El Oasis Soacha Center is Ready for Community Service!

How in the world did we turn this…..

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into this….

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Led by the 24 Member Rotary Club of Bogota Laureles, supported by three Districts and eight Rotary Clubs in the Southeastern US, Rotary has created a unique, safe community center in Soacha benefiting 250 children and creating community leaders through evening conflict resolution programs.

With a few finishing touches, El Oasis will provide a safe place for children.   Sister Luz Marina now has the keys!IMG_2198

How does a $325,000 project come together?  Passion, Skill, and Rotary Magic!  The driving force included (pictured below L-R) Rotarians Bernardo Martinez-Villalba (General Contractor), Alejendro Molino (Windows & Doors) and Udo Rungeler (Computers, Books and Furnishings).   What a team!

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Bogota Laureles Rotarians focused on two years of fundraising during the design phase while Rotary District 7570 led the Rotary Global Grant application.  During construction, Bernardo, Alejandro and Udo applied their skills towards completing the building in just over 12 months — fantastic!  This seems like a long time ago…

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As for the Rotary Magic – its the glue, the shared feeling of purpose that brings together Clubs across continents along with expert guidance from The Rotary Foundation staff.  That, and the magic of helping kids in Soacha already enjoying a meal at El Oasis:

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Check out our July 23rd El Oasis video tour  HERE

 

 

 

Stumbling Across a Movement: NewGen Peacebuilders Empowers Young Adults

American inventor Charles Kettering said “Keep on going, and chances are you will stumble onto something, perhaps when you are least expecting it. I never heard of anyone ever stumbling on something sitting down.”   On a Saturday in May 2016, I got off my tail, visited a neighboring Rotary District Conference and stumbled upon NewGen Peacebuilders, a movement led by Rotary Peace Fellow Patricia Shafer.  That Saturday meeting with Patricia was the spark for NewGen Peacebuilders in our Rotary District.

NewGen Peacebuilders is a program that centers on peace and conflict resolution, a Cause for Rotary Action.  The program forms a cohort of college or high school students through application & interview.  The program provides a series of weekend workshop/retreats, independent study and webinars covering conflict resolution, human rights, gender & race equality using nonviolent communication, conflict transformation and peacebuilding techniques.  Students form teams based on passions for issues – then apply techniques towards team peace education projects.  Peace education projects, like service projects, begin in the Community.  Think Global Act Local.  The result was peace education projects in communities like yours.

The program attracts those destined for international exchange, ambassadorial scholars, even Peace Fellows along their paths of diplomacy and world understanding.  We in Rotary expect to see these students again – each is worthy of our support.

Rotary District 7570 introduced the NewGen Peacebuilder program to college and university students in September 2017.  Our charter class of 21 students gathered from five Virginia Campuses including Mary Baldwin, James Madison, Washington & Lee, Virginia Tech, and Bluefield College.  An amazing cohort!  Meet our Charter Students in this “DG Moment” Video.

Weekend Workshops were held at Washington & Lee University.  The workshops were led by Rotary Peace Fellows and NewGen Co-Founders Patricia Shafer and Phil Gittins.  Students were assisted by a passionate group of District 7570 Rotarian Mentors having conflict resolution experience and skills, led by Bluefield Rotarian Assaad Mounzer.   Lexington Rotarians provided lodging and meals for students.

Classes involved facilitated group discussions…

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Students selected and justified the most meaningful events towards peace:

Ranking of Events

Students unbundled major current issues using The Conflict Tree.  Check out this Basic Conflict Tree Explanation Here

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Teams formed based on passions for various Core Issues.  Teams then set out to better understand the Core Issue components through Mind Mapping

Mind Mapping

Real-time research, data mining and mentor guidance resulted in a deeper understanding of the Core Issue.

Formation of Team Peace Projexts

More research….

Reseaarch

….followed by discussion and synthesis of group peace education project proposals….

