Rotarians from District 5370 experience the battle to eradicate polio first-hand during national immunization days

Screen Shot 2019-12-20 at 8.35.34 AMWhen assistant governor Sally Schilds (RC of Dawson Creek Sunrise) encountered young men begging in the market near where she and other volunteers had spent a day administering polio vaccine, two drops at a time, into the mouths of children, it brought home the importance of what she was doing.

Sally, her husband, 2015-16 PDG Tim (RC of Dawson Creek), their daughter, Brenna, and a friend of their daughter were part of a national immunization day in an Indian village near Agra, the site of the Taj Mahal, in January 2018.

“We were going through the market, and as we were going to our bus, we saw all of these young men lined up, sitting by the bus,” Sally says. 

“My [daughter’s] friend turned to me and said, ‘I don’t understand why they are always sitting on the ground.’ I said, ‘It’s because they had polio. They are victims of polio. That’s why we were giving those drops to those babies and those children, so they don’t end up like this.’

“She was absolutely shocked and teary-eyed because she hadn’t made that connection,” Sally says. “For her to see why we are doing it also hit me like a ton of bricks. I said, ‘That’s why we are here, to help these children not have to worry about it.’

“’I had seen the pictures and I know the facts, but to actually see it, and live through that realization by this young woman was very touching for both of us.”

National immunization days (NIDs) are supported by Rotary International, through tax deductible donations by Rotarians to the Polio Eradication campaign, and by its partners in the campaign to eradicate polio, such as the World Health Organization and UNICEF.

Rotary volunteers are responsible for their own travel and accommodation while participating in NIDs. 

Like many Rotarians who have been involved in Polio Plus, it was always the (goa)l to go and do a national immunization day,” Sally says.

The idea become a possibility when they received a letter from friends in India. “The reason we have friends in India, why we’ve met these people from India, is through youth exchange. Our very first youth exchange ‘daughter’ is living in Delhi,” Sally says.

Initially, only Sally and Tim were planning to volunteer, but then she asked her daughter if she would be interested in making India the destination of the graduation trip her parents had promised her after she completed university.

“ ‘That’s exactly what I want to do,’ she responded,” Sally says. It would be an opportunity for a family reunion with Brenna’s “big sister.

Screen Shot 2019-12-20 at 8.34.57 AMFor another assistant governor, Marilyn Mucha (RC of Edmonton Whyte Avenue), participation began in 2011 with a telephone call from a Rotarian from Drayton Valley.

“I got a call from Mary Drader saying, ‘[2019-10 PDG] Terry doesn’t want to go, but I would like to go. Can we go together?’ I said absolutely. We did the research and went on a pre-arranged trip that was organized by a past district governor from California, who is a travel agent,” Marylin says.

For Marilyn, it was an opportunity to experience first-hand how Rotary serves people in another part of the world. “We’re separated from the work that we do internationally. Rotarians don’t get to feel the impact of what we do and see how we’ve touched the lives of people when we’re donating money,” Marilyn says.

“This provided me an opportunity to be on the ground, to be connected with children and the people of a country that needed so desperately to get this vaccine, and of course, to work towards our overall goal of eradicating polio.”

The same travel agency that arranged Marilyn and Mary’s visit is organizing another polio eradication trip, which will begin with participants arriving in Delhi on January 11. Like the one in which Marilyn and Mary participated, this trip will visit tourist sites for a few days, before participation in immunization activities near Delhi. 

“The travel arrangements were already taken care of for you. You’re also going to be connected with local Rotarians. The Rotarians there embraced us and had receptions for us,” Marilyn says.

“Of course, they wanted to show us their projects, some of which were tied to the polio, such as providing braces and corrective surgeries for polio victims.”

Click here for additional information about this trip.

While in India the polio vaccine has in the past been administered with two drops into the mouths of children, the nation is switching to injectables in its effort to ensure the country remains polio-free. This means that 2020 may the last time to be involved as these Rotarians from District 5370 were.

“The typical national immunization day protocol [begins with] a briefing with the World Health Organization and the Rotary co-ordinators,” Marilyn says.

Screen Shot 2019-12-20 at 8.34.36 AMThe first day for both hers and Sally’s immunization campaign was devoted to informing the local residents about what would be happening. 

