Helping Orphans in Zambia

by Divya Wodon, Naina Wodon, and Quentin Wodon

In Zambia, in large part because of the AIDS pandemic, one million out of the 12 million children in the country are orphans. A few years ago the daughter  of Mark Fuerst from the Greenbelt Rotary Clubd ecided to go to Zambia as a volunteer with a ministry to help orphans. At the time Mark asked “Where is Zambia?” and “Isn’t it very hot there?” When Mark’s daughter returned she told him that Zambia was where she belonged. Eventually Mark attended a fund raiser in Dallas and realized that he had to go too. So together with his wife he trained at the gym so that they could keep up with the orphans and after a few weeks they took off. Mark arrived in Lusaka in June 2011 and bonded with the children, some of whom called him Uncle Mark!

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Upon returning to the US, Mark raised $80,000 with the help of his and other Rotary clubs to build an orphan home and he has since returned to Zambia every year to work with the children. The project has sent over 600 Americans to spend one week with the orphanage working and playing with the children. Mark is also lining up sponsors to enable the children to go to for $40/month to a good private school where the children are well treated and protected from abuse. At the school the children get books and uniforms, a meal every day, and medical attention if needed. Mark’s advice to other Rotarians is that with commitment there is no telling what a tremendous difference one can make because “One person is the start of a thousand”.

Note: This story is reproduced with minor changes from a book published by the authors entitled Membership in Service Clubs: Rotary’s Experience (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014).

A School for Orphans in Tanzania

by Divya Wodon, Naina Wodon, and Quentin Wodon

Dawn Wittfelt, the immediate past president of the Sykesville Rotary club, has been a member of her club since 2007. Recently, she has been actively involved with fellow Rotarians in supporting the Good Samaritan Orphanage in Mbeya, Tanzania. Some 200 children live in the orphanage, and many have lost their parents to AIDS. The orphanage provides the children with a home and they attend the area public school. The Sykesville club is planning to equip a new trade school at the orphanage that would provide secondary education in a trade. The club is applying for a global grant to fund the trade school, and it is running a fundraiser to supply desks and books to the public school.

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In order to be able to provide financial support to the orphanage as well as other projects, the Skysville club has also partnered with three other Rotary clubs – Mount Airy, Bonds Meadow, and Westminster, to organize their annual October Fest. This year’s fest just took place at the end of September and Dawn served as the event’s chair. This was a fun-filled day with German foods, beers, and music. Festivities included a “Roll Out the Barrel” ceremony performed by local dignitaries, a Lederhosen and Dirndl Contest, a Polka Dance contest, and a Chicken Dance Contest. Children’s activities included face painting, pumpkin painting, scarecrow making, magic shows, balloon sculptors, and many games.

When visiting the Good Samaritan Orphanage, Dawn and fellow Rotarians Christine Hughes and Mark Milby interviewed several of the children. Dawn was inspired by their goals and dreams. It was like everything was possible for them, and there is always hope, even in an orphanage for children in poverty in Tanzania. Dawn believes that “any project starts with one idea, and you’re always going to find people who want to help, if you just spread the word”.

Note: This story is reproduced with minor changes from a book published by the authors entitled Membership in Service Clubs: Rotary’s Experience (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014).