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DG Elect Dean Rhors recently visited the African Project ...

I returned to Vancouver last week after spending some time in South Africa. It is always a cultural shock when I get back and I am confronted with just how privileged we are to live in this place of abundance, safety and opportunity. We take for granted our daily lives with access to clean water, good education and medical services, transport and job opportunities.

The Rotary Club of Vancouver Sunrise has for the past 4 years supported the two small villages of Utha and Dixie in rural South Africa, by assisting in setting up Nursery Schools and Community Centers. It has been amazing to see how these programs have grown and the incredible results obtained from very small monetary contributions. On this last trip I was accompanied by Magdalen Leung (Rotary Club of Richmond Sunset) and her daughter Jacqueline. We had an amazing time visiting various projects in the north eastern part of South Africa.

We started off in Johannesburg and then moved north to Sabie. We visited the ACES AIDS Hospice near Whiteriver which is doing incredible work in that area with both the treatment of AIDS patients and education of the community. Patients come from long distances away with some of them having to walk upto 10 kms. The Rotary Club of Vancouver Sunrise donated 35 hospital beds and medical supplies to this Hospice and it was amazing to see how thankful they were and how everything was utilized.

We also visited a number of schools in Sabie - from the large Sybrandt van Niekerk High School which has over 600 boarders to the small Simile Nursery School that we had supported through a TRF Matching Grant. Each have very real and heart wrenching needs for further assistance.

We then moved onto the Sabie Sands area where we visited both Utha and Dixie. It was wonderful to see the kitchen and washrooms at Dixie Nursery School completed and in use. Washrooms is a grand word for two very small rooms in the back corner of the property - each with 2 pit toilets. In the same breath - kitchen is the word for a storage room and a food preparation room which hold the freezer we purchase two years ago. All cooking is done on an open fire in the yard next to the new kitchen building. At least the school is one of the very few buildings in the village that has electricity and now has a water connection so that water does not have to be carried from a community tap.

There is still so much to do here. Hopefully we can send a team of volunteers to help set up the necessary administrative systems and build in much needed book shelves and cupboards as well as work with the very willing teacher and volunteers to give them the tools to educate the children.

We also visited a new village - Saville - which has started a pre-school program in a magnificent - but destroyed building. It is an amazing opportunity as the village is involved and has had the building donated to the community. This was the old Primary School, but is in a derelict condition. Windows broken, filthy and neglected, but it has both electricity and a water well and sits on a large piece of property. The cost of this complete project would be around US$35,000. This would security fence the whole property, clean up the building and replace the window glass, secure one of the rooms to turn it into a computer room, rehabilitate the well and install a water pump and furnish the school. So many needs and so many requests that it breaks your heart that you can't help them all.

As Rotarians we have the avenues to finance projects and the power to help and when there is a positive result from a Rotary initiative - it just cannot be measured. It is than very warm feeling I get when I see that I am making a significant difference that keeps taking me coming back to South Africa. I hope that I can continue to do this with the help of Rotary.