“We discovered we were going to be used mainly to spread the important message of polio immunizations,” Sally says. “One day, we took to the streets in a great big parade and walked through this poor village area. There were whistles and bells and music.”

Marilyn says, “because so many people in the area are illiterate, you have to demonstrate what it is that you’re going to be doing, with something really loud and colourful. We participated in that parade. It was huge. We all had our [Polio Plus] shirts on. There was a marching band and a banner that showed a child getting two drops.”

Click here to view a slide show of a parade in Ghaziabad, a city near New Delhi.

“The next day, we participated in what we called ‘booth duty.’ There were multiple booths set up in neighbourhoods and cities around the country,” Marilyn says. “We were participating in actual immunization, which was doing one of two things: we were either administering the drops or marking the left pinky with indelible purple ink [to show that children had been immunized].”

Parents brought their children to the immunization booth using every mode of transportation imaginable. “They came by foot, on bikes, on scooters, in cars—it was almost like a drive-through,” Marilyn says. 

“They came by the booth and we would immunize them and away they went. It was very fast, very efficient.”

Personnel from the World Health Organization were present at each location. “They were the ones in change of the vaccine and they were tracking how many people were immunized,” Marilyn says.

That day, the immunization activity was interrupted by an unexpected visitor.

Screen Shot 2019-12-20 at 8.35.12 AM“In India, cows are sacred. You can’t disturb them. So if they sit in the middle of the road, you drive around it,” Marilyn says. “A bull decided he was going to go through our tent, which was very dramatic to say the least. We all cleared away and let him pass through. Then we continued with what we were doing.”

Tim and Sally were paired with two Dutch women on the day they were to immunize children. “We met very, very early in the morning and we were all given our gear—the hats, the vests, the toys,” Sally says. “Then we were all put in the little tuk-tuks with our interpreter and taken away to a small, little brick schoolhouse. 

“I would like to say it was an abandoned schoolhouse, but unfortunately it was not. All around us was extreme poverty, absolutely extreme poverty,” she says.

They were joined at the school by a nurse practitioner. “She did a baby clinic and gave the polio vaccine by needle to the babies and the rest of us were there with our interpreter to do the drops.”

Some children were familiar with the process, having received the drop several times before. “In India, in some vaccination areas, they have to have the drops about 12 times for it to be strong enough,” Sally says. “Some of the little kids who came stood there like birds and opened their mouths and we gave them the drops and then we gave them a little toy—a ball or whistle.”


The rear window of DG Tracey Vavrek’s Toyota Highlander, which is nicknamed Amelia Kind Heart, features a photo of Sally Schilds administering polio vaccine drops during a national immunization day in India

For other children, the experience wasn’t like what’s illustrated on the posters promoting polio eradication—all those little babies, with their mouths open wide, looking up adoringly at the volunteers.

“As you can imagine, lot of children were really afraid of us,” says Sally. “The Dutch women were these tall, blonde women. Then you’ve got Tim with his burly moustache and you’ve got me with my white hair and glasses. They were excited to see us, but also terrified. I would say it was half and half—children looking up at us adorably and being very proud to get their drops, and others who were absolutely terrified to get their drops.”

After that day at the school, Sally and Tim’s polio immunization experience was over, but for Marilyn, there was one more day. “This day was for me the most impactful because this is when we went out to the slums. These were people who did not come to the booth for whatever reason.”

The people living in this area tended to be transient and living in what Marilyn describes as filthy conditions. Nevertheless, “the children seemed happy, but they were playing in the mud, with snakes and everything else roaming around.”

She was impressed by the local organization, which worked with the World Health Organization. “They had schematics of the settlement and were able to tell who lived in which tent and if they had been immunized. We went to each of those dwellings and immunized the children and it was documented.”

The visit to slum involved more than immunizations. “We were told we would be visiting a project and we brought clothes and school supplies, like pencils and pens. We delivered those to that particular slum,” Marilyn says.

Having been part of national immunization day has changed what Marylin does when she travels to other countries. Before the Indian immunization trip, she would always buy jewelry for herself to remember where she had been.

