The  Power of Rotary:  Saving Health and Lives in Uganda

Dr. Scott KellermannRotary Club of Nevada City 49er Breakfast

Immunizations in the Andes
My family and I lived and worked in Nepal for 2 ½ years in the late 1970s, where our youngest son was born. We enjoyed the experience so much, subsequently every summer we would volunteer in the developing world, assisting in some capacity. My initiation to Rotary International came in the early 1990s when we volunteered in Bolivia. My sons started the first Bolivian Little League baseball team, while I climbed high in the Andes to assist with an immunization program. Hiking over 14,000’ passes, I surprised many of the villagers who had never seen a foreigner. I carried a cool-box with a curious wheel inscribed on the side and wondered, “What type of organization could possibly care about these isolated mountain people?” When I returned to the U.S., I discovered that the wheel was the symbol of Rotary International. Shortly thereafter, I became a Rotarian. I was impressed that the fellowship of Rotary international has a major impact on not only disease prevention but also improving the trajectory of poverty, education and world peace.
Years ago, I joined with several Nevada County, California doctors and formed an organization named Luke Medical Foundation (LMF). LMF provides medical education and health care in the Tijuana region. Rotary International has assisted in supplying equipment for Clinica Filadelfia Hospital in Matamoros, where numerous Rotarians from District 5190 have volunteered. 

The Batwa pygmies
In 2001, my wife Carol and I relocated to a remote area of southwestern Uganda, to work with the indigenous Batwa pygmies of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. This region is one of the most remote in sub-Saharan Africa, lacking paved roads, public transportation, electricity or clean water. Over the years, in conjunction with Rotary International and many volunteers’ support, the Bwindi Community Hospital (BCH) has been built. BCH is a 135-bed institution (currently expanding to 175-beds), which serves a population of >250,000. BCH is ranked one of the finest hospitals in East Africa. Rotary International has supplied the X-ray unit, ultrasound, equipped the surgical theater and medical wards and has sent volunteers to assist. A Reno Rotarian, Jerry Hall, visited BCH and helped reorganize the management structure of the hospital, assuring its sustainability.
A RI 3-H water/sanitation project resulted in a decrease of childhood diarrheal rates in BCH’s catchment area by >50%.
Through RI’s bed-net campaign, malaria rates have been reduced by >90%.

Jerry Hall, with Tasha Hall
Reno Rotary Club
More recently a nursing school, the Uganda Nursing School – Bwindi (UNSB) has been constructed. UNSB educates nurses who deliver high quality compassionate care to the villages. 
Rotary International, through a Global Grant initiated by Rotarian Jerry Hall, equipped UNSB. More recently, a 18,000 sq. ft. simulation lab at UNSB was constructed. Yet another RI global grant will supply the computers, mannikins and equipment. UNSB, which started with a class of 15 students, now has expanded to 400 students and is one of the highest ranked nursing schools in Uganda.
Diseases have been prevented, lives saved, a forgotten people educated and lasting relationships forged, all due to Rotary International’s involvement.

Uganda Nursing School - Bwindi
Besides supplying equipment, Rotarians have volunteered their services and expertise. Rotary International has enabled health care and education to be brought to an area of the world where previously it was only a dream. In the process, the lives of many of the Rotarian volunteers have been positively impacted. These RI projects have proved to be truly beneficial to all concerned.

RI Volunteers from District 5190
The Batwa have an expression, “Agari Hamwe Nigo Agata Egufa” (literally - it takes all the teeth to break the bone or the way they understand it, “united we stand”). It has been through collaborations with Rotarians of District 5190, the Batwa and the generosity of many individuals that an extraordinary level of success has been achieved in a remote portion of the world.
The Batwa speak very little English, perhaps “hello and good-by” but there is one word that is known to all – “Rotary.”