By Larry Hutchings, member and past president of the Rotary Club of Clayton Valley/Concord Sunrise, District 5160, California
On 31 March I was at home in the San Francisco Bay Area, wishing I could be with my Rotary friends in Uganda. They were dedicating the new Pediatric wing of the Nsawo Village Maternity Clinic that together we had worked so hard to complete. By the time you read this, they will have enjoyed an entire day of celebration, entertainment, and free examinations in a village that just a few years ago lacked medical care.
In 2010, a local Rotarian in California introduced me online to Rotarian Deborah Luyima from the Muyenga Rotary Club in Uganda. Deborah dreamed of improving life in her 2500-resident home village that is located 60 kilometers north of Muyenga and the capital Kampala. Together Clayton Valley/Concord Sunrise Rotary Club and her club agreed to “Adopt-a-Village.” It was to be a comprehensive project to end poverty by reducing maternal and childhood illness, improve diets, increase school attendance, and expand family incomes.
How excited we were just months later to meet Deborah and her fellow club members at the 2011 Rotary International Convention in New Orleans, Louisiana, United States. We had been working together on our first global grant and were able to spend two days planning and becoming friends.
That grant allowed us to create resources to support hygiene and nutrition. Mosquito nets reduced childhood malaria by 95%. Clean water, pit latrines and handwashing stations at the schools resulted in improved children’s health and led to fewer health-related school absences.
In 2012, our second global grant focused on vocational schools for youth and business development for women. Grant funds provided brickmaking machines, sewing machines, and equipment for a catering business.
Teenagers used those brickmaking machines to construct a building on donated land. In 2016, together we were able to equip and supply it as a maternity clinic. A doctor from our club has visited the village twice and frequently works with the local staff to advise on what equipment and supplies are needed. A small ambulance donated by the Ashland, Oregon Rotary Club transports patients, and an ultrasound machine was donated by the Durango, Colorado Rotary Club.
The impact has been significant. Before the Clinic opened, the mortality rate for babies under 1 year was 50%. Now it is 10%. Two of every 10 mothers had died during or soon after childbirth. Since its inception, the clinic has not lost a single mother.
While the clinic’s primary focus is the safe delivery of babies, including four antenatal visits per mother, it’s also the focal point for other basic medical needs for the community, such as treating high blood pressure, malaria, snake and dog bites, vaccinations, HIV testing, and family planning.
Last year Nsawo villagers and Rotarians from neighboring clubs determined a need for the clinic to provide more pediatric care. A Clayton Valley/Concord Sunrise club member paid for the construction of a building specifically designed for pediatric care Our club provided for the initial equipment and supplies needed to begin operation. In addition, the Durango Rotary Club helped provide solar power for the facility.
I have seen Deborah and Past Assistant Governor for District 9200, Herbert Muyinga, nearly every week for the last two years, as they have attended our club meetings by Zoom, sharing descriptions and photos of construction progress.
So even though I wasn’t in Nsawo on 31 March, I know our friendship will continue. I’m content knowing our Rotary Clubs’ relationship will continue to help the village and the clinic as it works to fulfill its mission to deliver affordable medical care to the mothers and children of the area.
To learn more about this project, visit www.nsaworccmedicalcenter.org.