an admirable creative imagination to achieve the results that it's been able to accomplish.

It's also taken a no-nonsense approach to navigating the challenges involved in collecting, warehousing, shipping and distributing these priceless medicines.

The group has done everything it can to help various organizations find operational synergies and further common causes. This has meant partnering with groups like Direct Relief International.

"We are completely transparent," Arion affirms. "Simply put, we are who we say we are, we do what we say we do - and we can prove it. We have the pharma, it has been and continues to be distributed on the ground in Africa. This has resulted in the saving of thousands of lives and, with ongoing assistance, it will continue to do so."

Bert Levy also points out that Orion continues to pursue a widening range of social problems:

"We also operate vitally important programs and initiatives that include relief efforts for the Cuban people, and, closer to home, upcoming social programs in the Jane/Finch area," he explains.

Certainly, however, the African HIV initiative remains the current focus and the foundation members are hopeful about exceeding their current quotas, as their work becomes better known to the public. While the current revenues generated are a large amount for a group of this size, all of the board members are well aware of how small it is in the greater picture.

Grant Young sums up the current thinking about the need to reach a wider audience:

"With greater exposure, it's our hope that revenues may expand to the point that we can offer these life-saving medicines to an even greater proportion of our target population."

While only time will tell if their ambitions in this direction are fulfilled, certainly the outstanding success of the Orion Foundation's efforts to date is cause for optimism. With the continuing assistance and good will of Canadians from across the country, the Orion Foundation will remain a beacon of hope for the ill and disadvantaged everywhere.

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