Cary Rotary Club Member Leon Abbas and his wife Sallie were instrumental in establishing the long and fruitful relationship between The Cary Rotary Club and the Cochabamba (Bolivia) Rotary Club. The relationship began in the early 1990’s with a Discovery Grant trip to Cochabamba to visit the community and the Rotary club.
The first project in 1993 was the collection of physical rehabilitation equipment for CERECO, a publicly funded physical rehabilitation center. Marcia Roses, a member of the Durham Rotary Club who is a rehabilitation specialist and fluent in Spanish accompanied the equipment to Cochabamba to train the CERECO staff and assist them in incorporating it into their programs.
In 1999, The Cary Rotary Club and the Cochabamba Rotary Club agreed to apply for a Matching Grant to support the rehabilitation of an industrial building, which was the primary housing for an orphanage in the Vinto community just outside Cochabamba. The $25,000 grant resulted in a modern structure with electrical wiring, a new well-equipped kitchen, dining room and storage area. Appliances, cooking utensils, flat wear and dishes were also included. While the Amizade Foundation was responsible for building a new dormitory with inside sanitation facilities, a study area and room for 30 beds, the matching grant provided for the purchase of new beds, mattresses, bed linens and blankets. Wooden lockers were also constructed so each child had a secure location for their personal belongings. The Cary Rotary Club and several members from Cary area Rotary Clubs contributed to raise the funds to meet the matching requirement.
In 2000, as a result of visits to Cochabamba and via e-mail, the two Rotary clubs (Cary Rotary Club and Cochabamba Rotary Club) and the respective chapters of the Partners of the Americas agreed to support an annual medical mission trip. This practice continues today, with the trips usually taking place in the first half of the year. A significant element of each trip has been and continues to be support for the Audiological Institute in Cochabamba, a school for the deaf and hard-of-hearing.
Medical Mission Highlights:
- Following extensive medical examinations and hearing tests more than 75 children of the school and adult patients from the community have been fitted with donated hearing aids. Fellow Cary Rotary Club member, Dr. Charles Mann an Ear-Nose-Throat specialist continues to participate in the Medical Missions by performing the examinations and testing.
- Audiological testing equipment has been donated to the institute, and training provided to the staff in its use.
- The Cary-MacGregor Rotary Club arranged to have 30 new Siemens hearing aids donated, which children are using.
- A special FM system for use in the classroom was donated from the Wake County Schools surplus and installed at the school, allowing for the teacher to broadcast directly to the receivers of each child.
- Several Cary Rotary Club members, including Past President Tim Mannix (2001-2002) and his wife Cathy, were trained and then taught Cochabamba local dentists techniques to improve dental health using donated teeth sealant, toothbrushes and toothpaste. Approximately 100 children were treated and received instruction in dental health. As a result of this trip local dentists now include teeth sealing in their practices.
- Cary Rotary Club Member Leon Abbas’ wife, Sallie Wright Abbas, has been responsible for clothing and toys being distributed to children during the visits. Friends donate many of the items, while others are purchased at yard sales throughout the Cary/Raleigh area.