Visiting a Rotary Project in Puebla

As many of you know, I am a member of Rotary International – a service organization which began in Chicago, USA and now has clubs worldwide. Our common purpose is eliminating polio. In addition, each club has their individual projects. Our six areas of focus are:

Peace and conflict prevention/resolution

Disease prevention and treatment

Water and sanitation

Maternal and child health

Basic education and literacy

Economic and community development

Since moving from New York State, I could no longer attend meetings at my former club, The Monroe-Woodbury Rotary Club, and so I joined an e-club, The Rotary e Club of the Southwest USA. Our membership extends around the world, including USA, Mexico, Japan, Nigeria and many other countries. Our meetings are online, which I have grown accustomed to. Originally, I missed face-to-face meetings and physically working on projects together, but now it is nice to be able to attend meetings from home, sometimes signing in at midnight in my pajamas, and meeting Rotarians from around the world (The meetings are asynchronous, being posted every Monday, with a requirement to attend by the following Sunday night).

I don’t know where my mind was, but right before I went to visit my friend Martha in Puebla, I suddenly realized that my club was donating to a project there, and so I contacted the club president Mónica and arranged for me and Martha to visit them and see their project.

First the backstory – Last year there was a conference called the Mexico-USA Friendship Conference. Clubs would gather in Acapulco from the USA and Mexico and proposals for projects would be presented. Each club attending could decide which projects they would help support. Since I already live here, it was decided that I would go to represent our grants committee. Well, 18 projects were presented, I asked many questions and took copious notes, then conferred with my committee via phone and email and we picked three projects to support.

One of those projects was The First Eye Bank in the State of Puebla (The 6th Eye Bank in Mexico). And once their Global Grant was approved, we sent them our donation.

The Rotary Club of Puebla Campestre Real is quite a dynamic little club, composed of 30 members – all women. Because they did not meet the day I was there, we met at the hospital which would be the recipient of the grant.

This Rotary Club meets at the Club Campestre de Puebla, a golf resort, hence the name of the Rotary Club

We met at the Hospital General de San Andrés Cholula, Puebla.

entrance to the hospital

Currently, there is neither a public nor private eye bank in the state of Puebla. All analyzed corneas in the private sector are bought from United States eye banks. Without special facilities, those corneas are only good for 24 hours. In addition, there is a lack of public education about organ donations, with people being afraid to become organ donors.

The global grant will provide a speculum microscope which will allow the specialists to examine donated corneas to certify that they are suitable for transplant. The grant will also provide medical instruments for cornea care, medical instruments for cornea transplants, a refrigerator that will enable the corneas to be stored for anywhere from 7 days up to a month (depending on the quality of the tissue) before transplantation and an information and awareness campaign about donation and transplants to the community, schools and hospitals.

Doctors in other facilities will be taught to do transplants and the public will be educated about transplantation. As in the United States, there are many scary stories and misconceptions regarding organ donation and transplantation. With this grant, the number of cornea transplants, donors and beneficiaries will increase in Puebla, the surrounding areas and nearby states.

Dr. Marcela Tejeda Mondragán, head of the ophthalmology department, showing us the current equipment in one of the ophthalmology examining rooms

Here we are with some of the educational posters.

Me and my friend Martha with a poster explaining about organ and tissue donation

Dr. Marcela
Poster explaining what tissues can be used and how transplants save or improve the lives of the recipients

Eye bank project made possible by a Rotary International Foundation Global Grant
Me, Mónica, Dr. Marcela and members of the Puebla Campestre Rotary Club

Many times children are the ones who needs transplants, or maybe one of the family members are in need. In this case, there are ways to make it seem less scary for them.

Here, Dr. Marcela Tejeda Mondragón is holding teddy bears which help to demonstrate transplantation to children. Notice that each bear has a leg “transplanted” from the other. This type of explanation will help make the procedure more understandable and less frightening.

One more subject for discussion was organ donation. Fear and lack of knowledge about what is involved in donations requires education, and part of the grant will go towards public education. One of the visual aids is this large “donation card.”

“I am an organ and tissue donor. I want to tell the world.”

“Today I express my desire, please support my decision.”
“I ask my family to turn this into an opportunity to give love and hope of life. I love you with all my heart.”

After the tour we met with some of the hospital personnel for questions and answers and to express our gratitude for the work they are doing and will continue to do for the community.

President Mónica Maribel Flores, members of the Rotary Club Puebla Campestre Real and myself with hospital personnel, including Director General of the Hospital of San Andrés Cholula, Puebla, Dr. Francisco Javier Enríquez Reyes (in the pink shirt), and Dr. Marcela Tejeda Mondragón.

This collaboration with the medical community to improve the lives of others is a beautiful example of dedicated Rotarians living the Four Way Test:

Is it the Truth?

Is it fair to all concerned?

Will it build good will and better friendships?

Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

After the tour, Martha and I were treated to a nice meal at a very fancy restaurant (no prices on the menu!). We had a wonderful time getting to know each other better in a very pleasant setting with excellent food. I also met Valentín, a French exchange student whom they are sponsoring.

All in all, it was a wonderful experience, Martha and I made new friends (hopefully, she will consider becoming a Rotarian…) and I look forward to returning to Puebla in the future.