1998 NCC News Archives

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The Rotary Connection
Cuba Polyclinic Sidebar: CWS Staffer, a Rotarian,
Mobilizes Donation of Medical Equipment, Supplies

News/Feature About the NCC/CWS Delegation Visit to Cuba May 30-June 2

ALTADENA, Calif. – The 3,000-pound shipment of medical equipment and supplies delivered May 30 to a busy emergency clinic in Havana, Cuba, was realized through a collaborative effort involving Church World Service, Rotary International and Direct Relief International.

Gerald Clodfelter, resource development associate for the CWS Western Development Office in Altadena, Calif., and a United Methodist, visited the Antonio Guiteras Holmes Polyclinic during a CWS study tour to Cuba in February. Church World Service is the humanitarian assistance ministry of the National Council of Churches.

He and his seven traveling companions will not soon forget the harsh conditions they witnessed: the doctor working in an emergency room that lacks basic equipment, the technician washing test tubes in a sink of gray water because the detergent had run out, the patient who underwent surgery with no anesthetic.

Mr. Clodfelter returned home armed with a list of the clinic’s most needed items, drawn up by the polyclinic in coordination with the Medical Commission of the Cuban Council of Churches, and went right to work.

"I went to a Rotary Club meeting in Simi Valley, where I am a member, the morning after I returned from Cuba, and found myself sitting next to Dr. Richard Strayer, the Lieutenant Governor for Rotary District #5240," Mr. Clodfelter recounted.

"When I mentioned to him that I needed to find medical supplies and equipment, he said he knew a place in Santa Barbara with a whole warehouse full. We began discussing how we might pull together that resource with Rotary International and respond to needs in Cuba at this particular hospital."

Rotary International routinely sends medical equipment to areas of need, usually care of Rotary clubs on site. But there are no Rotary clubs in Cuba.

The Santa Barbara group, Direct Relief International, is a public benefit, nondenominational and non-political organization emphasizing self-help through medical supplies and services for better health care.

"We collaborate with health service organizations to process and ship, on a self-help basis, contributed medical goods to hospitals, clinics and dispensaries in some 48 countries," said Michael Hayes, DRI Program Coordinator.

DRI was able to supply most of what the polyclinic had requested, and voluntarily contributed an extra pallet of medical supplies. Mr. Clodfelter said. Rotary International approved the participation of its Simi Valley Sunrise and Santa Barbara Sunrise clubs, both in District #5240, in what came to be called the "Cuba Partnership."

Within 90 days, the 3,042-pound, seven-pallet shipment with a wholesale value of $33,800, had been put together.

Church World Service arranged for shipping under its U.S. State Department license to provide humanitarian assistance to Cuba, and contributed $2,000 toward shipping costs. The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) contributed $6,000 for shipping.

"One of the goals of Church World Service is to work in collaboration with other organizations, and this was a model effort," Mr. Clodfelter commented. "CWS, DRI and Rotary all were motivated about this project. Such collaborations maximize available resources, make participation affordable for more groups and, as a result, have a bigger impact."


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