PDG INGO WERK on ROTARY EYE RESCUE PROJECT, at WVRC on August 20th
PP RON LYSTER led the Pledge, despite being introduced as having taught Arthur Murray how to dance! SALLY BRANT provided the Invocation, or more properly, our Inspirational thought for the day: “As I am growing older, keep me from the fatal habit of thinking I must say something on every subject. Keep my mind free from endless details. Seal my lips on my aches and pains. Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be mistaken. Give me the ability to see good things in unexpected places and talent in unexpected people and give me the grace, Oh Lord, to tell them so!” Well done, SALLY thanks. Next up was LENNY FRIEDMAN, who was mildly chastised by Prexy ED for his known lack of basketball ability, but who switched to Music instead. The audience (read, PP ERIC LOBERG) overcame his initial reluctance, and we sang something. RICK BROUS then gamely tried to teach us another song, which mercifully I did not retain a copy of... It is true that all is well that ends well…
We had one Visiting Rotarian, not counting our Speaker. He was Renato Romano, from the BH Club, and he has visited before. (actually, late in the meeting, two more PDG’s showed up Rick Mendoza, from Redondo Beach, and Bob White, from Vernon maybe they were checking on how PDG Ingo was doing). There were several guests of Rotarians SUNNY was with LENNY, and MARY BETH JOHNSON was with Dad, GEORGE COX. SHERRY DEWANE brought Debbie Miller, who is with Wells Fargo. The Head Table was introduced, composed of PDG ANDY ANDERSON, PP HOMER NEWMAN, ELLIOTT TURNER, and MARCIA BROUSE who was on the other side, along with our Speaker, PDG Ingo Werk. Missing their chance to be Fine Free, none of them felt they had anything to contribute.
Prexy ED had some announcements. The Literacy Breakfast will be at Lawry’s, next Friday the 28th, starting at 0730 until 9 am. The speaker will be Daniel Armstrong, who will outline a solution to the dropout crises in schools, plus how to turn gang members around. Continental Breakfast is free. Olivia Patterson (323) 295-9045 is the contact.
We were reminded that our former ‘home’, the Hotel Bel Air, is closing for two years for a face lift, including installing wireless capacity in all rooms.
PP STEVE DAY reminded me that we should all have our tickets for the Paul Harris Dinner, set for October 3rd. The ticket donation is to R.I. with the check accordingly, and the Dinner is payable to WVRC, % Steve.
MARK ROGO, who represents WVRC on the local Library Board, spoke about their upcoming Literate Salon. This annual event is a fundraiser for the Library, plus they will be honoring Lynn Rogo’s uncle, Walter Mirisch, whose book, “I thought we were making movies, not history” has just come out. They are seeking items to offer in the Silent Auction.
Our guest, Rotarian Renato Romano, spoke about the group that is forming to support upgrading and parking on the Westside. Their next meeting will be at the Presbyterian Church starting at 6:30 pm on the 3rd of September. They are looking for Committee Members, so if questions, you can reach Renato at (310) 475-8121.
We of course had an actuary joke. It seems that a skydiver is blown off-course and lands in a tree in a remote area. After dangling from branches for an hour, he spots a hiker walking by. “Excuse me,” yells the parachutist, “but could you tell me where I am?” The hiker looks up and says, “Yes, you’re twenty feet above the ground.” “Thank you,” replies the skydiver, “you must be an actuary”. ”What makes you say that?” asked the hiker. The skydiver answered, “Because what you just told me was 100% accurate, but totally worthless.” Again I remind you, that’s the end of the story…
PP JIM COLLINS, one of our more famous criminals, was brought forward to answer the latest charges. Not only was this information in the newspaper, but it was attached to the WVRC Website. Prexy ED produced a huge white board, maybe 4 by 6 feet, in which the photo accompanying the Website article was reproduced. It showed JIM’S original takeout stand, located at Sepulveda and Centinella, and the really conclusive evidence was in the sign off to the left, saying “Hamburgers 10 cents!” This of course was a major reduction in the usual 1958 price of 19 cents, but part of the sixth Anniversary of the founding of JIM’S takeout stand. This 6th anniversary led JIM to give up hamburgers for chicken, aligning himself with the well-known Colonel Sanders, creator of the KFC Brand. For this obvious error in judgment, PP JIM was fined a hundred big ones!
MARCIA BROUSE introduced our Speaker, PDG Ingo Werk, who belongs to the Wilmington Club, and was DG in 2005-06. Ingo was born in Germany, and holds a master’s degree in industrial design and engineering. He is currently Assistant Aide to the Rotary International Foundation, a position of some consequence. Just last year, at the LA Convention, Ingo was the honcho in the collection of 242,224 books for Literacy, a Guinness World Record for a ten day period. He will be speaking on the Rotary Eye Rescue Project, which started when he was DG.
