Inspired to action: District awards celebrate what clubs and Rotarians accomplished in 2018-2019

IMG_7223

2018-2019 DG Ingrid Neitsch and Rotarian-of-the-year recipient Spencer Mueller (RC of Edmonton West)

So much was accomplished by clubs in our District during 2018-2019 that the committee that reviewed submissions felt it had to increase the number of awards in most award categories.

“Because there was such a difference in certain categories, we decided to recognize more than one project in these categories,” says Donna Nichol (RC of Edmonton Northeast), who as the Administrative Services chair assembled a board committee to decide which clubs would receive awards.

“It wasn’t a case of picking a winner,” Donna says of the committee’s deliberations. “Rather it was a case of recognizing outstanding work in certain areas.”

During the Changeover event held on June 27, 2018-2019 DG Ingrid Neitsch (RC of Edmonton West) presented awards to 11 clubs and several individuals who demonstrated their commitment to “Be the Inspiration.”

She also announced that the District was the recipient of a North American award for its youth programs.

Community, international and youth service awards

Multiple Gilbert Patterson Awards were presented in three service categories—community, international and youth.

Gilbert Paterson was a Lethbridge educator who served as governor for District 536 in 1959-60, long before the District was divided and District 5370 was created. 

The Rotary Clubs of Edmonton Southeast and Fort St. John received awards for their community service projects.

For several years, Edmonton Southeast has partnered with the Millbourne Laundromat to host a community Thanksgiving luncheon for disadvantaged persons from Edmonton’s Mill Woods area. This annual event now feeds more than 1,000 each year. 

The Mother’s Day Run, which the Fort St. John club initiated in 2012, has raised more than $78,500 in donations for the Women’s Resource Society. The Society provides crisis planning, housing support, an outreach store, and healing and advocacy support to empower women and girls with tools to improve the quality of their lives.

Both international service awards went to projects that were described in Rotary District 5370 News articles during 2018-2019.

Screen Shot 2019-03-14 at 1.10.56 PMFor more than 20 years, a team of Rotarians from Edmonton West and others have visited remote Guatemalan communities to conduct eye examinations, provide glasses and medication for eye infections.

The Rotary Club of Edmonton Riverview acquires and refurbishes ambulances retired from service by Alberta Health Services, which are  destined for communities in Belize, Mexico, Uganda and Ghana. During 2018-2019, two of these vehicles were part of the Highway to Mexico convoy organized by Rotary clubs in Grande Prairie.

Youth services awards were presented to the Rotary Clubs of Edmonton South and Edmonton Northeast.

The flute making program at Abbott School, supported by Edmonton Northeast, is a way to help children improve their concentration, patience, self-confidence and co-ordination. The club pays for the materials and Rotarians assist the students as they decorate their instruments.

Rotarians from Edmonton South supported the Alberta Future Leaders program for Indigenous youth in Driftpile First Nation in Northwest Alberta. The AFL program engages youth through sports, art, recreation, leadership and cultural activities.

Peacebuilder award went to Dawson Creek Sunrise

Ingrid, who launched the successful initiative to have our District become a Rotary Peacebuilder District in 2018-2019, presented a Peacebuilder award to the Rotary Club of Dawson Creek Sunrise, which was “involved in the development and promotion of peace building activities with high school students in their community,” Ingrid said.

Club president Michelle Rolls and District Youth Chair Tamara Larson accompanied a group of 17 students to the Canadian Museum of Human Rights to participate in a week-long national pilot program.

Three clubs were recognized for their efforts related to public relations and marketing.

The Rotary Club of St. Albert produced brochures, posters and videos to publicize, “what Rotary is all about and what we do in the community.” The club feels their public relations and marketing has had tangible results, including membership growth and increased community involvement in fundraising and other activities.

The Rotary Club of Edmonton Whyte Avenue produced a brochure and used social media to share success stories, promote events and increase the visibility of Rotary. The club also produced a number of videos to create awareness of activities and promote events.

During 2018-2019, the Rotary Club of Edmonton Glenora undertook a comprehensive strategic planning initiative to study how they were living out the club’s vision and the mission of their club. They asked themselves what was distinctive about the club and what could they do to remain relevant. This process led to refreshing the club’s vision, mission statement and value proposition.

Rotary Club of Edmonton received Governors Award

T1819EN_RGBOne submission stood out as being deserving of the Governor’s Award. In 2013, the Rotary Club of Edmonton embarked on a major multi-year Humanitarian International Project in partnership with Literacy Without Borders and the Rotary Club of Belize. The South Belize City Literacy Development Program focused on transforming the educational and school-community infrastructure in an impoverished area known as South Belize City.

