Indonesian Rotarians prepare to celebrate 20th anniversary of the life-saving Bali Blood Bank, built with support of District 5370 clubs

BBB_BTU_BUILDINGThe claim that Rotary-supported programs and projects save lives can be difficult to prove at times, but in the case of a 1999 project in Indonesia, the evidence is indisputable.

The Bali Blood Bank, the building of which was supported in part by 18 clubs from our District, saved lives.

“When in 2002 a terrorist bombing rocked Bali, the Rotary-funded Bali Blood Bank was instrumental in saving many victims’ lives,” writes Karl-Heinz Schmelzer (RC of Bali Nusa Dua) in an email to our District.

The attack killed 190 and injured hundreds more.

“If it was not for the blood bank, things would have been very much worse,” Freddy Subiyanto (RC of Bali Denpasar) is quoted as saying in an article in the December 2002 issue of The Rotarian.

Freddy, along with Marilyn Fitzgerald (RC of Traverse City, Michigan), are credited with leading the initiative to replace an inadequate blood bank that existed previously.

Marilyn, author of the book If I Had a Water Buffalo, spoke at the 2018 District 5370 Conference.

“Building and equipping of the Bali Blood Bank was only possible through the co-operation of several Districts and many Rotary clubs from around the world, including many clubs from Alberta and District 5370, which contributed substantially in this fundraising effort,” Karl-Heinz writes.

With the support of these Districts and clubs, the project organizers were able to secure a Health, Hunger and Humanity grant from The Rotary Foundation. TRF replaced 3-H grants with Global Grants a few years ago.

The Bali Nusa Dua club and others in District 3400 (Indonesia) and 5000 (Hawaii) plan to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the facility opening during the week of October 13-18.

“The focal point of the celebration will be the presentation of new equipment to upgrade the mobile collection apparatus,” Karl-Heinz writes. 

To date, US$125,000 has been raised to purchase this equipment, which has a price tag of US$185,000. 

“In keeping with RI’s 2019-2020 theme, Rotary Connects the World, we are reaching out to the original clubs and Districts that contributed to building the Blood Bank 20 years ago, to secure the remaining funds needed to submit a Global Grant application and to be part of the continuing of this magnificent collaboration,” writes Karl-Heinz.

In 1998, Marilyn led a Group Study Exchange* from District 6290 (Michigan and Ontario) to Bali, during which the team visited the local blood centre, which served 7.5 million people on three islands from a 600 square-foot building.

In an article in August 1999, The Rotarian describes her reaction to what she saw. “I was horrified,” she recalls. “There was no air conditioning, so the windows were open and insects were flying in. The refrigerator door was broken and held closed with thin tape. Blood could only be stores for 48 hours. They had just two cots for donors. 

“Most of the equipment dated back to the early 1970s. Staff, who lacked rubber gloves, were forced to re-use transfusion needles several times. Crowded, unsanitary conditions prevailed, with staff cooking facilities located next to blood-sorting areas.”

Victims of accidents and diseases, who could have been saved with transfusions, were dying.

When the Group Study Exchange team from District 3400, led by Freddy, paid a return visit to clubs in District 6290, he described the situation during presentations to clubs in Michigan and Ontario.

“So we stood in front of one Rotary Club after another and told our story,” The Rotarian quotes Marilyn as saying. “When Freddy said that people were literally bleeding to death every day—indeed, that very day—because there wasn’t enough blood, they pulled out their chequebooks.”

Additional funds came from the Rotary Club of Hiroshima East and, of course, from clubs in District 5370.

The District 5370 clubs that stepped up to support this project are listed on a plaque displayed in the Bali Blood Bank entrance hall: Sherwood Park, Athabasca, Fort St. John, Edson, Edmonton Glenora, Yellowknife, Dawson Creek, Edmonton Gateway, Westlock, Grande Prairie, Spruce Grove, North Battleford, Morinville, Edmonton Riverview, St. Albert, Edmonton Strathcona, Jasper and Fort McMurray Oilsands. 

To learn more and about how your club can support this 20th anniversary celebration, you can contact Wes Nieman, email: mahout@islandstorm.com. Wes was a charter member of the Rotary Club of Bali Nusa Dua and well acquainted with the history of the Bali Blood Bank.

* The now-discontinued Group Study Exchange program provided four-member teams of young professionals and business people (non-Rotarians), each accompanied by a Rotarian team leader, with opportunities to observe how their professions were practised in another country, and to experience the culture of the host country over a period of four to six weeks. The program was supported by TRF.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s