Bookmark and Share

Let the world not be indifferent

“We all have so many needs — a thousand prayers and a thousand needs — that really need one answer: let the world not be indifferent.”

A long time ago, when I was young and idealistic, I came across this saying and kept it for my own personal mantra. Now, many years later and many times wiser (I hope), this saying still rings true: ”“Let the world not be indifferent.”

Rotary International is an organization that pursues the goal of helping to make our local and global community a better place. It’s that force for good that has attracted millions across the world to be members. It appeals to those who are not indifferent.

Here in Pagosa Springs, a community that is far from indifferent, volunteerism and helping others is held in high esteem. Of course, you cannot help but be aware of all that is done locally by selfless community members week in and week out. But you may not know the impact a small community like Pagosa can have much further from home.

Once upon a time, there was a remote, high mountain valley in our world that was wooded with pines and had a river running through it. 40,000 people lived in stark, wooden houses in many small villages along a 40-mile stretch of this river. These people were hard working but poor. Electric power was a scarce rarity. Communication with others outside of the valley was extremely limited and almost nonexistent during the winters: the people in this valley were snow bound for several months each winter due to deep snow, avalanches and landslides. These people had no organized health care — doctors, nurses, health clinics, or means for evacuating people needing emergency care during the winter. Young mothers giving birth during these months (and their newborns), for example, were at high risk because there was no medical support for them.

Sounds like Pagosa Springs of 100 years ago, doesn’t it? This might be a description of the San Juan River valley existence of early pioneering folks around here way back when. Now, change all the verbs in the above paragraph from past tense to present tense. The river is the Neelum River. The valley is the Gurais Valley located in the far, northeastern corner of Pakistan. This community of people is the official “sister city” of Pagosa Springs. Outside of partnerships with Lahore and Karachi, the major cities in Pakistan, we are the only community in the USA with a small, sister city in Pakistan.

Spearheaded by David and Jean Smith, money has been raised in Pagosa over the past several years to fund humanitarian projects in the Gurais Valley. Small self-help computer centers and sewing centers have been set up. After discussions between the Smiths and Gurais village elders, health care was agreed to be the most urgent need. Large international aid organizations have generally bypassed the Gurais Valley because it is so remote. Pagosans raised funds to provide first aid training to nearly 500 of the residents and to send 10 young women out of the valley for intensive midwifery training. There has been an exchange of letters, photos and school supplies between the children of the two communities. Pagosans also played a major role in helping provide humanitarian aid during the earthquake of 2005 and the floods of 2010.

Now led by Rotarians Dick Bond and David Smith, the Pagosa Springs Noon Rotary Club is working toward raising funds for a multi-phase, matching grant from the Rotary Foundation for a new health care initiative in the Gurais Valley. The first part of this initiative will be to purchase and equip a mobile health clinic. A follow-up initiative will be to provide a science-based high school curriculum (which is currently nonexistent) as a preliminary step to allow graduates to qualify for admission to nursing and medical schools in Pakistani universities. The third phase, though not directly related to the health care initiative, is to teach straw bale construction for the earthquake prone areas.

When I spoke with Dick Bond about the fund-raising progress several days ago, he indicated that local Rotarians have already donated $15,000 toward the goal amount of $42,000. Both Dick and David have visited other Rotary Clubs in the district to encourage and invite their participation in the Gurais Valley project. The final amount raised by the Pagosa Springs Noon Rotary Club will be matched by Rotary District 5470 and the combined amount will then be matched by the Rotary Foundation of Rotary International. It’s a challenging process that Dick and David have undertaken to enable the people of Gurais Valley in their desire for a better life for their children. Support them if you are willing and able.

Rotary’s motto is “Service Above Self.” A visible demonstration of this motto is their members world-wide donate millions each year ­— in dollars, yen, francs, pounds, marks, crowns, cruzados and many other currencies — knowing that their gift will benefit those outside their organization. No man can sincerely help another without helping himself.

“She would rather light a candle than curse the darkness.” This was said of the late Eleanor Roosevelt by Adlai Stevenson who served as ambassador from the USA to the United Nations. Eleanor Roosevelt was not indifferent. Pagosa’s Rotarians are not indifferent. Pagosans in general are not indifferent Are you?