Rotary’s unique gift to Sri Lanka’s unborn babies

Rtn Pubudu de Soyza, RC Colombo President Kumudu Warnakulasooriya, PDG Senake Amerasinghe, Rtn Mohemdally and PDG ­Kerstin Thowart from Germany with health ministry officials at the hospital.
Rtn Pubudu de Soyza, RC Colombo President Kumudu Warnakulasooriya, PDG Senake Amerasinghe, Rtn Mohemdally and PDG ­Kerstin Thowart from Germany with health ministry officials at the hospital.

It’s a hospital in Sri Lanka, which serves an area inhabited by six million people, and its staff cares for 600 women. Every day, between 40–70 babies are delivered here.

Rotary Club of Colombo, RID 3220, continues to pour in resources into a project that commenced the day after Christmas in 2004, when the devastating tsunami claimed over 200,000 lives in Sri Lanka.

One of the many buildings to be washed away by the waves was the Mahamodara Maternity Hospital in Galle. It had been there since the 1940s, and now it was simply gone and totally unusable. There was no place where women in southern Sri Lanka could get their babies delivered. The regular hospitals were full of injured people, and the maternity hospital was such a low priority at that moment, that no one was even looking at it until the Rotarians came along.

RC Colombo, where PRIP K R Ravindran is a member, began by connecting through PDG Kerstin Thowart (from Germany who was holidaying in Sri Lanka at that time) over 200 Rotary clubs and 13 districts in Germany. Subsequently more than 6,000 German Rotarians donated 1.5 million euros for the reconstruction of a birth clinic. The project expanded with six more countries and thousands of Rotarians and others such as The Helmut Kohl Foundation, TRF, etc coming together to build one of the great Rotary projects of Sri Lanka.

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“Fifteen years have passed by since the tsunami, but Rotary’s involvement with the hospital continues unabated,” says PDG Senake Amerasinghe, a member of RC Colombo.

Today, the maternity hospital at Galle, costing over SL ₹250 million ($1.4 million) and funded by Rotarians, has 20 buildings. It has 27 delivery-room beds, eight operating rooms, and a 9-bed neonatal intensive care unit. An additional SL ₹128.8 million ($718,517) were received from German
private sector donors and SL ₹120 ­million ($668,384) were given by TRF.

The German donors didn’t stop with their monetary help. A team of doctors and nurses from Germany visited the hospital four times to impart training on new techniques and use of equipment. On two occasions a Sri Lankan team of doctors and nurses went across to Germany to upgrade their skills. The exchange of knowhow was focused in the field of gynaecology and baby care.

Another batch of equipment, including more neonatal ventilators, infant incubators, neonatal CPAP machine, an infant resuscitator and other equipment were handed over on Feb 12, 2019, to the hospital, in the presence of officials from the Health Ministry, Rotarians of Colombo and PDG Kerstin Thowart of Germany.

Many a child today in the southern part of Sri Lanka live because of Rotary and Rotarians from Germany and across the world, “who chose to give rather than keep. They smile, laugh, and continue to give joy to their parents because of Rotarians who had said, as Mother Teresa said: ‘I know that what I do is but a drop in the ocean; but the ocean would be the poorer if not for that one drop,’” adds Amerasinghe.

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