In Depth Discussion

 

Well considered team projects resulted.  For example, one project called Keep It Clean: Water Quality Awareness and Advocacy addressed the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and water quality in Staunton, Virginia.  Check out the short presentation Here

Capture Water

Another Project called Connected Across Culture: Facilitating Refugee/Police Dialogue – created a cross cultural awareness program including the Sudanese Community and Police in Harrisonburg, Virginia, resulting in new dialogue among 40 Sudanese Adults, 11 Children and five Officers.  Check out the short presentation Here

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NewGen Peacebuilders has a place in our Cause for Peace & Conflict Resolution, and we look forward to expanding the program within our District and introducing the program to Rotarian friends beyond our District – hopefully next in Beirut Lebanon.

Consider “stumbling” into NewGen Peacebuilders.  You will meet amazing young adults and become more aware of community issues.  Contact Me for more.

Effective Healthcare in Appalachia: Our Mobile Vision Unit

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This unassuming rig will soon deliver vision care to over 1,000 Appalachian Neighbors per year  – thanks to the collaborative efforts of Rotary District 7570, The Rotary Foundation, Friends in Need, Appalachian Miles for Smiles, Remote Area Medical (RAM-USA), the Lions Club, The Health Wagon and Cigna Health.   Now there’s a partnership focused on doing good in our world!

We will reach patients who would otherwise not receive optical care from lack of local providers and/or inability to pay.  Patients will receive a comprehensive eye exam, eyeglasses (lenses to be ground on centrally located RAM USA equipment & frames provided by the Lions Club), referrals for diagnosed eye disease and general health indications (including hypertension and diabetes).  A comprehensive eye examination does a lot of good!

Cigna Health donated the 40 foot diesel-powered and air conditioned trailer.  Here’s a look at the inside prior to renovation – looks kinda tight!

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Rotary will outfit the trailer with three optical evaluation stations and one ophthalmic eye examination station.  Friends in Need will operate the unit alongside the Appalachian Miles for Smiles  The total renovation cost is $50,000 – including $10,000 being raised by Rotarians in local clubs and $40,000 in Rotary Foundation matching funds.   Rotarians will dedicate 860 hours to transform the trailer into a Mobile Vision Unit in the summer of 2018, the result much like the Dental Unit already in operation:

RAM Oral Surgery

How did this happen?  It started with a solid partnership with Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia Rotarians along with the founders of Appalachian Miles for Smiles.  We shared the vision that mobile health is an effective delivery system in Appalachia.  Next we visited the Remote Area Medical Health Fair in Wise Virginia, summer 2016:

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Johnson City retired Orthodontist John Bradshaw (L) and Kingsport Pediatrician Joe Ley, both active Rotarians, toured the Wise health fair with then Rotary District Governor-Elect Dick Ray and were amazed at the scale and efficiency of the RAM event – treating  1,000 patients with comprehensive health services in three days.   Founded by Stan Brock (remember “Wild Kingdom”?), these are Huge Events

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Led by RAM-USA Medical Director Dr. Joe Smiddy (L) and Rotarian Bruce Sites (R), we saw tightly coordinated intake, diagnosis and delivery of about 300 glasses per day as one part of the health fair.  The glasses were ground “on-site” at the health fair.

Making Glasses

It took multiple tents and examination areas for vision care at the Wise health fair.  A more mobile approach is for the Mobile Vision Unit to “be on the road” – arriving in the patient’s community, delivering free examination, diagnosis and prescription, and referring to partner practitioners/hospitals when needed.  Glasses are ground centrally and mailed to the patient within a few days.  Picture the Mobile Vision and Dental Units trekking along – doing good in our world!

Learn more about Mobile Health Delivery at The Health Wagon

Mobile Health was pioneered by The Health Wagon of Virginia – which continues in practice and provides program expertise based on 20 years of mobile health experience.  See this Moving 60 Minutes Overtime Segment

Get Involved!

