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Rotary Clubs Remain Committed to Rebuilding Quake-Ravaged Haiti

EVANSTON, Ill., Jan. 10, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In the year since a devastating earthquake struck Haiti on Jan. 12, 2010, Rotary clubs in Haiti and around the world have launched and supported projects to help the country rebuild and recover.

And as the New Year began, Rotary clubs started a $200,000 initiative to implement cholera prevention programs in response to the recent outbreak of the waterborne disease.

Rotary clubs worldwide have contributed more than $2 million to a special fund with an emphasis on Rotary projects that address the issues of education, sustainable housing and the need for prosthetics limbs. To date, 53 projects have been approved for funding, a majority of them education-related. Haitian Rotary clubs help identify local needs and assist in coordinating and overseeing the projects.

Barry Rassin, a Rotary leader from the Bahamas and a Haiti Earthquake Relief fund manager, says that when donated supplies and services are factored in -- including emergency relief efforts in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake -- Rotary clubs have provided more than $18 million in aid to Haiti.

The first project completed from the special fund list was the earthquake-proof reconstruction of six classrooms at Ecole St. Famille, an elementary school in the city of Les Cayes in southern Haiti. Total cost was $122,000, including contributions from Rotary clubs throughout the Caribbean. The project benefits more than 300 students at the school, long supported by the local Rotary Club of Les Cayes.

"We decided that whatever we do in Haiti must help improve sustainability and build capacity," said Richard McCombe, also a Rotary member from the Bahamas, noting that even the prosthetic limbs project being set up in the town of Pignon in northern Haiti builds capacity by providing job training to local workers to produce and fit light-weight, low-cost artificial limbs. The $550,000 project --- also supported by The Rotary Foundation and Rotary clubs in the United Kingdom -- will benefit about 4,000 quake survivors and others in need of prostheses.

McCombe says Rotary was particularly well suited to help in Haiti's recovery with more than 30 humanitarian and educational projects already underway on the island before the earthquake.

For example, Rotary clubs in Minnesota have been active in safe water projects in Haiti since 2000. That involvement in turn spawned a Rotary club partnership with an established charity, Haiti Outreach Inc., to build new schools in central Haiti. The La Victoire Public Secondary School opened in October, thanks to $180,000 raised by the Minnesota clubs.

The Minnesota clubs are commemorating the one-year anniversary of the earthquake on Saturday, Jan. 15 with a fundraiser to support construction of a second school. The Deep Freeze Dunk -- in which Rotary members and supporters will plunge into frigid Fish Lake in the Minneapolis suburb of Maple Grove -- is set for 1 p.m.  "Since we know it's really hot in Haiti, we thought we'd use the contrast and capitalize on the cold here in Minnesota," says Patrick Joyce, of the Minneapolis City of Lakes Rotary Club.

Likewise, Rotary clubs in the Baton Rouge, La., area have been working with the charity Mission Haiti Inc. to install water wells in Haiti, and had completed a well just weeks before the earthquake. They are now raising $150,000 for two more wells and repairs to damaged schools. A key supporter is Ret. U.S. Army Gen. Russel Honore, who commanded Joint Task Force Katrina and recently joined the Rotary Club of Baton Rouge.

ShelterBox,, a UK-based disaster relief charity supported by Rotary clubs has provided more than 28,000 tent shelters to displaced Haitians -- enough to benefit nearly 280,000 people -- about a quarter of all temporary shelters deployed, according to the UN Shelter Cluster. "The response to the earthquake was our biggest, longest and most complex deployment to date," says ShelterBox Founder Tom Henderson. "It began 12 minutes after the earthquake and continues one year later."

Rassin says the key to Rotary's impact in Haiti is the participation of members of Haiti's 18 Rotary clubs. "None of this could have been done if the Rotarians in Haiti did not do their part," says Rassin. "I am proud to be able to work with the Rotarians in Haiti."

Rotary is a worldwide organization of business and professional leaders who provide humanitarian service and help to build goodwill and peace in the world. Rotary's global membership is approximately 1.2 million men and women who belong to more than 33,000 Rotary clubs in more than 200 countries and geographical areas.  To learn more visit:

SOURCE Rotary International
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