Ingo began by congratulating us on our 80th Anniversary. He then singled out PP DON NELSON for his excellent support for the Eye project DON was President at the time, and he really moved us forward in our support. Applause here even though PP DON wasn’t able to be present. Ingo reiterated the importance of PP DON’S help, noting that restoring sight to the indigent blind was the ultimate result. As his District Governorship began, Ingo was looking for a country where Rotary had not helped recently, and where there was a real need. Columbia was an obvious choice. It is the fourth largest country in South America, with a population of about 45 million.
The President of Columbia, Alvaro Uribe, was closer to the Bush Administration than he is to the present White House. But the success of our Eye Rescue Project was certainly a factor in their allowing us to establish military bases in the country these to help in the ongoing battle with drug agents. And it should be noted that there are a number of what he called ‘nut-cases’ running nearby countries. When Ingo met President Uribe, Uribe went out of his way to thank Ingo for the humanitarian work being carried out in Columbia.
Health care in Columbia is not being provided evenly, especially to the rural and urban poor. Indigenous blind people have no access to blind care, and they cannot afford the cornea transplant operation offered by our program. Thus we entered a joint venture with Rotary District 4290, in cooperation with a cornea surgery clinic. Our first matching grant request provided $55,000. $47,000 was donated by ten Clubs in 5280, led by WVRC! Medical personnel were searching for eligible participants in both rural and urban areas. They were then screened, and surgery was scheduled. Our leader was Dr. Ron Smith, of the USC Doheny Eye Institute. The source of corneas was Tissue Bank International, in Baltimore, MD. The corneas were to be flown to Bogota, Columbia for immediate insertion only a week is allowed between harvest and re-implanting. Ingo was the Trustee for the American Expenses he received the checks. PDG Sergio Franco was the Trustee for the Columbia account. With these safeguards in place, we could be sure that all monies reached their intended recipients.
What did we achieve (other than giving sight to the less fortunate)? We energized Columbia Rotarians to find even more patients for the now-matching grant # 2. This encompasses three Rotary Districts, which cover the whole country, and received magazine and newspaper coverage over the entire country. Past R.I. International President Frank Devlin visited Bogota last year, and was so impressed that he has advised Rotary Districts in several other countries to adopt it.
Currently we are leading the way to establish a Tissue Bank in Cartagena, Columbia, so they don’t have to import corneas from the U.S. anymore! With the success of this program, we have been able to start the same Eye Rescue program in a new country each year. This year it will be started in Ecuador and our own Koreatown Rotary is introducing it into South Korea. One of the problems there is that the culture is not yet favorable to donating body parts. Dr. Tony Algave of the UCLA Jules Stein Eye Institute has met with Ingo, and is advising Koreatown Rotary on their beginning project. He concluded by again thanking PP DON NELSON for his leadership in getting this program started.
Q&A I asked how much a cornea transplant costs. $2,000 half of which is the cost of buying and shipping the corneas from the U.S. Tissue Bank once a local source is available, many more blind persons can be given sight. As the system evolves, it will continue to cost less, of course. One strong favorable point is that there is no issue with blood type, or male/female gender, thus making collection and distribution much easier. PP MIKE NEWMAN asked how the recipients are chosen. They look for the poorest of the poor, economically, but this category of patient is not easy to find they aren’t on Craig’s List, for example! CLARK MCQUAY wanted to know what the age group is. The youngest is 11, and the oldest 73. Ingo was there with a group of 20 Rotarians in 2006, and they witnessed a girl of 11 who came in blind and afterward could see it was very moving, both for them and the family involved, as you can imagine. Thus there is no age limit. PP JOHN SINGLETON asked where the organs come from. They are harvested in the U.S. and shipped all over the world. Their cornea distribution center is in Memphis, the hub of the FedEx delivery service. STEVE PETTISE asked if FedEx donates their service. No. But we have special arrangements with the Health Minister in Columbia so there is no delay at customs, etc. It doesn’t hurt to have the President on your side…PP JIM COLLINS asked if supply and demand are relatively in balance. In the U.S., yes, with more than needed but in foreign areas, they must be imported. LENNY FRIEDMAN asked if this program applied to cataracts. No, they are totally different situations. Our guest, Renato Romano, asked if this program was being promoted. Yes, Frank Devlin, as noted above, is one of those spreading the word. And we Thank You, Ingo Werk, for an excellent report.
Prexy ED retains his right to the last word: “The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning to do the work of becoming yourself.