Venezuelan Rotary Hospitality

Trip Start Jan 15, 2013
Trip End Feb 07, 2013

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Flag of Venezuela  , Tachira,
Saturday, January 19, 2013

We arrive in SC after an adventurous trip from Bogota that makes the US Canadian border line ups look lacklustre. Our host Rotary families are waiting for us and after an long day we settle in. Our first evening is an entertaining reception at the Rotary building with a fantastic welcome, traditional dance, music and dinner. This building also houses one of their incredible medical facilities. SC Rotary clubs have raised funds to house two buildings, their host building with state of the art diagnostic equipment that covers numerous areas of health and allows all residents access based on a reduced fee and ability to pay ( approx. 25% ) The second is a state of the art medical clinic that sees patients for treatment on 27 medical specialties, 7 areas of dentistry, further diagnostic equipment including MRI screening, lab work etc. As many as 600 patients a day come through the doors, lab results can be received on line or via cell text. They have been running this facility for just a few months and are obviously extremely proud of their accomplishments. There is no funding from the government for these facilities, Rotary has secured donations from business and health professionals as well as international companies for equipment. The rotating staff of 137 are also funded through Rotary without any government assistance. Truly an incredible accomplishment from a relatively small but dedicated organization with a mandate of providing services to all the people of Venezuela alike. These are the kinds of projects that countries around the world can learn from.

The following day we tour two more buildings that house Rotary projects that include Skills Training and a Medical Day Surgery Clinic. Students in the Skills centre are entered into eighty hour courses that are spread out over two months and include work experience components. Course areas cover entry level electrical, welding, carpentry, prothsetics, pharmaceutical, landscaping, computer skills, cabinet making, small appliance repair, dress making and design and perhaps the most important air conditioning repair! They are also introduced to business skills for self employment and are building life skills, gaining self respect and enhansing their ability to contribute to society. These varied programs combined have approx. 1000 students a year and they would like to expand to offer more courses in the future. Rotary wives operate a wheelchair loan program from the top floor. There are no government funds for this project.

The Medical clinic takes on minor day surgeries, C section delivery and is open to anyone who cannot afford or does not prefer a hospital invirinment. The building is equipment through Rotary fund raising activities and staff are also funded through Rotary. We ran out of time to also visit the drug rehabilitation centre funded by Rotary. It really is an incredible dedicated group of individuals that spearhead these projects and provided our group with some eye opening insight into true Venezuelan Rotary spirit.

We have a day to tour the beautiful mountainous surrounding region visiting small flower farms, taste artisan roadside fresh cheese, ( guahada ) try our hand at "calentao" ( little shots of anise inspired warmth! ) and a weekend traditional BBQ lunch in the town of San Pedro. It was Sunday and families from San Cristobal and surrounding areas were enjoying a fair like atmosphere, great time to be here.
Chris Hansen
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