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Tarr asks Rotarians to contribute to health project in South Africa
The Rotary Club of Osoyoos is being asked to support a health project in an impoverished area in northeast South Africa.
Rotarian Marieze Tarr, who is originally from South Africa, spoke at last Thursday’s Osoyoos Rotary Club lunch meeting about her native country and the need for the project.
Tarr said she has been in contact for nearly a year with Leon Pitallo, the president of the Rotary Club of Nelspruit, a community located between Kruger National Park and the neighbouring country of Swaziland.
This area, she said, was settled by migrants from other African countries in the post-apartheid era. Many had little or no education and there was no housing or jobs for them when they arrived in South Africa.
As a result, they squatted in shanties in the mountains or encroached on Kruger National Park.
The project being spearheaded by Nelspruit Rotary would involve the establishment of a facility to provide assistance to those with disabilities and also provide diagnosis and treatment for those with tuberculosis and other endemic diseases.
Tarr suggested the Osoyoos Rotary could raise funds to assist the project with water and sanitation and that these funds would be matched under a district Rotary program.
Club President Brian Rawlings said the application deadline to qualify for funds under the district program is March 31 and the club is also considering another international project in Honduras put forward by Rotarian Roger Clinton.
The club may choose to submit either project or both for consideration by the district granting committee, and if accepted they would receive matching funds, Rawlings said. The club’s board hasn’t yet decided which to submit.
Tarr said the project has been dubbed the “Bongoli Project,” named after a man that Pitallo encountered trying to cross a busy highway in a wheelchair.
Cars going in both directions wouldn’t stop for the man, who was stuck on the middle of the road, so Pitallo stopped to assist.
The man, Bongoli, it turned out had a broken wheelchair that would only go backwards and he had to ride 1.3 km each day to his sister’s place for food. He lived in a one-room shanty, had no control over his bladder or bowels and had tuberculosis and no one to take care of him.
The local Rotary Club bought Bongoli a new wheelchair, but the incident led them to conceive of a facility for others in the area in similar situations. After the facility is complete, the South African Health Service is willing to take over its operation, Tarr said.
Local Rotarians would also be able to participate in the project in a “hands-on” way, Tarr said, if they fund their own travel to visit South Africa.