“When I saw the conditions that these people were living in, I then and there stopped my tradition of buying a piece of jewelry from my travel destination,” she says. “I rationalized this by asking myself, ‘How many people could I immunize for that same amount of money?’ I realized that material things and baubles are really of so little value at the end of the day, when the money can be used in a different way.”

Of her national immunization day experience, Sally says, “there’s a sense of accomplishment, but it is more than that. It’s making us feel that we are really part of humanity. We really have done something. It seems simple, just two little drops, but you feel like you are part of the team. It can be quite overwhelming.

“I would encourage anyone who gets the opportunity to take it and go on a national immunization day. If you don’t have that opportunity, still be part of the team and donate to Polio Plus.” 

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Kassia Fardoe: from RYLE to the London School of Economics


Kassia Fardoe with a fully-grown orphaned cheetah at a game reserve in South Africa

Kassia Fardoe’s Rotary journey almost didn’t happen.

When she was Grade 10 at Strathcona High School in Edmonton, her Spanish teacher suggested she attend the Rotary Youth Leadership Experience (RYLE).

“At first, I was really, really scared and didn’t want to go. I was nervous,” she says. 

Eventually her aunt, who is a Rotarian in Camrose, persuaded her to apply. “It will be really great,” she promised.

“But I had already missed the deadline because I had hemmed and hawed over it for so long, but my aunt had found out that the deadline had been extended, so I went,” Kassia says. “Little did I know that Rotary would become such a large part of my life.”

That life will now include 13 months as a Rotary Global Grant Scholar at the London School of Economics, where Kassia began her studies in mid-September. 

The Global Grant Scholarship is funded primarily by The Rotary Foundation, with additional funds coming from individual clubs within District 5370.

Amy Smith, a previous recipient of this scholarship, is currently completing her master’s degree at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia.

Additional information about the scholarship is available on the District 5370 website.

Kassia was encouraged to apply for this scholarship by PDG Laura Morie (RC of Westlock), who she met when she first attended RYLE.

“Laura has been a very integral part of my life. She has always been such an incredible supporter of mine. I honestly don’t know where I would be in life without her, because she has been that influential and that important,” Kassia says.

Kassia will be studying for a master of science in international development and humanitarian emergency. “Most graduates of that program end up working in government or non-profit. Those are areas that I am very passionate about and where I would love to find myself.”

Providing RYLE and RYPEN leadership

The year after Kassia attended RYLE, she returned as a volunteer counsellor. Later, she became a member of the committee responsible for planning for the RYLE program.

“Then, I ended up getting picked to be on the RYPEN (Rotary Youth Program of Enrichment) committee,” Kassia says. “They asked if I would come over and share my experience with them. I was on the RYPEN committee for five years until I stepped down from my position recently, because I will be going overseas.”

Despite her involvement in RYLE and RYPEN, Kassia never had the opportunity to join an Interact club.

“Scona has a pretty incredible leadership program and I was very fortunate to go through that program,” she says. “But with the leadership program being so strong, it has made it that Scona can’t really support an Interact club.”

As a member of the Strathcona Leadership program, which requires Grade 12 students to plan a major fundraiser, Kassia helped organize a bike-a-thon to raise money for World Bicycle Relief.

That year, the students raised more than $100,000 for this non-profit, which builds bicycles and gives them to people in impoverished areas around the world. The new bike owners include “students who are able to bike to school and entrepreneurs who can bring their wares to market,” Kassia says.

Commitment to Volunteerism

Volunteerism has been a big part of Kassia’s life since she was a child. “It was something that was really important to my parents, so it was something I was exposed to early on,” she says.

In high school, she volunteered with Adaptabilities, where she worked with children with autism, Down syndrome and cerebral palsy. “I was part of camps during the summer or part of teen nights on Thursday evenings during the year,” she says. 

“I really enjoyed being part of the Tourette’s (syndrome) summer camp. It was really interesting because it was something that I didn’t know all that much about,” she says. “Being exposed to it I think really benefited me in the long run because being educated about those types of disorders is just so, so important.”

In addition to her volunteer activities, Kassia worked as a member of the program staff with the Boys and Girls Club for two-and-a-half years while attending the University of Alberta and even following her graduation.