Help fund the Mobile Vision Unit – Contact Me – Click “Contact” at the top of page.

Sign up for “hands-on” service — contact Friends in Need Healthcare – Bruce Sites

 

 

 

Soacha Community Center Nears Completion – Soon Filled with 250 Children per Day & Community Leadership Training per Night!

Finishing touches are being applied – painting and fixtures – with help from the Bogota Laureles Rotaract Club!  In June we will furnish the center with desks, tables, computers, books, music and art supplies.  In July we will have a safe nurturing center for child literacy and community leadership development!

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Thanks to the Rotaract Club of Bogota Laureles!

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Thanks also to Bogota Laureles Rotarians Bernardo Martinez-Villalba and Udo Rungeler, pictured below.  Bernardo is the General Contractor and Udo serves as Project Coordinator.  Fantastic work!

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The Center will begin Operations in July with 250 children of Soacha mainly ages five to seven enrolled in basic education and literacy classes during the day.  Social Workers will lead community leadership develop meetings in the evenings – expected to reach over 500 leadership training over the initial two year period.  The Center will provide a center of safety from the dangers of the streets.

Thanks Bogota Laureles Rotary Club in leading this major project, and building the over 3,000 square foot center for the benefit of those in Soacha.  The new building – locally funded – combined with the $125,000 project to equip the building and start operations, results in a combined $250,000+ project towards child literacy and community peace, partially funded by The Rotary Foundation.

Sponsoring USA Rotarians – mark your calendars for November – we will travel to Bogota to visit our friends and celebrate operations just after Thanksgiving.  Details forthcoming.

 

 

 

Soacha Colombia Update: Funded Going Up!

Great News!  Our project is fully funded and the community center is expected to be completed in the First Quarter 2018.  Soon windows and doors will be installed, plumbing & wiring as the structure will take on the look of a community oasis, education and peace center.  Thanks everyone for your support!

Soacha Colombia Community Center Structure Nears Completion!

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Our Soacha Community Center Structure nears completion!  Host Club Rotarians from the Bogota Laureles Club visited the construction site Saturday May 13th and were pleased with the progress.  Next step – windows, doors, roofing to “dry in” the 4,500 square foot structure and allow for secure completion this summer.

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Our Soacha Community Center will house Community Peace, Basic Child Education and Nutrition Programs for this transient community near Bogota.   We will help 500 in the Peace Program and 250 at a time in the Basic Education Program.  Thousands will benefit over the project life.   Bogota Rotarians are constructing the structure, financed from Personal and Club Funds, separate from the Rotary Grant.  Together this is a $250,000 project – equipping a Community Center from a vacant lot!

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Please remember this project – and especially the kids of Soacha, who (a limited number) continue to study in rented facilities nearby, – they are still hopeful – and deserve a future to continue these smiles!  Following are photos from the quick May 13th visit, as reported by our Rotarian friend Udo Rungeler:

Dear Rotarians:
This morning a group of Rotarians of our Rotary Club Bogota Laureles went to Soacha to see  for themselves the progress in our project.  We are just putting the roof on the last floor (third floor) and you will also notice the amount of iron we put in on the roof, since two water tanks go on top and the approximate weight of tanks and water is in the neighborhood of ten tons.
Some of the kids, future beneficiaries of this community center, entertained us with folklore dances and music from their homeland (Chocó close to Panama), during our brief stopover at the rented school.
Well, we have come almost to the end of our funds as you can imagine and the finishing of this Global Grant depends now on when we receive the money from the grant.
Best regards, Udo

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Next Steps

We expect a summer 2017 trip to Colombia to observe the completed structure and request the initial grant draw for furnishing the building.  If interested in traveling, please contact me!

For Rotarians who wish to help fund our project:   Go to your My Rotary Account.  Click “Take Action”, then “Give Now”, then scroll to bottom of page under “Give to a Foundation Approved Project” Click “Give Now”  Our seven digit Grant Number is 1642035.  As of  May 14 we need $6,000 to complete the project!  Thank you for your interest and support!

