Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Buckhead Rotary Seeking New Sister Club Project in Guayaquil, Ecuador

Our club is working to identify an alternative to the project we had planned with our sister club in Ecuador during this, the first of our three-year relationship with the Guayaquil Rotary Club. The Rotary International Foundation initially rejected our proposal to help refurbish a burn unit in the city of Guayaquil's largest hospital. By the time the Foundation reversed its decision on appeal, the work was done.

Jack Hellriegel, our director overseeing International Service projects, delivered these remarks at Monday's meeting:
Members of our club who have been around awhile know about our Sister Club Projects, but to bring new members up to speed, the Sister Club Project is one of the significant charitable programs that our club engages in. Every three years, our club establishes a Sister Club relationship with an international Rotary Club partner for the purpose of executing humanitarian projects in their country. Our more recent Sister Club partnerships include one with the Tartu Toome Club in Estonia, where we assisted with their training village for disadvantaged young people. In Istanbul, Turkey, we helped provide computer equipment and training. In Fiji, we distributed over 6,000 maternity packs for new mothers. This year, we have chosen the Guayaquil, Ecuador Rotary Club as our next Sister Club partner, and I want to commend Nick Spates, who is doing yeoman's work in chairing our project with the Guayaquil Club. 
To bring you up to date, we and the Guayaquil Club identified our first project to provide equipment and training for the refurbishment of the burn unit at the Luis Vernaza Hospital in Guayaquil, the largest hospital in Ecuador. This is a great project, as serious electrical burns and burns from propane fires are unfortunately not uncommon in that city. 
As is our custom during the first year of the relationship, we sent a delegation to visit the host club (the second year, the host club sends a delegation to visit us here in Atlanta). Alex and Donna Smythe, Aadu and Kristi Allpere, John and Lucy Dykes, Dave and Susan Peterson, and Judy and I travelled to Ecuador to personally meet with the Guayaquil club members and to visit the Luis Vernaza hospital, the site of our project. We are fortunate in that our delegation visit established an excellent personal relationship with the members of the Guayaquil Club. 
Our progress along the way with this project was interrupted, however, as we became acquainted with the vicissitudes of working with the Rotary Foundation and an international partner. The first issue was the rejection by the Rotary Foundation of our project proposal, because in their opinion it did not meet their narrow definition of disease prevention, one of the six areas of Rotary's focus. We appealed the decision with significant help from our District, and we eventually got the decision reversed and the project approved. Unfortunately, it took the Rotary Foundation over two and a half months to change its decision in our favor. 
In the meantime, the hospital didn't just sit around, and they proceded with the refurbishment the burn unit and purchased all the equipment identified in our proposal. 
When our delegation toured the hospital, we found a completely refurbished burn unit, fully staffed and treating patients. This made our project proposal unnecessary, and we are now in the process of identifying an alternative project. I'm confident we are going to execute several worthwhile projects with the Guayaquil club. 
We look forward to the next two years to the visit of the Guayaquil group and the accomplishment of several worthwhile projects in Guayaquil.