Charity Work
  • Sending Medical Supplies to West Africa

    Scottsdale Realtor Spearheads Rotary Project To Send $400,000 in Medical Aid to Ghana Like many local realtors, David Lewis is no stranger to the daily struggles of sagging home prices and a stagnant economy. However, business troubles have not hindered Lewis from thinking about the daily struggles of others who are less fortunate, nor squelched his determination to raise money to send more than $400,000 in desperately-needed, life-saving medical equipment in Ghana, West Africa. “In harsh economic times like these, it’s easy to focus on yourself and your problems,” said Lewis, an associate broker with Realty Executives, who has been selling residential real estate in the Valley for 32 years. “However, when I was growing up, my family was transferred to Ghana for my father’s job. I attended elementary school there in the fifth and sixth grades. It leaves you with a different perspective of poverty. The people there have so little. It’s humbling.” One of the greatest needs lies in the area of medical care. According to the most recent statistics from the World Health Organization, the average age of life expectancy in Ghana is 56 years for men and 58 years for women. Among the top 10 causes of death continue to be HIV, malaria, diarrhea, tuberculosis, and respiratory infections such as pneumonia. “This situation is depressing,” Lewis said. “I began researching what could be done to help.” In 2008, opportunity knocked. As a result of Lewis’ involvement as International Chairman for the Scottsdale Sunrise Rotary Club, he learned of another Rotary Club located in the capital city of Accra, Ghana, West Africa, that wanted to work on a service project to gather medical supplies for Tetteh Quarshie Memorial Hospital in Mampong, Akuapem, a hospital located just outside of Accra. Built in 1961, Tetteh Quarshie hospital serves about 120,000 people in the area and treats close to 5,000 people annually. However, the facility has become increasingly broken down through the years. Since 2006, only one out of four surgical suites has been functional. Dr. Emmanuel Adom Winful, President of Ghana Medical Association (GMA) and a Medical Practitioner at Tetteh Quarshie, said that the lack of adequate facilities and equipment has put serious constraints on health care delivery to patients. "Everything about this hospital is virtually run down, our wards are down, we do not have water, our sterilization unit is down, our laundry is down, our kitchen is barely functioning, equipment have all broken down, we also need to paint the structure,” Dr. Winful said. “When I heard about this situation, my heart ached,” Lewis said. “I had always hoped to return to Ghana one day and bond with my old community. But more than that, I wanted to do something that would help make a difference in the lives of these people.” Together, the Accra and Scottsdale clubs formed an alliance and began working with Project C.U.R.E. (Commission on Urgent Relief and Equipment). Since its foundation in 1987, Project C.U.R.E. has provided medical supplies, equipment and services to more than 120 countries around the world, helping both small clinics and large hospitals in need. Said Lewis, “Project C.U.R.E. is a non-profit organization that collects medical supplies and equipment from manufacturers, wholesale distributors, hospitals, and clinics across the country. These are stored in distribution centers and warehouses where they sit waiting for clubs and sponsors to fund delivery overseas. Once funding is provided, Project C.U.R.E. then manages all of the details required to make the deliveries.” Lewis quickly learned that cost from Project C.U.R.E. to ship one container of medical supplies to Tetteh Quarshie would be approximately $16,000. Immediately, the Foundation Board of the Scottsdale Sunrise Rotary Club approved $5,000 in seed money. Following this momentum, Lewis then applied for a matching grant from Rotary International. “Unfortunately, we were asking in the worst financial year,” Lewis said. “Rotary International was excited about the project, but had run out of matching funds.” Not to be deterred, Lewis persisted in pursuing other avenues of fundraising. “I wasn’t going to succumb to the big financial pressures,” Lewis said. “In this turbulent real estate market, I’ve learned a lot about patience and persistence. So, I decided to forge ahead and make pleas for donations from other clubs across the country.” For the past two years, Lewis has continued to solicit support, assisted by two past presidents of Scottsdale Sunrise Rotary Club, Dennis Haberer and Jerry Riggins. As a result of their efforts, the project has received funding from local Rotary District 5510, Mesa East Rotary Club, District 9100 in Ghana, and even the receiving club in Accra. In addition, the project got a hefty boost from several Colorado Rotary Clubs, which collectively donated $5,000. Altogether, $21,000 was raised for the cause. The money will be used to send 1,025 pieces of medical equipment – valued at approximately $400,000 – to the hospital in Ghana. Included are an EKG machine, incubator, anesthesia supplies, refrigerator, exam tables, wheelchairs, feeding tubes, casting supplies and other items. The supplies will be loaded onto a freighter in a 40-foot container with a total shipping weight of nearly 13 tons. “I’m beyond thrilled,” Lewis said. “This exceeded my initial expectations. I know that the medical staff at Tetteh Quarshie will be incredibly grateful.” Now that all of the details of the order are in place, Lewis is working with Michael Medoro, Executive Director at Project C.U.R.E, to solidify a final shipping date. Currently, the crate is scheduled to leave Project C.U.R.E.’s Tempe warehouse on November 30th. “Originally, I had hoped to take my son, Spencer, and travel to Ghana so we could be there to see the medical supplies delivered to the hospital and present them on behalf of Rotary International and Project C.U.R.E. but, unless there’s a dramatic turnaround in real estate sales in the next few weeks, I’ll have to put that dream on hold,” Lewis said. “Maybe, next time.” For Lewis, there will likely be a next time. Scottsdale Sunrise Rotary Club has a mission to complete one international project every year with numerous opportunities for its members to get involved. In addition to this recent project of spearheading medical aid to Ghana, the club provided an entire village in Uganda with medical supplies in 2009. “For me, one of the most personally rewarding experiences in our Rotary Club’s international outreach was our participation in the Gift of Life program two years ago,” Lewis said. As part of the program, Lewis’ family housed a young boy from Mexico, named Mauricio, for two months while he underwent a procedure for open heart surgery at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. “It was a fabulous feeling to know we’d made a real difference for this young man,” Lewis said. “My three teenage sons also enjoyed getting to know Mauricio, so we had the added bonus of a cultural exchange for the boys as well.” In addition to international projects, Lewis noted that Scottsdale Sunrise Rotary Club supports several local charities. Most prominent among these is the club’s annual “Special Day for Special Kids,” which has been held at the McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park for the past 25 years. In this fun-filled day, over 2,000 special needs children and their families are provided with free rides, food, beverages and entertainment. The Scottsdale Sunrise Rotary Club is one of the most award-winning and dynamic clubs in the country for its size with approximately 35 members. The club meets weekly every Thursday morning at the McCormick Ranch Golf Course Club House in Scottsdale at 7 a.m. and is always interested in adding new, civic-minded members. For more information, call Neil Sutton at 480-946-2200, ext. 108, or David Lewis at 602-377-0491.

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