“I am so passionate about the work the Boys and Girls Club does. I think they are such an impressive and important organization. I have been able to see first-hand the impact it has on the kids.”

At the U of A, Kassia received a bachelor of science, with distinction. She had a double major in animal biology and psychology. As part of her program, Kassia completed an ecological research term with the university’s Southern African Field School, study abroad program.

Working with animals in Africa

Participants in the program spent a month in eSwatini (the kingdom formerly known as Swaziland), a month in Mozambique and more than a month in South Africa. 

“In eSwatini, I worked on a research project examining small mammal and giraffe populations, while in Mozambique I was working on a project examining cleaner fish populations. The project in Mozambique was definitely my favourite, as all the data collection was done while scuba diving. We had the opportunity to swim with manta rays, whale sharks, turtles, dolphins, etc.”

In addition to studying animals in Africa, Kassia completed internships at Chimp Haven, near Shreveport, Louisiana, and at a zoo in northern California.

“At Chimp Haven, I was working directly in chimpanzee care, feeding and providing general care to the chimpanzees. All the chimpanzees in this facility are retired from federal medical research programs.”

In California, she worked with cheetahs, servals, fennecs, tortoises and in the large aviary.

During her final two years at university, she also earned a certificate in Interdisciplinary Leadership Studies from the recently opened Peter Lougheed Leadership College.

In the leadership program, she was taught by former Prime Minister Kim Campbell. 

“She was very active in our education, which is really interesting  because she is a very fiery and passionate and impressive woman. She actually wrote my recommendation for LSE (London School of Economics), which is pretty special.”

While in London, Kassia will be hosted by members of the Rotary Club of Dulwich, Peckham and Crystal Palace.

“There used to be three separate clubs and then they amalgamated and I don’t think any of them wanted to lose their name, so now it’s a really long name,” she says.

Members of club met her when she arrived in London and she will be attending their meetings and their District conference.

Your next online purchase could help fund a Rotary program … or put money back in your pocket

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For the past year, District Governor-Elect Jim Ferguson (Rotary E-club of Canada One) has been making Rotarians aware of the Rotary Global Rewards program and encouraging clubs to add a link to their website.

“It’s a value-added service that Rotary International offers Rotarians and Rotaractors,” Jim says.

The program offers Rotary club members discounts on products and services for travel, entertainment, and merchandise.

When the program was introduced a few years ago, Rotary Global Rewards were conceived as a way to help clubs enhance member satisfaction and retention. The program is also a way to thank members for their service and their generous support of The Rotary Foundation.

Members can sign into Rotary Global Rewards through their My Rotary account to browse the offers. They can also access the program on their smartphones.

“There is a Rotary Global Rewards app.” Jim says. “It is available for free download on the Apple app store or through Google Play. You can order products from your iPad or your mobile phone, without going to the main site.” .

He hopes Rotarians will check out Rotary Global Rewards. “I would like them to think about it whenever they go online to do some shopping or if they are going on a trip,” he says. “There are rental cars through Rotary Global Rewards and hotels through Rotary Global Rewards.” 

Rotary Global Awards FAQs

Amazon is one company participating the program. “Amazon offers up to five per cent cashback to Rotary, which then can be used for projects or programs.”

Other companies offer discounts to Rotarians making purchases through the program, while others offer a combination of discounts and donations to Rotary.

“Rotarians can vote on where they want their contributions to go,” Jim says. 

“There is a tab that says, ‘Vote on contributions.’ If you click on that you will see, ‘Please vote on the area of focus to receive the net proceeds from purchases made through the RGR program. The proceeds from the program, less expenses, will be contributed to areas of focus based on voting by members using the program.’

“They have different things: eradicating polio, supporting education, providing clean water, saving women and children, growing local economies, promoting peace, fighting disease, and then there’s one for Himalayan water purifiers.”

To date, the emphasis for Jim and his committee, which includes John Wojcicki (RC of Edmonton), Nomsa Maromo (Edmonton Southeast) and Gaurang Skukla (Peace River), has been “trying to increase the awareness of the program and trying to get the links on clubs’ websites,” Jim says. 

“If they have a Facebook presence, we would like to get the RGR link on the Facebook site as well.”

