Our International Projects
Rotary beds down a healthy hospital system
Information Technology consultant Jagath Jayasinghe finds it hard to express the joy he feels knowing that he’s helped improve healthcare for thousands of poor people in his country of origin, Sri Lanka.
“I donate blood regularly but this feeling is far beyond this,” said Jagath who joined Rotary Club of North Balwyn (RCNB) in 2018.
Soon after his induction, he visited Sri Lanka and spoke to doctors in the regional central north province hospitals where as a child he had seen his own relatives deal with the challenged hospital system. He asked doctors to compile an equipment wish list, which he brought to RCNB on his return.
The club successfully applied for a district grant from Rotary International that provided matching funding to send a container packed with 40 hospital beds, examination couches, linen and other medical equipment.
These small regional hospitals are vital to communities, nevertheless they tend to miss out on a lot of international aid; most of the funding goes to hospitals in Sri Lanka’s capital, Columbo. It’s not like in Australia where you can walk straight in and receive treatment. Jagath says it’s distressing to see the queues at a rural hospital and seeing people lying on floors, no matter how critically ill they are.
“One of the doctors I’ve been liaising with, Provincial Director of Health Service Dr. Palitha Bandara, said that they don’t even have 50 percent capacity to treat patients who have only the floor or blow-up beds to lay on. This makes it very difficult to provide good health care and sanitation.
“When they have to go to a bigger hospital in the city, they travel 200-300 kilometres along terrible roads in poor transport vehicles, even if they are critically ill. This can take around six hours.”
Undertaking an international project is not without its challenges, especially in this time of pandemic, which caused shipping to be delayed. Then there are the protocols involved in sending goods to Sri Lanka, especially when it involves medical equipment. Having the proper documentation and authority ready for when it arrives at the harbour is vital.
“We were fortunate to have assistance from the Rotary Club of Anuradhapura. Past president Dr. Bandara helped us deal with all the documentation,” said Jagath.
The hospital and examination beds and other items came from hospitals including Box Hill, Monash and Austin hospitals. Australian hospitals regularly update their gear, however the items they discard are well beyond the quality of what many developing countries have. It’s a very sustainable system to redistribute what would otherwise end up in landfill.
These donations were processed through Rotary’s volunteer-based recycling facility Donations in Kind in Footscray and were dispatched to be deployed across six hospitals in north central provincial Sri Lanka including;
  • The teaching hospital in Anuradhapura, for the maternal and child health care unit and the cardiology unit
  • Base hospital Padaviya
  • Base hospital Kahatagasdigiliya
  • Base hospital Thambutthegama
  • Divisional hospital Medawachchiya
  • Base hospital Medirigiriya
On 23 December, 2020, after the safe arrival of the goods, a formal ceremony took place to bless the project. It was organised by the Rotary club of Anuradhapura and held at the office of the Regional Director of Health Services. It was chaired by Dr. Palitha and included the governor of north central province and other health officials.
At the end of the day, the major blessing is for the people of the region. Getting patients off the floor and onto hospital and examination beds results in better standards of sanitation and improved health outcomes. Superior hospital beds and examination couches improves efficiency in the delivery of health services and reduces strain and injury risk for nursing and other hospital staff.
The success of the project was the result of a happy collaboration between members of RCNB’s International Service Committee who were involved in planning and coordinating, in conjunction with volunteer staff at DIK, and the Rotary Club of Anuradhapura, aided by a District Grant from the Rotary Foundation and funds raised by the Rotary Club of North Balwyn. Jagath provided invaluable liaison with partners in-country. The power of Rotary exists in its ability to bring the right people together to make things happen.
Here is the arrival of the Container, unpacking it and putting the beds together.
Laos, Lotus Education Fund
Here is the Graduating Class of 2020
An August 2020 update about this project:
Just  two weeks ago those girls graduated from secondary school and are now exploring different study options.It is an exciting time as we look forward to supporting them  following their dreams.
Two of the students, Baisy and Vanvisa are currently participating in a three week pre-med exam tutoring program in Vientiane.
We will be continuing the workshops for the next year but just in a different format. Hopefully we can secure funding support so that our local team can deliver the workshops over three weeks during the school term.
The support from North Balwyn Rotary club has been greatly appreciated as it has allowed us to work in extended ways that have brought tears, happiness and knowledge to the lives of the girls and the teachers. This year's teacher workshop ended in close connections being formed and requests for more support (for the teachers this was their only PD). So thank you for supporting Lotus. We wish we could return in the next year but not sure that may happen.
Vietnam, Minh Hac
Rotary North Balwyn has been working with a community in Vietnam for many years and has made a substantial difference to their community.
Minh Hac, as for the entire Province of Phu Tho, has birth difficulties, high cancer rates, poor medical facilities and, from Government economic ratings, the poorest people nationally, with incomes averaging US$20 per month.  The support needs of the community have been identified in collaboration with the People's Committee of Minh Hac, and a range of opportunities for community development has been identified and forms the basis of our assistance.  The projects at this North Vietnamese village community address key focus areas associated with safe drinking water, education, and community economic development.
In November 2016, three sets of water filtration units were installed at the local kindergarten, primary school and secondary school.  In February 2017, after the very successful introduction of the first units, an additional three units were purchased and installed at the Medical Clinic, Community Centre and Peoples' Committee Centre.
Here is a video on the latest news from Vietnam:  https://vimeo.com/320388385