Edmonton Rotarian revives and donates old ambulances to to Belize, Mexico and Africa

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Ambulances waiting to be refurbished by Alberta Honda

Some people collect coins. Others fill albums with postage stamps from around the world. But not Roman Bayrock (RC of Edmonton Riverview). He collects ambulances.

So far, he has obtained 11 of these life-saving vehicles, after they have been retired by Alberta Health Services. 

Once these ambulances are refurbished, they are designated for developing countries where the need for them is great.

Assisting people in this fashion gives Roman “a rush. It’s like winning the lottery. I feel great helping people,” he says.

Roman, who describes himself as “a bit of an opportunist, with a talent for bargain hunting,” purchased his first ambulance by chance, when he discovered it listed for sale on an auction site. 

“I figured that not too many people would be interested,” he recalls. “I wondered how cheaply I could buy it.”

 But first, he contacted the Belize Emergency Response Team.

“I called BERT and asked, ‘If I could find you an ambulance cheap, would you be interested?’ They were.”

That first ambulance was shipped to Belize in 2016.

Since then, two more ambulance have gone to Belize. One went to the village of Dangriga, in the Southern Health Region, and the other to Southern Emergency Service, which was started in the Southern Health Region by a former Spruce Grove resident.

This last ambulance was delivered to Belize with the assistance of the US Air Force, through the Denton Program, which is jointly administered by several US government departments and agencies.

“The Denton program offers shipment of ‘humanitarian assistance’ in the form of utility trucks, fire trucks, ambulances, etc., to locations in North American at virtually no charge when space is available,” Roman says.

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Sandra and Roman Bayrock 

At the end of August, Roman and his wife Sandra, who is also a member of Edmonton Riverview, drove the ambulance to the Malstrom Air Force Base in Great Falls, Montana. There the ambulance was loaded onto a C-5 Hercules transport for the flight to Belize.

Prior to departing for Montana, Roman held a media event at Alberta Honda in Edmonton, which stores and refurbishes the ambulances.

“Without Alberta Honda, we would not have a space to store these ambulances and no source for parts, tires and batteries,” Roman says.

Once Alberta Honda has refurbished the remaining ambulances, they will be shipped to other developing countries. Four will go to Belize, two to Africa and two to Mexico, as part of the Highway to Mexico program organized by the Rotary Club of  Grande Prairie-Swan City.

This convoy of ambulances, fire trucks and other vehicles will depart for Mazatlan on March 29. Members of the Edson Rotary Club, which is paying to refurbish this vehicle, will drive one ambulance on the two-week journey. Roman and Sandra will drive the second.

Two ambulances will be going to Southern Emergency Services Belize, two to the Believe in Belize Charity in Pacencia, and one each to Faith Prestige Hospital in Ghana and to Arms Across Africa for use in Uganda.

The organizations receiving ambulances are responsible for all costs associated with refurbishing and transportation of the vehicles.

Before the Riverview club releases vehicles to other groups, the potential recipients are required to complete a questionnaire developed by Dean Wood, the club’s International Services director. 

“The purpose of the questionnaire was to get the organizations to make a series of commitments and demonstrate they have the capacity to operate and maintain the vehicle to ensure they will provide a quality and sustainable service,” Dean says.

“We asked them to commit to provide services to all residents of the areas, without regard to their ability to pay,” he says. “We believe that making the service available to all reflects a core Rotary value.”

Finally, each organization was asked to demonstrate a partnership with a local Rotary club.

District Conference speakers who pursued their dreams will inspire Rotarians to follow their own

District conference MainEach of the speakers that Rotarians will hear from at the 2018 District 5370 Conference will underscore the event’s theme, Reach For Your Dream.

“All the speakers had dreams, which they pursued and which were fulfilled,” says District Governor Ingrid Neitsch.

“Listening to them will inspire us to follow our dreams.”

The conference takes place Thursday through Saturday, October 18 to 20, at the Shaw Conference Centre in Edmonton. Click here to register.

Barb Stegemann, who will speak Saturday morning at 9:15, “had a dream to fulfil her friend’s dream and has done so,” Ingrid says.

Stegemann’s friend, Captain Trevor Greene, joined “the military to fight the oppression of women in Afghanistan,” according to a news release promoting the award-winning documentary Perfume Wars, which will be screened at 3:00 p.m. Saturday in Hall D.

The movie shows how, “Barb Stegemann is moved to take on her best friend’s mission after he is brutally axed in the head by the Taliban,” the news release says. “Stegemann works with Afghan famers who grow legal flower crops instead of the illegal heroin poppy—the Taliban’s chief income source—and creates an unlikely weapon for world peace. And it’s perfume.”

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Barb Stegemann will speak on Saturday morning at the District 5370 Conference

The opportunity to see this movie is included in your conference registration, which also includes all the keynote and breakout sessions, access to the House of Friendship, breakfast and lunch on Friday and Saturday, and the Governor’s Ball on Saturday evening.

A discounted first-time attendee rate of $375 is available for any Rotarian or non-Rotarian who has not attended a District Conference previously. Special rates are also available for Rotaractors, Interactors and exchange students.

Ingrid emphasizes that non-Rotarians are welcome to attend the conference. “It’s a great way to have non-Rotarians interact with Rotarians and learn about Rotary and the great work Rotarians do locally and around the world,” she says.

Tickets to attend the screening of Perfume Wars will be available at the door for $20 each to people who are not registered for the conference.

Current and former members of the military have been invited to attend at no charge, as guests of the District.

Captain Greene and his wife Debbie will be present for a question and answer session following the screening.

Another speaker, Stephanie Wollard, “fulfilled her dream to work with women of Nepal who were marginalized due to disabilities.”

This Rotary Peace Fellow and Rotarian from Australia  established a non-profit in 2008 to provide skills training and employment so these women can lead a life of independence.

The story of Seven Women is told in Wollard’s book, From Tin Shed to the United Nations.

Wollard, who spoke at the Rotary International Convention in Toronto in June, will also be the featured speaker at the Supporting Peace through The Rotary Foundation Dinner on Thursday evening.

The dream of Susan Morrice, who will speak at 11:15 on Friday, was to find oil in Belize, where no one had found oil previously.

“Oil executives told her not to waste her time,” Ingrid says, but she wasn’t deterred. “The first well they drilled struck oil.”

Other speakers include Marilyn Fitzgerald, Jeff Polovick, Mitty Chang, Douglas Jackson, Michael Angela Caruso, Jim Bell and Jennifer Jones.

Jones is a former vice-president of Rotary International, one of only three women ever to hold this position.

Information about all the speakers and the conference schedule is available on the conference website, where you can also go to register.

Ingrid believes that Rotarians who attend the conference will be inspired to follow their dreams.

“Through Rotary, we can all fulfil our hopes and dreams.”