Jim estimates that two thirds of the clubs in our District have a link on their website.

In addition to shopping through the Rotary Global Rewards site, Rotarians can post their own offers.

“We would like to see Rotarians that have businesses creating their own offers. They can post them online. Rotary Global Rewards will review the offer and then they will post it,” Jim says. 

“So, suppose a Rotarian is travelling to Peace River and a Rotarian has a hotel up there, they may offer a discount for staying at the hotel.”

Changeover Event: A time for reflection on the past year and visualizing the year to come



PDG Ingrid Neitsch pins DG Tracey Vavrek during Changeover Event on June 27

For outgoing District Governor Ingrid Neitsch (RC of Edmonton West), the District Changeover held on June 27 was an opportunity to reflect on the previous 12 months and highlight the many achievements of 2018-2019.

For incoming District Governor Tracey Vavrek (RC of Grande Prairie After Five), it was a chance to set the agenda for the next Rotary year.

Before passing the title of District Governor to Tracey, Ingrid described her “fabulous adventure” to approximately 200 Rotarians from across the District who were in attendance at the Chateau Louis Conference Centre in Edmonton.

“It has been my honour and privilege to lead and represent this District,” she said. “Our theme was ‘Be the Inspiration!’ I set out to inspire our members, and our members inspired me! The commitment and passion that I witnessed first-hand is unforgettable.”

Of her visits to the 57 clubs in our District, she said, “I thoroughly enjoyed the many community tours and community events, some of which were unique.”

Ingrid recalled that a year earlier, at the June 2018 changeover event, she had presented her vision and plan for 2018-2019. “I explained our District planning process and the integrated Strategic Plan. I announced a new direction and initiative and outlined important goals I wanted our District to accomplish.”

Becoming a Peacebuilder District

IMG_7170The major goal for this past year was to be recognized as a Peacebuilder District by Rotary International, for which a donation of US$25,000 to support RI’s Peace Centres was a key criteria. The support for this initiative exceeded Ingrid’s expectations.

“I am absolutely thrilled by the support from our clubs, individuals and District. YES! We achieved Peacebuilder status — for TWO years!”

“Peace Centres provide an opportunity for individuals who have been sponsored and strenuously vetted by a Rotary District, to be chosen to attend a three-month peace certificate or a two-year master’s program in peace and conflict resolution, all paid for by Rotary.”

Menasha Nikhanj from Edmonton is currently enrolled in the three-month professional certificate program at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand. 

Ingrid promises that achieving a Peacebuider District is just the beginning. “We will continue to develop peace building activities and sessions during this next year,” she says.

“As a result of our new collaborative work with our educational institutions, the University of Alberta and Concordia University hosted an open-to-the public peace building session which was well received. Another project is planned for next year.”

RI will also maintain its focus on peace building. “At the Peace Symposium in Hamburg (held in connection with 2019 RI Convention), senior Rotary leaders announced that steps are being taken to have Rotary become a world leader in peace building,” Ingrid said.

Goals set, goals achieved

Other 2018-2019 goals related to membership, creating awareness of The Rotary Foundation (TRF), enhancing Rotary’s public image, and celebrating our youth programs.

The year saw the establishment of several new clubs, including a new Interact Club at W.P. Wagner High School (sponsored by the Rotary Club of Edmonton Strathcona); the Rotaract Club of Concordia University (sponsored by Edmonton Northeast); a satellite club of the Rotary Club of Dawson Creek) in Chetwynd, B.C.; and the YEG Passport Club (sponsored by Edmonton Whyte Avenue).

In addition, two existing clubs in Whitehorse, YT became part of our District on July 1. 

Ingrid congratulated the TRF team, led by chair Wayne Kauffman (RC of Edmonton Riverview), for its efforts to create awareness of the foundation’s good work.

“All the funds donated support projects by our clubs around the world, in the form of grants.”

Related to public image, Ingrid noted that the District “created a communications plan to develop and improve our public image in our District and the community.”

In part, this was achieved through Ingrid’s posts to the District Facebook page, increased social media engagement, articles on the District blog, Rotary International District 5370 News and a District newsletter.

Inspire, our District newsletter, went to each District member, not just the presidents, so everyone received the same information at the same time,” she said.

