By Sergio Santi, International Commodore of the Yachting Fellowship of Rotarians
In September of 2012, we heard from Bill Kosar, a new member of the International Yachting Fellowship of Rotarians from Kenya, that fishermen or ferry passengers were drowning in local waters every week because of a lack of life jackets. We knew we had to do something to help.
At first, we set our sights on buying 100 life jackets for kids while our 600 mariners in the Italian fleets would collect unused life jackets from any of our boats, our Yacht Club, and Navy Corps which were out of date with current regulations but still safe to use as emergency devices.
The first batch of life jackets was stored by the Rotary Club of Chiavari-Tigullio, the home base of the Italian Northwest Fleet, then tested and shipped to Nairobi thanks to Commodore Luigi Norsa. A grant from the fellowship covered half the shipping expenses.
We had serious problems delivering the 381 jackets to the Kenya Fleet. But we got help from the Kenyan Maritime Authorities in waving ridiculously expensive fees that were being suggested by local agents. After months of negotiations in Kenya, both the first and a second batch of life jackets totaling more than 2,800 reached their final destinations.
Hundreds of mariners and Rotary members took part in this extraordinary fellowship chain. Sometimes it was not easy to move and store all the gear. The majority of the life jackets, collected by the Center Adriatic Sea Fleet and its commodore, Francesco Filoni, were sent directly to the Rotary Club of Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, from the Port of Ancona in containers lent by a friendly shipping company.
We’ve already received several enthusiastic reports about the operation; including one from mariner Peter Kasango in Rwanda, who described how the life jackets were being put to good use.
And this is just the beginning. The Italian fleet has another 1,000 jackets that will be sent, once we collect 500 more, to Kenya. Bill and the Kenya fleet are engaged in a great training campaign with the Kenyan authorities which is being supported by local media.
As a result of the operation, we are saving lives in Africa; we have new fleets in Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda; and Rotary and the fellowship are better known throughout the region. We are thrilled to be lending a helping hand. Full speed ahead!!
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