Ingrid also announced that our District had received an award from the North American Youth Exchange Network. The NAYEN awards recognizes, “districts that participate enthusiastically, conduct activities that are best practices and strive to build strong programs in the Rotary Youth Exchange Program.”

Youth Service Chair Tamara Larson (RC of Edmonton Whyte Avenue) accepted the award on the District’s behalf.

Awards recognizing individual service

A number of special awards were presented to individual Rotarians.

Two longtime Rotarians from District 5370 were among 16 recipients worldwide of the Polio Plus Pioneer Awards, which recognizes Rotarians who made a significant non-financial contribution to Polio Plus prior to 1992.

Albert Miller and Walter Sczebel, honorary members of the Rotary Clubs of Westlock and Morinville respectively, were recognized for having increased the awareness of Rotary’s commitment to eradicating polio by organizing a journey by wagon train from Westlock to the 1988 District 536 Conference in Calgary. Both were members of the Westlock club at the time.

The two covered wagons, which were accompanied by outriders, cooks, support personal, and an iron lung on a flatbed, stopped at community halls and schools to raise awareness of the polio eradication program.

Along the way, the convoy raised more than a million dollars for Polio Plus.

Four Rotarians, who Ingrid described as “working tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure that the District runs smoothly,” each were presented with a Paul Harris Fellowship:

  • For the last six years, Carl Clayton (RC of Edmonton Northeast) has served as District Board Secretary, which involves keeping accurate minutes and chairing business meeting at the District’s Special General Assemblies.
  • For several years, Rob Dunseith (RC of Edmonton West) has “provided free service on legal matters, resulting in savings of thousands of dollars,” Ingrid said.
  • John Nichol (RC of Edmonton Northeast) was instrumental in helping with the move of the District office from the Boys and Girls Club to The Orange Hub.
  • Donna Nichol, as the District’s Administration Director, was responsible in planning the office move.

Award recognized success of club co-presidency

Woman of Inspiration awards were presented to two Rotarians who served as co-presidents of their clubs. While other clubs may have had co-presidents in the past, Jillene Lakevold and Alyssa Haunholter (RC of Edmonton Glenora) took “the co-presidency to a whole new level,” Ingrid said.

“They have led their club into Strategic Planning that has confirmed the mission of their club and provided a clear path moving forward, all while raising young children and pursuing their careers!”

Ingrid recognized two Past District Governors, “who have not gone into retirement from Rotary” with Outstanding Service to the District Awards.

Since being District Governors in 2010-2011 and 2014-2015 respectively, both Jackie Hobal (RC of Edmonton West) and Linda Robertson (RC of Edmonton Northeast) “have been mentors to many of our leaders and continued to be active supporters of our District programs and events, serving on the Board and on several committees,” Ingrid said.

“In addition to their exemplary service to our District, both have served as Zone Co-ordinators, working with Rotarians from 16 or 17 other Districts across our country.”

Wayne Kauffman (RC of Edmonton Riverview), who stepped down at the end of June after four years as chair of the District’s Rotary Foundation committee, was presented with a Rotary Foundation District Service Award.

“Most Foundation chairs serve a three-year term, but I persuaded Wayne to serve an extra year,” Ingrid said. “He has provided exemplary service and leadership as chair, ensuring that our District meets and exceeds RI requirements for Foundation work.”

The final award of year was presented to Spencer Mueller (RC of Edmonton West) as the 2018-2019 Rotarian-of-the-Year.

“The individual that I have chosen to receive this special award is someone who has committed the last three years to serving and working in important roles in our District, culminating in a special event this year,” Ingrid said. “He has served as Club President, Club Foundation Chair, Assistant Governor and District Conference Chair.”

The deadline for submissions for 2019-2020 club awards is May 15, 2020.

During week-long Guatemala Eye Project Rotarians from Edmonton West saw 841 patients

During their Guatemala Eye Project in early January, members of the Rotary Club of Edmonton West experienced a mix of emotions.

Screen Shot 2019-03-14 at 1.10.56 PM“During any international projects, there are those moments when you see instantly the difference you are making to the lives of the people you are helping,” says club president Annie Mueller. “There are also the heartbreaking moments when you realize there is nothing you can do.” 

A high point of the mission for Annie was the reaction of a patient after receiving reading glasses. “He was so happy and grateful that he went around to all of the volunteers to thank them personally. These glasses will change his life.”

For others who came to clinics seeking help, there was disappointment.

“A mother brought in her son, who had very poor sight. She was full of hope that we could help. Unfortunately, (ophthalmologist Carlos Solórzano) had to tell her that nothing could be done and her son would lose his sight completely,” Annie says. “He will not be able to finish school, work or lead a productive life.”

Dr. Solórzano is a member of the Rotary Club of Huehuetenango, which runs the project annually. The Guatemalan team included optometrists, two ophthalmology residents, a dentist, a pediatrician several Rotary volunteers.

