Weekly Feature



2011-01-27 / Local News

From West Seneca to West Africa, Rotary crusades for clean water

Rotarian Walter Hughes is shown inspecting a new water pump in the village of Nabari, Ghana, during his 2008 visit to West Africa. Members of West Seneca Rotary Club are continuing their crusade for clean water in Third World communities, to ultimately eradicate such diseases as Buruli ulcer.Rotarian Walter Hughes is shown inspecting a new water pump in the village of Nabari, Ghana, during his 2008 visit to West Africa. Members of West Seneca Rotary Club are continuing their crusade for clean water in Third World communities, to ultimately eradicate such diseases as Buruli ulcer.The Rotary Club of West Seneca has been reaching into West Africa for four years to fight against what members call “the horrors” of water-borne illnesses in drinking supplies.

Until recently, the crusade has targeted Guinea worm disease, in which a 3-foot-long parasite grows in its victims for about a year before emerging through the skin.

In 2006, there were 4,136 cases reported in Ghana; however, there were only 10 cases in 2010. Since the disease has been virtually eradicated, the club has decided to shift its focus to a new threat: the Buruli ulcer.

The ulcer is a flesh-eating disease that can cause amputation; like leprosy, it carries a social stigma. The strategy for eradication includes four main thrusts: repairing and digging new wells; early identification of the disease in patients; training village committees in operation and maintenance of hand pumps, as well as inspection techniques to discover instances of Buruli ulcer; and medical care for victims of the disease.

According to its members, West Seneca Rotary supports many local charities — such as the West Seneca Food Pantry, Harvest House and Franciscan Center — but also has an obligation to lessen the suffering in third-world communities, such as those in West Africa.

Funds for this type of charity work come directly from individual donations made by Rotary members, as well as from the organization’s funds.

The West Seneca Rotary Club sells hot dogs, chicken barbecue dinners and soft drinks as part of various summer celebrations held at Southgate Plaza. In addition, bowl-a-thons, winter fruit sales, raffles and golf tournaments also raise money.

For each dollar the West Seneca club gives, it multiplies 14 times through “matching” — 80 other Rotary clubs from 12 states contribute to the cause, as well as Rotary clubs in Canada and Switzerland.

In addition, grants are awarded from Rotary District 7090 and the Rotary International Foundation. For example, a $2,000 donation made this year by West Seneca Rotary turned into a $190,000 grant.

Since the project in West Africa began, the club has given a total of $8,000, which transformed into $1.1 million because of matching funds and partnerships with Rotary clubs around the world.

West Seneca Rotary also partners with the Carter Center and Ghana Health Services.

Rotary members said they soon envision a day when the people of Ghana will be free of the Buruli ulcer menace, as well as the Guinea worm.

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