“We made a concentrated effort to expand community awareness of Rotary.  Presentations were made to several community groups and we began a collaborative project with the University of Alberta, which will expand next Rotary year.

“We had significant coverage of Rotary stories in the capital region newspapers in print and online, and in community papers around the District.”

Shifting to youth programs, Ingrid said, “We have outstanding opportunities for our youth to participate in many activities, such as the RYLA, RYLE, RYPEN programs.

“We did a lot of work to ensure that our youth exchange program is directly aligned and compliant with Rotary International guidelines, with everyone involved with our youth programs having a mandatory security check.”

DG Tracey lays out her plans for 2019-2020

Following Ingrid’s summary of 2018-2019, it was Tracey’s turn to reveal her vision for 2019-2020.

“It is an honour to stand before you as your governor for 2019-20. I am humbled to step into the shoes of Ingrid and others, and also appreciate the support of each of you through this Rotary journey,” she said.

Throughout her presentation, Tracey emphasized that the world needs Rotary and Rotarians.

“People identify Rotary for our service, our dedication to make change for others, and for our commitment to eradicate polio,” she said. 

“You have stepped up to make your communities a better place. You tackle problems and find solutions for tough issues. You explore ideas and share a vision to make life better for others. Your passion, drive and desire to make a difference inspires me,” she said.

“When people of all ages, cultures and demographics invest time and money into something, it is with organizations that do good in the world. People commit to a cause, not an organization.”

Rotary: 114 years-old and still strong

Tracey believes that there are reasons why Rotary continues to be relevant.

“Rotary is 114 years old and has stood the test of time due to its values, objectives and service, both locally and globally, plus for our dedication to eradicating polio.”

T1920EN_PMS-CShe noted that RI has adapted to changing times, which is in contrast to other organizations that have failed to do so. She cited Kodak as a company which resisted change and as result has lost the leadership position it once occupied.

“For Rotary to stay relevant, we at the club and District level must focus on our culture and adapting to the needs of our members,” Tracey said.

“Culture is how people feel when they are part of something that is important to them. Culture is created and is the base of moving from good to great. Culture is an environment of welcoming, inclusiveness, diversity; where people feel a sense of belonging, feel valued. And (it) is a place built on trust. We serve together in many ways with the common goal—to make a difference for others—and when we do this, we build relationships and connect with people of like interest.”

Tracey said that the 2019-2020 theme, “Rotary Connects the World,” means  that, “We share values and follow the four-way test, we collectively take action for a better world and we are doing this together,” she said.  

“Rotary provides us with the means and opportunities to connect with the world and each other. Rotary connects us to people who need our help, and through Rotary we are connected globally through countless projects and programs.”

People of Action together creating positive change

Tracey asked the Rotarians in the audience to image a world without Rotary: “Imagine what would happen to polio if we stopped now. Imagine the people who would go hungry in our own communities or around the world. Imagine the children who would not have the extra support to reach their dreams.  The children of today and of tomorrow need Rotary.

“RI has given us the tools to be successful and has provided flexibility to do things differently with meeting structure and attendance, and (it) encourages us to invite our families to be part of our journey.

“When you see the difference we have made for children, families and communities around the world by our commitment, we know we have changed lives. We have given others opportunities and most of all, we have given people hope. 

“And that’s Rotary. People of action who come together to make positive change in themselves and around the world.”  

Tracey concluded her presentation by encouraging Rotarians to register for the District 5370 People of Action Conference in Grande Prairie October 3-5, 2019.  

“This is your conference and a place to connect, grow and to be inspired.” 

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: 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.

TRF Global Grants fund water and sanitation projects in Africa and South America proposed by District 5370 clubs


© Rotary International/Alyce Henson

Global Grants from The Rotary Foundation that were recently awarded to the Rotary Clubs of Wainwright and Spruce Grove mean that students at a school in northern Ghana and residents of a community in rural Ecuador will soon have access to clean drinking water.

The Rotary Club of Wainwright’s project, in partnership with the Rotary Club of Tamale, Ghana, will result in “the installation of a system for harvesting rainwater from the roof of the existing building at La’angum Primary School (in Ghana), during the rainy season and storing it for later use,” says George Bunz, the club’s Foundation chair.

