Making the world a better place: Rotary District Governor visits Slave Lake

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

Say what you like about vaccinations – polio is all but eliminated from the world because of them. It stubbornly persists in some hard-to-get-at regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan, but Rotary International is working on that. Rotary District Governor Tracey Vavrek was in Slave Lake last week to talk about that and other things.

“In 30 years we’ve taken diagnosis from 350,000 per year to 71, and that’s high.”

The local Rotary Club – along with the 60 other clubs in the district – contribute to that effort by fundraising. Speaking of which, the Slave Lake group will be doing a fundraiser for the Rotary International polio project sometime soon. Stay tuned for that. But Vavrek says money is the easy part.

“Seventy-five dollars Canadian immunizes 135 children,” she says. “Cost is minimal. It’s access.”

It helps that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation contributes two dollars for every one raised by Rotary for polio eradication.

Part of Vavrek’s job as district governor is to “inspire our members and clubs.” She’s up to 31 visits since July of this year – all that plus doing a full-time job with the Community Foundation of Northwest Alberta.

“I’m very fortunate for the support,” she says.

Rotary is a big deal in Vavrek’s home of Grande Prairie. She says there are five adult and six youth groups in the city, with around 400 members. One thing Rotarians there are known for is organizing donations of fire trucks and then delivering them in person to Mexican communities.

“I drove a truck to Mexico!” says Vavrek, when asked about the project. These units are typically ones that are ‘miled-out’ and donated by municipal fire services. Vavrek said the community her truck ended up in had never had a fire truck.

Another Rotary project helping Mexicans is called ‘Project Amigo,’ which has built schools and provided supplies for people who have not had those things and for whom the Mexican government doesn’t do very much. Vavrek says this includes populations of migrant farm workers, whose lifestyle results in their kids not getting much regular schooling.

Grande Prairie is hosting the District 3570 conference next month, and not only Rotarians are welcome to attend. It’s called ‘People of Action,’ and features some high-powered speakers, including Amanda Lindhout, Mark Brand and David Mead.

There are a lot of things to celebrate about Rotary, and one of them, says Vavrek, is how far it has come. From an organization that once did not welcome women, it now has 112 female district governors, worldwide (out of a total of 525.)

“That is significant,” she says.

Asked her impressions of the Slave Lake club, Vavrek says “tremendous.” It has a big impact on the community with just 21 members. “Imagine what it could do with 25 or 30 or 40!”

Rotary District Governor Tracey Vavrek, left, with Slave Lake Rotary Club President Kyle Thomas and ‘Amelia Kindheart’, Vavrek’s vehicle.

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