The day Rotarians saved my exchange

Geddes and the GSE team in Colombia

Ian Geddes (back row fifth from left), members of the exchange team, and their Colombian hosts.

By Ian W. Geddes, past governor of District 1020 (Scotland)

I have many Rotary stories to tell, but this one happened in Colombia. I was chosen by my district to lead a Group Study Exchange team to Bogota. As a Spanish teacher in Scotland, my dream had long been to travel to South America. Having been chosen as leader and then having negotiated a sabbatical from my school, my team and I finally set off for Colombia.

One week into the trip, the day after we had visited the fabled El Dorado, I fell ill. At first I thought it was just altitude sickness as we traveled along the Andes at 11,000 feet above sea-level. But no, it turned out to be appendicitis. Continue reading

Saving mothers and children in Uganda

Drexel team in Uganda

The author, third from right, during the Drexel team’s visit to Uganda.

By Ronald Smith, past governor of District 7430 (Pennsylvania, USA) and a member of the Rotary Club of Blue Bell, Pennsylvania

I began planning a vocational training team with my son Ryan in 2006, when he was still a medical student at Drexel University in Pennsylvania, USA, with an interest in doing a rotation in Africa. My previous experience with Rotary grants, and my friendship with fellow district governor Francis Tusibira “Tusu” of District 9200 (east Africa),” inspired me to form a team. Continue reading

Teaching and touching the future

RI Director Julia Phelps, back left, visits a classroom in the Philippines during a trip to rekindle connections with teachers who benefited from a vocational training team.

RI Director Julia Phelps, back left, visits a classroom in the Philippines taught by one of the teachers who benefited from the 2013 vocational training team.

By Julia Phelps

In May 2013, four science teachers from the Philippines were preparing to return home after a visit to the United States as part of a vocational training team (VTT). They’d spent 30 days observing classrooms, visiting science museums, meeting with policymakers, and making presentations to Rotary clubs in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Continue reading

India eye surgeons share skills with peers in Ethiopia

Members of the vocational training team of eye specialists from India perform an eye surgery in Ethiopia. Photo courtesy Rotary District 3140

Members of the vocational training team of eye specialists from India perform an eye surgery in Ethiopia. Photo courtesy Rotary District 3140

By Suhas B. Naik-Satam, past president of the Rotary Club of Bombay Chembur West, Maharashtra, India

In March, during our silver jubilee year, my Rotary club sponsored a vocational training team of ophthalmologists to Ethiopia to improve the abilities and skills of eye surgeons at various medical centers there.

Under the direction of club president S.R. Balasubramanian and led by Dr. Haresh Asnani, a past president of our club, the team of three super specialists included a vitreoretinal surgeon, a pediatric ophthalmologist/squint specialist, and an oculoplastic surgeon/ocular oncologist. Our club partnered with Beyond Eye Care, an organization that manages the India Eye Center in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital. Continue reading

Making a difference in Uganda

Members of the vocational training team in Uganda.

Members of the vocational training team in Uganda.

By Lisa Miller, a member of the Rotary Club of Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, USA

Sixteen mothers die in childbirth in Uganda every day. How can we make a difference?

Ryan Smith, then a medical student at Drexel University College of Medicine, posed that question to his father several years ago. The question, and his father’s membership in Rotary, combined to bring together staff from two medical schools — Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia, USA, and Makerere University School of Health Sciences in Kampala, Uganda, to exchange ideas, share technology, and discuss ways to reduce mortality and morbidity during and after childbirth and improve access to essential medical services.

Continue reading

Why you should consider being part of a vocational training team

150429_gopinathan_mugBy Indumati Gopinathan, Rotary Club of Bombay Chembur West

The vocational training team is one of the most meaningful programs that has emerged from the Foundation’s grant model. Having had opportunities to lead a Group Study Exchange and a vocational training team (VTT), I have witnessed the metamorphosis of this idea and can attest to the great value the latter provides.

My participation in two consecutive medical vocational training teams to Uganda in 2013 and 2014 showed me how purpose driven these teams are, what a crisp program they follow, and how they build capacity in one of our six areas of focus. Stringent monitoring and evaluation tools gauge efficiency and assure sustainability. Continue reading

Vanakkam from southern India

Thomas Smith in the Bay of Bengal with Pondicherry, India, in the background.

Thomas Smith in the Bay of Bengal with Pondicherry, India, in the background.

By Thomas Smith, president-elect of the Rotary Club of Palm Springs, California

People everywhere. Horns blowing. Never-ending rushhour. Color. Activity. Passion. These were a few of my first impressions of India.

I feel very fortunate to have been selected recently to take part in a vocational training team from California, USA, to southern India, supporting education and literacy initiatives. Our district is committed to helping India achieve its goal of becoming 100 percent literate by 2018. Continue reading