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Rotary Club receives matching grant to provide funding toward safe and clean birthing quarters in The Gambia

COURTESY PHOTO - The Rotary Club of Clackamas is donating funds through the Brikama Health Centre's renovation project to help improve conditions in The Gambia.The Rotary Club of Clackamas has received a matching grant from the Rotary Foundation to provide $53,000 toward safe and clean birthing quarters at a hospital in The Gambia, one of the smallest countries in Africa.

Local Rotarians are supporting the donation to the Brikama Health Centre's renovation project after hearing about how generations of pregnant women in The Gambia have had to suffer through the pain of childbirth in a hospital without windowpanes, sanitary bathrooms or enough power to complete surgical procedures safely. Many women have instead opted to deliver their babies at home, some with devastating results.

COURTESY PHOTO - From right, Brikama Society member Lamin Jallow, is introduced by Rotarian Ed Gronke to Tom Markos, Rotary Foundation district chair, and Dick Elixman, global grant chair for the district.Originally, the idea for the project came from Ed Gronke's conversations with Lamin Jallow, who works as a caregiver and nurse at Avamere Rehabilitation Center in Oregon City. Jallow, was born and raised in The Gambia and shared stories of his homeland with Gronke while assisting him through physical therapy after a medical procedure a few years ago. Gronke is a local Rotary Club member and past governor for Rotary District 5100.

"We all think it's a great project, a first for our club and something that will make a huge difference in the small country of The Gambia," Gronke said.

Brikama Health Centre is one of the few hospitals in The Gambia providing free medical care. As such, it delivers nearly 7,000 babies per year. The hospital is staffed by three doctors, 10 nurses and 23 midwives who are dedicated to the well-being of their patients. One of the doctors at the center mentioned that electricity is intermittent and at night his staff uses the light on their cell phones to help illuminate the operating room for C-sections when electricity fails.

Rotary clubs in Clackamas, Lake Oswego and Edmonds, Washington, teamed up with the Brikama Society of Seattle to provide funds for this hospital renovation project. The contractor for the renovation estimates project completion by early summer.

"It's taken four years to get to this point, including visits by two of the club's members to meet with the hospital staff, see conditions for themselves, and determine both the feasibility and sustainability of the project," Gronke said.

Bob Johnson and Ralph Carter said they were moved to tears when the local Rotarians traveled to The Gambia last year to assess the needs and realities of the hospital. The hospital was built in the 1980s, while The Gambia was a British protectorate.

After the country became independent in the late 1980s (which quickly degenerated into a dictatorship), no maintenance work was done to the building or facilities. The dictator was deposed about two years ago, leaving the country near bankruptcy.

A major part of the plan will construct new toilet blocks outside the building, with separate facilities for men and women.

"We also plan to replace all the windows and doors, including screening," Gronke said. "Part of the roof has been repaired while we have been getting everything ready. We are also planning on upgrading the plumbing system inside the building."

Since it is such a major project, the club is discussing the possibility of "adopting" the hospital to accomplish further upgrades and repairs as needed.

To learn more, go to: isrotaryforyou.com/district-5100, on Facebook at ClackamasRotary or join them for a lunch meeting beginning at 12:15 p.m. Thursdays at Old Spaghetti Factory in Clackamas.


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