Screen Shot 2019-03-14 at 1.10.14 PM“They pick the clinic locations, ensuring that they are the most needy and have the facilities we need,” says Edmonton optometrist and Rotarian Benjamin Doz, who led the team from Edmonton West. “They handle the advertising, translators, volunteers and transportation. In addition, they arrange billets and ensure the visiting teams are kept healthy and safe.”

“They are some of the warmest, most hospitable Rotarians you will ever run into,” Benjamin says. “Their skills and abilities married up with efficiency are what have made this project so successful over 22 years.”

Benjamin and his wife Marley have been involved in this project for all those years. Other Rotarians from Edmonton West who were part of the Edmonton contingent are Al and Karen Sanderson, Duane and Cathy Evans, Fred Kraft and Lorne Proctor. The Rotarians were trained to support the work of the optometrist and ophthalmologists. 

“They performed triage, pre-testing, pharmaceutical dispensing, glasses dispensing and physician assistance,” Benjamin says. “Everyone worked in organization, basic labour and patient care.”

Screen Shot 2019-03-14 at 12.51.15 PMA total of 841 patients were seen in clinics held in three communities during the week-long mission.

“We dispensed medication, gave out reading glasses, ordered prescription glasses to be sent from Canada and booked 44 cataract surgeries,” Annie says.

The mission wasn’t without challenges, beginning as soon as the Canadians landed in Guatemala City. 

“Upon arriving in Guatemala City, we learned that our medical equipment hadn’t arrived. It was still in Mexico,” Annie says.

“The next morning, Ben and Lorne stayed behind to sort out the lost luggage and the rest of the team proceed to Antigua (a town about 45 minutes from Guatemala City),” she says. “We set up a clinic in a school for orphans and children of single mothers, which the Rotary Club of Canmore helps to fund.”

During this clinic, the team saw 67 children and adults who suffered from various conditions. “We dispensed medication, handed out reading glasses and took orders for prescription glasses,” Annie says.

The next morning, the team traveled to La Libertad, where they held clinics for three days.

“This village is very isolated and situated on the side of a mountain at an elevation of 5,643 feet,” Annie says. “The roads were incredibly steep. It took a lot of skill to get the van and truck to the clinic, which of course, was at the highest point in the village.”

At the end of the first day of this clinic, the team headed to its hotel, which Annie describes as “unfinished—some rooms had no running water, no bedding or working toilets.”

“In each room, a two-foot metal cage was fixed some six feet up on a wall opposite the bed. Likely it was to lock a TV into, but it was empty,” Benjamin says.

With several roosters crowing outside their rooms, “we decided that [these cages] would be a great place to keep your rooster,” Annie says.

Screen Shot 2019-03-14 at 1.10.43 PMAfter three days in La Liberta, the team returned to Huehuetenago, where they attended
a Rotary meeting and spent the night, before heading to the small town of Casa Grande for the final two days of clinics.

“It was a miserable four-plus hour drive from Huehuetenago, across a 10,000-foot plateau,” Benjamin says. The clinic was set up in the community centre.

During this clinic, the team was joined by a pediatrician, who is a member of the Huehuetenago Rotary Club.

“The pediatrician was quite a guy,” Benjamin says. “He motorcycled into Casa Grande through the rain. He worked a very long day and then went home in the rain in the dark that night.

“He asked what he could do at the start of the day. Being short of translators who could do an apt job, I thought [of] counselling noncompliant diabetic patients and doing informed consents for surgery would help with a small backlog of patients we had at the time. 

“I thought it was a small, short task. Little did I know how much diabetic retinopathy would be seen and how much surgery was required. He was surrounded with a lineup of patients for the rest of the day—likely far more than anyone would want to do looking forward to that drive home.”

Summing up her experience as part of the Guatemala Eye Project, Annie says:

“Guatemala is bright, energetic and colourful. We saw mountains, isolated plateaus and powerful volcanoes. But the people are what make Guatemala such a special place. They are friendly, helpful and they welcomed us with open arms. Many of the patients we saw were quick to smile and laugh. It was a pleasure to spend time with them.”

She has particular praise for the two young men who served as translators and provided an example of how they made the team’s jobs so much easier. 

“Fred was fitting glasses for a lady. He had given her the prescription indicated by Ben on her card, and was asking her, through the interpreter, if she could read what was on the card. She said ‘No.’ He double-checked the prescription, gave her a different pair of glasses and tried again. She said ‘No.’ Fred went back to ask Ben if he was misreading the prescription. No, Ben assured him that it was correct. Fred then went back to the lady and tried again. No luck. It was then that Fred realized, through the interpreter that the glasses were perfect. She just couldn’t read!”