The Shepherdstown Rotary Club was recognized at a Rotary District 7360 Charitable Foundation Dinner for its successful effort to raise funds to benefit a hospital in a remote section of Peru.
The Dinner was held October 20, 2019 at the Blair County Convention Center in Altoona, PA. Shepherdstown Rotary Club member Dr. Richard Casuccio gave a presentation on the Club’s effort, which partnered with an organization called Doctors Overseas Lending a Helping Hand and donated $114,000 worth of medical equipment to the main hospital in Iquitos, Peru last spring.
Doctors Overseas Lending a Helping Hand has been sending annual medical missions to provide specialized medical care to residents of Iquitos for nearly two decades. Dr. Casuccio, a Martinsburg plastic surgeon who founded the organization, has been leading these missions.
While Iquitos has a large population (it is home to about a half-million people), it is one of the most remote cities in the Western Hemisphere. Located at the headwaters of the Amazon River, it is surrounded by jungle, has no road connection to the outside world, and is readily accessible only by air. Amenities are few, specialty medical care is nonexistent and even general health care is limited.
Rotary District Governor Nominee Irvin Wright, of Bloomsburg, PA, thanked the Shepherdstown Club for its work on this project, noting the major difference the equipment will make in the quality of medical care in Iquitos. He said the project was a fine example of ways in which Rotary benefits people throughout the world.
The Shepherdstown Club was honored with a number of awards at the dinner, including one that related directly to its Peruvian fundraising effort: a citation for contributing more per capita to the Rotary Foundation than any other club in the District. Rotary District 7360 encompasses 73 Rotary clubs in central Pennsylvania, western Maryland, and northeastern West Virginia.
Background on the Shepherdstown Rotary Club’s fundraising drive:
The Shepherdstown Rotary Club launched its Peruvian fundraising effort in late 2017, in anticipation of the Doctors Overseas group’s next planned mission to Iquitos in May 2018.
The Doctors Overseas group knew from experience that the main hospital there, Hospital Regional de Loreto, desperately needed many kinds of basic modern medical equipment, including patient monitors, cauterization equipment, sterilizers, suction tubing, and intubation devices.
The government of Peru does not have the resources to provide such materials in such remote areas. The Shepherdstown Club’s goal was to augment the annual visits of the Doctors Overseas specialists by providing the Iquitos hospital with the kind of equipment that would allow the facility to improve the quality of ongoing, general health care on its own.
The Club began its fundraising drive aiming to raise $15,000, which was the minimum amount needed to trigger a matching grant from the Rotary International Global Grant program.
Members of the Shepherdstown Rotary Club made many generous individual contributions, and the Club itself raised additional funds through its annual Holiday Charity Ball. Other significant contributions came from members of the Martinsburg WV Sunrise Rotary Club, the Leesburg VA Supper Rotary Club, Shepherdstown’s Trinity Episcopal Church, and the Allemall Foundation of Libertytown, MD.
As these fundraising efforts were taking place, members of the Shepherdstown Club, headed by Terry Anderson as the club’s official contact person, and Gary Heichel, the Club’s grant officer, were working hard to complete a Rotary Global Grant Application. This effort involved coordinating with the Rotary Club of Iquitos to ensure continuing monitoring of the use and maintenance of the donated medical equipment.
The Global Grant Application was approved, and the $21,437 raised by the club by that date was matched by Rotary International for a total Rotary International Global Grant of $42,874.
Then, after the Rotary Grant was submitted, an additional $25,000 was contributed by a Virginia Charitable foundation that wishes to remain anonymous. As the time approached for the trip, further contributions from individuals continued to come into the Club’s charitable fund. The final amount raised (including the Global Grant from Rotary International) was nearly $70,000.
In addition, several medical equipment manufacturers and suppliers also made their equipment available at steep discounts ranging from 30% to 60%. These manufacturers were the Bovie Medical Corporation; Karl Storz Endoscopy-America, Inc.; and Southeastern Biomedical Associates, Inc.
Thus, the medical team that participated in this year’s Doctors Overseas group mission to Iquitos carried approximately $114,000 worth of donated equipment with them, ensuring its safe arrival and proper movement through customs, and also saving the project all shipping costs.
The donated equipment included six patient monitors and associated accessories; two Bovie electrosurgical units and associated accessories; three specialized surgical instruments for pediatric and facial surgery; an intubation system; and a surgeon’s headlight system.
Shepherdstown’s Covenant Church provided the team with a bus and driver to transport nine of the team members and all of the equipment to Washington’s Dulles Airport very early in the morning of May 18. After their long journey, the team delivered the equipment to the Hospital de Loreto in Iquitos on May 19.
A formal presentation of the equipment was made, and various members of the Peruvian government visited the hospital to thank the team personally for their efforts and to thank Rotary for its generosity.
The medical team remained in Iquitos for a week before returning on May 27. While there, they not only performed some 29 surgical procedures but also helped instruct local physicians and hospital personnel about the operation and maintenance of the equipment they had delivered.
Dr. Casuccio summed up the project this way: “Our previous trips to Iquitos meant that we were able to provide life-changing surgeries, but only to a limited number of patients for short periods of time. During those trips, we had to bring the medical equipment we needed with us and then bring it back when we left. Now, the equipment that’s been so generously donated will be in continuous use for years to come. Hundreds, if not thousands, of patients will benefit. Many lives will be changed, and many lives will be saved. This is a true and sustainable legacy for the hospital and the people of Iquitos.”
Watch this video shared with the parents of these children to orient them to the clinic and the treatment of their child.
(Video Creation: Bill Howard, Rotary Club of Shepherdstown)