The Rotary Club of Revelstoke, BC is also contributing money to this project.

Meanwhile, Rotarians from Spruce Grove have partnered with the Rotary Club of Bahia de Caraquez to construct a municipal water system in Santa Teresa, Ecuador. The Rotary Club of Reno, Nevada is implementing a similar project in the adjacent community of Las Mercedes.

When completed, the new water systems in Ecuador will serve about 800 residents of the two villages, under the management of an elected water board.

“Prior to the 2016, the community got its water from a hand-drilled well, but this was destroyed by that year’s earthquake,” says Brad Mastaler, president-elect of the Spruce Grove club.

How Global Grants work

Global Grants are made possible by donations to TRF by Rotarians from around the world.

In addition to money from TRF’s World Fund, funding for these projects comes from other sources, including from the participating clubs and from the District  Foundation committee (District Designated Funds).

The amount of money available to our District Foundation committee for District Designated Funds is determined by how much Rotarians from our District contribute to TRF. Half of what was donated by Rotarians in our District three years earlier is returned to the committee, to be used for District grants to clubs and to support Global Grant applications.

Global Grants fund projects in the six areas of focus for TRF: disease prevention and treatment, water and sanitation, maternal and child health, basic education and literacy, economic and community development, and peace and conflict prevention/resolution.

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For more information on how Global Grants work, check out TRF’s Guide to Global Grants. In addition, you can consult the District 5370 Foundation grants sub-committee chair, Wayne McCutcheon (RC of St. Albert), at or District Foundation chair Wayne Kauffman (RC of Edmonton Riverview), at

Support future TRF Global and District Grants by donating to TRF Canada. Donate before the end of December to receive a receipt you can use when filing your 2018 tax return.

Wainwright project will bring clean drinking water, improved toilets and biogas for school in Ghana

The school being supported by the Wainwright Rotary Club is located in Bumboazio, in northern Ghana, a region that is much less developed than in the south. Families there earn their living by farming small plots of land to produce corn, beans, peanuts and millet.

Because drilling water wells has proved unsuccessful, the school is “dependent on water carried by children from a creek, which is some distance away,” George Bunz says.

The installation of storage tanks will be a very important component of the project, as most water will be collected during the rainy season and stored for later use.

Each classroom will have a filter system, to ensure access to clean water.

As part of the project, an existing four-seat toilet will be upgraded and a new four-seat toilet built, along with a solar pump to utilize grey water to flush the toilets.   A bio-digester will convert waste to biofuel to be used in the kitchen to prepare lunchtime meals for the 300 students who attend the school.

“The biogas will make a big difference,” George says. “Currently meals are prepared on stoves that burn wood, which women and children have to carry to the school. The project will relieve the women of this task so they have time for other work and will improve the environment by eliminating the smoke from burning wood.”

Funding for this project (in US dollars):

Rotary Club of Wainwright $14,250

District 5370 DDF $14,250

TRF World Fund $21,375


Projects will bring clean water to 800 residents of villages in rural Ecuador

Construction of the water system in Santa Teresa will begin after the end of the rainy season in March.

The project involves drilling and encasing a water well, creating storage and water treatment facilities, laying distribution lines to each residence, and installing water meters.

Rotary will sign memorandums of agreement with Ecuador’s federal and municipal governments, which will provide paid staff to operate the system.

The long-term sustainability of the project will be ensured by the establishment of an elected water board, whose members will be trained to operate the system.

A public education component will teach adults about water conservation and how to avoid contamination. Teachers will be trained to take a similar message into their classrooms.

Funding for this project (in US dollars):

Rotary Club of Spruce Grove $9,375

Districts 5370 & 4400 DDF $8,860

Government of Alberta $7,750

TRF World Fund $17,423


Rotarians from both Wainwright and Spruce Grove plan to visit their projects during construction.

Turn donating to The Rotary Foundation into a game with yourself

Untitled designSupporting The Rotary Foundation doesn’t have to be tedious.

