Lang and Mary Hadley have just returned from an eye-opening trip to Africa.
The two, both experienced travelers and experienced volunteers, flew to Ethiopia in October as part of a Rotary International trip. They also spent time in Uganda.
The Hadleys were there to help Rotary International meet its goal of wiping out polio throughout the world. Their work included administering polio vaccine.
Lang was blunt about their role in the worldwide effort to immunize. “(We) Rotarians aren’t there to really be effective in putting the drops into the kids’ mouths,” he said. “In reality, we’re a hindrance.”
That work is best performed by the local people — “those who look like them and live more like them,” he said.
Not that they were unwelcome, Mary noted, saying foreigners make a big splash. “They’d say to us, ‘You have no idea how much this means to us.’” She described one young woman who told her, “The fact that you’re here, holding our hand, gives us so much hope.”
Both said the primary purpose of their visit — and the reason Rotary supports such visits — is to provide a first-hand look at the magnitude of the problem. “It has more impact when you see kids with polio living in mud huts and in abject poverty,” Lang said.
“It was just an amazing experience,” Mary said. “We were mobbed by children everywhere we went.”
They also had a private meeting with the president of Ethiopia, who clearly recognized the benefits that Rotary brings to his people.
After their time in Ethiopia, they flew to Entebbe, in Uganda, then drove eight hours to the city of Gulu where they spent their time repairing houses and putting in wells. They also helped install a first-ever water system in a birthing hut and gave the rural midwife a pair of scissors for cutting umbilical cords. “She didn’t have one before,” Mary said.
They also helped rebuild the mud hut of a woman, an AIDS victim, who lives with her six children, some of whom also have AIDS.
That area of the country has endured incredible hardships, Mary explained, and was terrorized for years by the Lord’s Resistance Army, which is perhaps most notorious for its children soldiers.
Work is under way now to re-integrate the “child soldiers and sex slaves and to get the orphans out of refugee camps back into society,” Mary said.
The trips are arranged and coordinated by three Washingtonians: Ezra Teshome, Ben Omara Abe and former Washington Secretary of State Ralph Munro. Teshome and Abe are both from East Africa; in the U.S., both have become successful businessmen. Teshome recently was named 2010 World Citizen Award winner by the World Affairs Council in Seattle and previously was named by TIME magazine as one of 10 Global Health Heroes.
The two use their good names to open doors to more good work.
The activities on the ground in Africa are all organized by Rotarians and Rotoractors in the communities, the Hadleys said.
This isn’t the first international excursion for the couple to provide assistance to the impoverished, They’ve also volunteered in the Philippines and have “various and sundry projects under way” in Central America, Lang said. The latter includes working with three Mayan villages in remote Guatemala. Together the Hadleys are gathering the funding necessary to provide clean water, composting toilets and nutrition training to the people there. They’ve also brought them non-hybridized seed “so they can have something to sell,” Lang said.
At every step of the way the Sequim Rotary (Noon) Club has pitched in, providing both logistical and financial support.
Mary had a message for anyone wanting to help. “Support the Rotary clubs — all are doing good work,” she said. She noted the Sequim Sunrise Rotary Club supports ShelterBox, which provides emergency housing around the world.
“Everybody thinks it’s just a businessmen’s club, but all around the world you see the schools, hospitals — all sorts of places with the Rotary name,” Mary said.
She said the Noon Rotary Club has contributed about $2,500 to their efforts, but by the time the “multiplier effect of Rotary” kicked in, “we had $53,000.”
Lang noted that all of the donated funds go directly to the projects. “There is no overhead at all,” he said.
He explained that the funds are put into a pool and invested, with the investment income used to pay the administrative expenses.
They also noted that Rotary provides funding for local organizations as well, including purchasing books for the schools and providing assistance to the Boys & Girls Clubs.
The Hadleys were longtime members of Rotary on Bainbridge Island, where they lived before retiring to Sequim.
Reach Mark Couhig at firstname.lastname@example.org.