Twenty-five volunteers, the majority being Rotarians from central New Jersey Rotary District 7510, returned to the United States after an 11-day humanitarian mission in Ecuador. The group included physicians and nurses, translators, educators, laborers, and college students, who banded together to accomplish numerous projects and services that have brought hope for a better future to many of Ecuador’s poor.
The Rotary Homes of Hope–Ecuador project began in 2002 when Rotarian and project Founder, Doug Merritt, traveled to Ecuador to build homes for the inhabitants of Guayaquil who were displaced after the El Niño storms of the late 1990s. Over the ensuing years, a small community named “Ciudadela Rotaria Rio Guayas” was established near the town of San Pablo for displaced persons.
This year’s trip consisted of the largest contingent of Rotarians and volunteers to date, whose skill sets enabled the accomplishment of 5 distinct projects: providing medical and dental care, educational classes, food-tunnel construction, housing and building improvements, and assessing the children and families in the Sponsor Me program.
Under the leadership of Bridgewater physician, Glenn Friedman, and Spring Lake orthodontist, Claire Flinn, almost 600 children, women, and men from Ciudadela Rotaria Rio Guayas and the village of San Pablo were provided free medical and dental care. In Ecuador, the chronically poor are provided sporadic to no healthcare services, and many chronic diseases and diseases common in third-world countries go undiagnosed and untreated. Left untreated, these diseases have a significant impact on the health, welfare, and life expectancy of the villagers. The physicians, nurses, and clinic assistants achieved their goal of improving the health and well-being of some of Ecuador’s poorest people.
Educational classes embraced improving the family aspect of life. With a curriculum and learning objectives established by Branchburg Central Middle School Principal, William Feldman, Bill and his team conducted classes focused on life skills and family health. Identification of skills possessed by villagers in the hospitality and cooking industries were emphasized. Sexually transmitted disease prevention, diet/nutrition, and oral hygiene were key topics within the family health curriculum. Classes discussing the importance of clean water also were conducted, and the team demonstrated how to chlorinate water and build rudimentary filters using 2-liter soda bottles, stones, and charcoal.
To enhance the villagers’ nutrition, two 40-foot food tunnels were constructed, soil and nutrients mixed, more than 600 vegetable crops planted, and gravity watering systems installed. Existing soil conditions and water limitations have made it difficult to grow vegetable gardens within the Ciudadela. Rotarians and volunteers, led by Bill Kamerzel of Lawrenceville, instructed villagers on the maintenance and care of the food tunnels, with the hope that successful crop production will allow for the construction of many more food tunnels next year.
Housing and building improvement projects, including reinforcement of the foundations on some of the houses to allow for construction of new block walls, consumed much of the construction crew’s time. The college students assisted in the construction projects, which included laying block, building a fence around the food tunnels, and painting walls of new classrooms in the local elementary school. The students also assisted in the educational classes and medical clinic.
Assessment of the children and families participating in the Sponsor Me program was a major objective for Karen Brotea of Sayreville. Working with the group’s Ecuador hostess, Aleida Mejia, interviews were conducted to ensure that families and children were following the Sponsor Me program‘s guidelines for participation. The goals of the program will ensure that all 85 children in the village are provided a healthy breakfast, an education, clothes, and school supplies, as well as 2 doctor and 2 dental visits. Not all children have been sponsored, and if you are interested in sponsoring a child for $420 a year, contact Karen Brotea at email@example.com.
The accomplishments achieved during the most recent trip to Ecuador will continue to build upon the long-term strategic plan to promote health and economic development for the inhabitants of Ciudadela Rotaria Rio Guayas and San Pablo. For the New Jersey District 7510 Rotary Homes of Hope–Ecuador project to continue to be successful, financial contributions are needed. A contribution of $420 provides for 1 child in the Sponsor Me program; personal or corporate donations of $500, $1,000, or $2,500 provide construction materials and medical supplies. Future projects include providing the village with clean, running water and major renovations to the elementary school. All donations go directly toward Ciudadela Rotaria Rio Guayas; Rotarians and volunteers cover their own travel and personal expenses.
Contributions may be sent to the Branchburg Rotary Club, PO Box 5135, North Branch, NJ 08876. Checks should be made out to the Branchburg Rotary Foundation (a 501[c][3) nonprofit foundation). Please indicate that your donation is for the Rotary Homes of Hope–Ecuador project. All donations are tax deductible. If you are a medical professional and would like to learn more about volunteering for the Rotary Homes of Hope–Ecuador project, call Doug Merritt at 908-722-3380 or visit www.rotaryhomesofhope.org.
. Checks should be made out to the Branchburg Rotary Foundation (a 501[c][3) nonprofit foundation). Please indicate that your donation is for the Rotary Homes of Hope–Ecuador project. All donations are tax deductible. If you are a medical professional and would like to learn more about volunteering for the Rotary Homes of Hope–Ecuador project, call Doug Merritt at 908-722-3380 or visit www.rotaryhomesofhope.org.