For those not in Rotary, we have a Go Fund Me Account

Photo Credit:  All photos were shot on site during the May 13th site visit but Bogota Laureles Club  – Thank You!

Connections Lead to International Exchanges

Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold

Rotary International Assembly gathers more representatives than the United Nations.  Rotary’s 540 District Governors connected with each other and International Leadership in San Diego last week.  The focus was service, the theme “Rotary: Making A Difference”, and the tone was certainly…International.  Those thinking that Rotary is predominately an American Organization should know – 71% of Rotarians are not American, thus Rotary International.

While absorbing world-class presentations, goals and programs at the 2017 International Assembly, I was drawn to the blend of Asian, Indian, European, African and American cultures and participants.  As the week progressed, District Governors-Elect connected and shared the inevitable: “What’s Next?”.  Connections easily developed into exchange plans towards potential global projects based on shared causes.  Opportunities abound for health, literacy, community development, water and sanitation service projects within the overarching goal of global peace and cultural understanding.

Golden Re-Connections
While enjoying new acquaintances, we were warmed by renewed service based friendships.  In San Diego I reconnected with Kenya Past District Governor Geeta Manek from Nairobi, Kenya.

In 2012 Geeta, as Nairobi Kenya’s District 9200 Governor, facilitated our joint project to provide $500,000 of medical equipment to Kapsowar Mission Hospital.  Our 2012 Kapsowar project was a model of sustainability, validated by follow-on projects.  Geeta’s 2017 role was International Assembly Training Leader – her service passion continues.

Ginger & I were thrilled to reconnect with Matti and Virpi Honkala from Finland, also International Training Leaders.

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We first met Matti in 2004 when he led a Group Study Exchange Team from Finland to Tennessee and Virginia.  Matti was our house guest and we greatly enjoyed his company.  Re-connections are truly golden.

New Connections
During International Assembly, Past RI President Carl Wilhem-Stenhammar, Sweden, stated: “If every Young Adult exchanged into another country, we would have world peace”.  Exchanges extend connections, change lives of participants and Make a Difference in the World.  Rotary District 2240 in the Czech Republic & Slovakia facilitates over 1,000 Youth Exchanges every year.  What a standard! Do you desire world peace? Then promote and sponsor Youth Exchange!

Group Study/Cultural Exchanges are renewing – “back by popular demand”. Teams of four young professionals or Rotaractors are led by a Rotarian, both outbound and inbound, for four week visits. We expect team members to return with reports of life changing leadership, cultural and vocational experiences and suggested future global service projects. Our District 7570 plans to exchange with Mumbai India (Winter 2017). We met District 3060 Governor Classmate Ruchir and Sohangi Johni, District 3060, Gujarat, India at International Assembly and “hit it off” during a breakout class.  Ruchir previously served as a Group Study Exchange Leader into France.  Our District previously exchanged with the Punjab District of Northwestern India.

We are exploring an exchange with Suriname/Guyana/Trinidad (Spring 2018).  This expands a close relationship from a wheelchair distribution project in 2014 in Trinidad.  District 7030 Governor  Classmate Waddy and Shirley Sowma from Paramaribo, Suriname are close friends, having met at earlier zone training events.

Rotarians have opportunities to participate in Friendship Exchanges as short term home to home immersions for fun and understanding.  We are exploring Friendship Exchanges in:

  • Queensland, Australia
  • Veracruz and Quintana-Roo, Mexico
  • Santiago, Chile
  • Ontario, Canada
  • North Rhine-Westphalia State of Germany, and
  • Limassol, Cyprus

These global connections will generate friendships and Make a Difference as lasting steps towards Global Understanding.

Rotary’s International Assembly is the District Governor-Elect’s jumping off point for Services Stories – opportunities ahead!