The Rotary Club of St. Albert proved that last year, by combining raising funds to support the work of the Foundation with fun and fellowship. The club invited members to board a virtual canoe for a year-long journey from Rotary Park in downtown St. Albert to Sturgeon Valley Golf and Country Club, which was powered by TRF donations.

Along the way, there were quarterly stops to assess and celebrate their progress. By June 2018, the club had surpassed its TRF goal and had nearly every Rotarian “in the canoe.”

Half the money Rotarians donate to TRF annual fund is returned to the District three years later, to be used by the District Foundation Committee to support club’s local and international projects and scholarships. The remaining funds are used by TRF for Global Grants, Rotary Peace Fellowships and other scholarships.

Gamification—defined by Merriam Webster as “the process of adding games or game-like elements to something (such as a task) so as to encourage participation”—of TRF fundraising isn’t limited to club-wide activities. Individuals can turn determining how much to donate to TRF into a bit of a game with themselves. 

Here are a few alternatives to a “I-guess-I’ll-write-a-cheque-again-this-year” approach to your TRF donation. They allow factors beyond your control to determine how much you’ll give—although we still encourage you to begin by meeting the Sustaining Member standard of $US100 (about $CA140), each year.

When it’s time to make your donation to TRF Canada, you can do so online and instantly receive a receipt for income tax purposes.

Here are a few suggestions for how to make donating to TRF fun:

When I published my first book a few years ago, I made a commitment that for every book I sold, I would donate one dollar to TRF ($5 if the book was purchased by a Rotarian). Unfortunately, the book never became a bestseller, but so far I have donated enough from book sales to earn at least one Paul Harris Fellowship.

Not sure what a Paul Harris Fellowship is? District Foundation chair Wayne Kauffman (RC of Edmonton Riverview) explains:

“Paul Harris Fellowship recognition acknowledges individuals who contribute $US1,000 to The Rotary Foundation.”

Haven’t written a book? There are still lots of other fun ways to determine your annual donation to TRF:

Money on the floor—Have you heard the sound as money tumbles onto the floor when you pick up a pair of pants? Have you found money on the street? Consider anything you find on the floor, on the street, or between sofa cushions as meant to be a donation to TRF. Collect the money in a jar or piggy bank until year-end, then donate what you have picked up for the Foundation.

Just one cup less each week—You’ve heard this suggestion before. If you skipped buying a latte or cappuccino at Starbucks or Second Cup just once a week, you would have an extra $5 per week to do good. By year-end, that would add up to $250 or more that you could donate to TRF. Can’t kick your daily caffeine fix? Okay, let’s approach this differently. How about every time you buy your favourite drink, you set aside a dollar for TRF? That way you will enjoy your beverage, while still making a significant donation to the Foundation.

Return your empties—This one’s simple. Donate what you receive from the bottle depot to TRF.

Pay your fine to TRF—How much do you expect to be fined at each meeting? What if you go to the meeting and the Sergeant-at-Arms ignores you? Donate what you expected to be fined to TRF. And if you were fined, how about matching the fine with a donation to TRF?

Leftover foreign currency—Spent fewer euros, pounds or US dollars than you expected to spend on your last vacation trip? Exchange them for Canadian dollars, which you can then donate to TRF.

Share your lottery winnings—Won 649 or a 50/50 draw recently? Share your good fortune with TRF by donating 10 percent of what you won. (Sorry,  but TRF won’t cover your losses.)

Environmentally friendly shopping—Part of being environmentally friendly is using reusable shopping bags when grocery shopping, but sometimes we forget. Every time you say yes to plastic bags, drop a quarter per bag into your TRF bank. 

Bring your own mug—Most coffee shops offer a discount (10 to 25 cents) when you bring a refillable mug. Donate what you save to TRF. You will be helping the Foundation do its work, while also reducing the number of takeaway cups destined for the landfill.

TRF yard sale—Share the proceeds of your next garage or yard sale with TRF. Your “customers” may buy more if you tell them that you will be donating money to support TRF’s six areas of focus: disease prevention and treatment, water and sanitation, maternal and child health, basic education and literacy, economic and community development, and peace and conflict prevention/resolution.

That’s our list. What about yours? How else can Rotarians decide what to donate? What other fun ways can you suggest to determine how much you will donate to TRF? Leave your suggestions in the comment section below.