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.

Rotary clubs receive District awards for “Making a Difference” during 2017-18

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2017-18 District Governor presents the Governor’s Award to Dave Cook, president of the Rotary Club of Grande Prairie-Swan City

Last year, clubs across our Rotary District really took the 2017-18 Rotary International theme—Making a Difference—to heart. Some of those worthwhile projects were celebrated with District awards, which were presented during the Changeover event in June.

“We know that there are many clubs with outstanding projects and programs, but unfortunately they did not submit descriptions of what they are doing, so we didn’t know about them. They might have been eligible for these awards,” says District Administration Chair Donna Nicoll.

In her role, Donna (RC of Edmonton Northeast) is responsible for gathering submissions from the clubs and assembling a committee to choose the award winners. Last year’s committee included Donna, 2017-18 District Governor Frank Reitz (RC of Fort McMurray), a past District Governor, and two members of the District board.

The award winners included projects that provided needy children with warm clothes, encouraged tree planting in Grande Prairie, delivered fire trucks to Mexico, and promoted Rotary to the community.

In addition, then-District Governor Frank bestowed the title of Rotarian of the Year on Tamara Larson (RC of Edmonton Whyte Avenue), to recognize her contributions as the District’s Youth Services Chair.

“While all members of the District board showed commitment to Rotary, Tamara’s passion for youth services really stood out,” says Frank. “She built on the work of those who went before her to make our youth services programs even stronger than she found them. 

“Tamara’s ongoing relationship with students and their parents ensures their safety and best interests remain the prime focus in the delivery of Rotary’s youth programs,” Frank says. “She works with Rotary clubs to ensure support and safety is in place to make sure the experience of students, host families and clubs are positive for all concerned.”

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2017-18 DG Frank with Rotarian of the Year Tamara Larson

A big part of Tamara’s mandate was to bring youth services practices into compliance with Rotary International requirements.

“Over the last couple of years, these changes needed to be implemented. Tamara took this on and persisted, despite some resistance to the changes,” says Frank. “I don’t know if anyone else would have had the same determination.”

Tamara and Past District Governor Laura Morie (RC of Westlock) will be co-ordinating the Rotoract component of the Zones 24 and 32 Conference in Montreal September 20-22.

Best reflection of the annual RI theme

The Governor’s Award was presented to the Rotary Club of Grande Prairie-Swan City. This annual award is given to the club whose activities best reflect the RI yearly theme, which in 2017-18 was Making a Difference. 

Last year, the 119 Swan City Rotarians made a difference in all Rotary’s avenues of service, motivating more than 1,200 Rotarians and non-Rotarians to provide nearly 10,000 hours of volunteer service to continue their support of existing projects and programs.

The club also donated more than $CA 450,000 to programs, provided in-kind support worth nearly $900,000 and gave nearly $US 20,000 (more than $CA 25,000) to The Rotary Foundation.

Here are some of the ways these Rotarians made a difference in 2017-18:

  • Supported a facility to house young girls in Ethiopia so that they can continue their studies, graduate from high school and go on to post-secondary education.
  • Assisted several Cambodian villages with initiatives to provide clean water, sanitary latrines, medical supplies, teachers and educational materials.
  • Partnered with the Salvation Army for a food bank drive, which collected 41 tons of food in just one day
  • Served dinners once a week to 40-100 people (including both Indigenous and non-Indigenous families) at the Friendship Centre
  • Collected 2,000 toys (worth about $45,000) for the Big Toy Box program, which were distributed through 16 different organizations to children who might not have otherwise received Christmas gifts 
  • served tea and dessert to seniors during Seniors Week 

Gilbert Paterson Awards for three avenues of service

The Swan City club also received Gilbert Paterson Awards for two projects that were included in their Governors Award submission.

The Gilbert Paterson Awards are presented to clubs whose projects, activities or events best reflect one of three avenues of service: community, international and youth. 

The Youth Award, which was new for 2017-18, was presented to the Rotary Club of Edmonton West.

Gilbert Paterson, for whom the awards are named, was a Lethbridge educator, who served as governor for District 5360 in 1959-60, long before the District was divided and District 5370 was created. 

The Community Services Award recognized the Rotary Club of Grande Prairie-Swan City for its longtime partnership with the Landscape Alberta Nursery Trades Association, the province of Alberta, the city of Grande Prairie and local forestry product companies, to promote the importance of forests and the environment, and encourage celebration of Arbour Day.

Over the years, this program has resulted in the planting of 12 groves of trees, all of which are native to the Grande Prairie area. In addition, Rotarians and foresters visit Grade 1 classrooms to teach children about trees and the environment. During these visits, each student is given a tree and is shown how to plant it.

Beginning with just one used school bus in 2002, the Highway to Mexico program, for which the Swan City club received the International Service Award, has delivered more than $18 million worth of buses, fire trucks, ambulances, and medical and firefighting equipment to Mazatlan and the Mexican state of Sinalao. 

Over the years, the Swan City club has developed partnerships with other Rotary clubs, both in Canada and in Mexico. Several cities, towns and municipalities between Red Deer and Fort McMurray have donated surplus vehicles. After the donated vehicles are restored, Rotarians drive them the 5,000 kilometres to Mexico.

The Rotary Club of Edmonton West became the first winner of the Gilbert Paterson Youth Award for its Santa Clothes program. One hundred children identified as “in need” by Boys and Girls Clubs and Big Brothers Big Sisters were able to go on a shopping spree at the Old Navy store in West Edmonton Mall for warm winter coats and other clothing.

Each child received a $400 gift card, half of which was donated by Old Navy and the balance by the Edmonton West club and other sponsors. While at the mall, the children had lunch and visited some of the more popular attractions before being bused home.

Dawson Creek Sunrise wins PR and Marketing Award

Dawson CreekThe Rotary Club of Dawson Creek Sunrise received the District Public Relations and Marketing Award for its extensive marketing campaign. The award is given to the “club or group of clubs producing the best publicity brochure or marketing event/tool during the year.” 

The campaign was three-pronged, including weekly advertising in the local newspaper, developing a club brochure and a very active Facebook page, which averages about 1,000 views per week providing information about club activities and partner events.

The club brochure is shared at all public events and displayed by Rotarians in their businesses.

 Donna plans to distribute information about the 2018-19 awards to club presidents in November and request submissions by May. This year’s awards will be announced at the District changeover event at the end of June 2019.

“We know clubs are doing wonderful things,” Donna says. “We hope they will write these projects up and submit them for consideration.”

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