Every October, we welcome our Rotary District 5170 “Partners in Service” visiting from countries around the world.
Today, we heard from Henrique Vasconcelos, past district governor of Rotary District 4490 and the Rotary Club of Fortaleza-Alagadico, Brazil. Henrique was a Rotary Youth Exchange student to Pennsylvania in 1988. He is now a civil engineer working with civil construction and equipment rental since graduating from Universidade de Fortaleza.
Henrique gave a presentation on Partners in Service and the 3-H project at the Gravatai River in southern Brazil that was supported by Rotary donations from across the world. Gravatai is an 80km long river basin with the final 20 kms being heavily polluted as it passes through the cities of Cachoeirinha, Alvorada and Gravatai, before discharging into Lake Guiaba in Rio Grande do Sul the southernmost state in Brazil, en route to the Atlantic Ocean. The River is of central importance to millions who rely on it for drinking water and to carry away their sewage and industrial waste. The Rio Gravatai and its tributaries also irrigates large areas of intensive agriculture.
The Rio Gravatai is distressed by over abstraction by farmers in summer and by agricultural, industrial and sewage pollution, and dies (becomes eutrophic) in hot weather, killing the fish and causing a great stinks. Bankside communities and industry use it as a dump. Swamp drainage results in silting of its channels, and flooding of the lower reaches in the wet season. Riverside trees felled for firewood or building material cause bank erosion. The urban stretches of the river are an eyesore and unusable as a source of drinking water.
The Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation carries out missions to help the poor and educate the rich while reverently accepting Buddha’s teaching of “expressing great kindness to all sentient beings, and taking their suffering as our own.”
“Tzu Chi” means “compassion and relief.”
Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation is a non-profit, non-governmental, humanitarian organization registered with UNESCO. The foundation focuses on four major missions: charity, medicine, education, and humanistic culture, with programs for international disaster relief, bone marrow donation, community volunteerism, and environmental protection.
Tzu Chi has responded with disaster and fire relief locally and across the country, funds regular medical clinics in the South Bay and Southern California, and operates schools serving elementary children through college students. Locally, they support student backpack donations, host a weekly breakfast at Campbell Middle School, and are bout to launch programs in the troubled Cadillac-Rosemary neighborhood of Campbell.
Our club’s international speaker series is second to none!
Today, we heard from Morgan Bach, who discussed her project “Mirroring Hope: How to Support Peacemakers in Palestine and Israel.”
Morgan, who lived and worked in the troubled parts of the Middle East, was raised in Japan and India by international school teacher parents. She is currently part of the Rebuilding Alliance, a coalition of people and groups around the world dedicated to helping war-torn neighborhoods rebuild and promoting policy change to make them safe.
In addition to sharing some of her personal history, Morgan discussed her passionate work in support of the Al Aqaba Kindergarten that the Rebuilding Alliance built in Al Aqaba, located in the Gaza Strip. Despite its success, the Kindergarten is at-risk for demolition, as are many homes and other buildings in the region.
As a unique twist, an associate of Megan’s talked about Fair trade Olive Oil and offered some for sale after the meeting.
Specifically, Bonnie spoke about her participation in a recent trip to Oaxaca, Mexico. She introduced us to both the Rotoplast organization and the medical mission to Oaxaca. The personal stories of the physicians, nurses, and volunteers were almost as inspiring as the local children who benefited from their expertise.
Rotaplast International is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) humanitarian organization providing free reconstructive operations and treatment for children in need worldwide. We provide long-term solutions by funding and mentoring local physicians; launching public education projects; and advancing research.