One of the best things about being a Rotarian is that when you see hardship or suffering, you really can do something to help. Being part of a global organisation helps too, as something small can become something bigger and so much better.
Back at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, one of our Rotarians was, one evening, scrolling through her Facebook account. Her eyes were drawn to a picture of two women from Bangladesh lying on a hard tiled floor. The caption described a mother and daughter lying on the floor at the entrance to a cancer hospital, the daughter unable to get cancer treatment until she had a Covid-19 test. The picture accompanied an appeal on behalf of the Rotary Club of Dhaka, in Bangladesh, to help them fund the setting up of an RT-PCR Covid-19 testing lab at the National Cancer Hospital (NICRH) there. Patients needed a negative Covid-19 test before starting cancer treatment - but at the time the patients, some extremely poor, without transport and from outside Dhaka, had to travel to other hospitals to get the test done and get their test results.
Our member was determined to raise £500 from friends and family for the cause - but learning of the efforts by the Rotary Club of Dhaka, with the substantial support of other Clubs (RC of Towsontowne, MD, USA and the RC of Alexandria, VA, USA) to seek a Global Grant from The Rotary Foundation, she also took the matter to our International Committee - of which she was a member.
Our Club has worked with the Rotary Club of Dhaka before - and the Committee was happy to support the project with another £1,000. It also applied for District Designated Funds from RI District 1120 (South East), and our Club's total of £1,500 was match funded through this. With this funding our Club joined as an international partner on the Global Grant application for the project, estimated to cost around 6.4 million taka (around £57,000 at today's rate).
In October 2020 we shared the news that the Global Grant application was successful and that the Dhaka Club and partners were busy overseeing the lab's set up. They would need to have the lab constructed, equipment bought and installed, and staff trained. This would be the only facility of its type in the public sector in the entire country and, importantly, would have longevity beyond Covid.
The lab was inaugurated by the Planning Minister for Bangladesh, Mr M A Mannan. By June 2021 the Covid-19 testing lab had been fully set up and had started testing patients. Since then, literally thousands of patients have benefitted from it - and recently we received news that the final report for the grant has been accepted.
Although the pandemic situation has significantly improved recently, the project will continue to operate at full capacity as a negative Covid-19 test is still mandatory for all patients undergoing cancer treatment at NICRH. The project, however will also undertake molecular testing of cancer, especially for cervical cancer. The success of the project is a testament to the efforts of all the clubs involved - especially the enormous effort by the Rotary Club of Dhaka. (Our own Members were so enthused by the project that they have sent over a separate donation that will be used to buy some small equipment for the lab.)
The entire project shows how one Rotarian and a relatively small contribution from one club can, thanks to Rotary, be part of an international effort and help make a big, life-saving, difference.
The Rotary Foundation for Global Grant: The Rotary Foundation (World’s Fund); Rotary International District – 3281, Bangladesh; Rotary International District – 7620, USA; Rotary International District – 7610, USA; Rotary International District – 1120, UK, Rotary Club of Dhaka, RID 3281, Bangladesh; Rotary Club of Towsontowne, RID 7620, USA; Rotary Club of Alexandria, RID 7610, USA; Rotary Club of Canterbury, RID 1120, UK
Rotary Club of Dhaka (outside TRF contributions): Rotary Club of Dhaka (individual contributions/donations); Rotary Club of Dee Why Warringah, RID 9685, Australia; Rotary Dhaka Save Life Foundation.
Clubs are grateful to all those who have supported this project.
Picture: The initial picture which caught the attention of one of our Rotarians and led to us joining in the Global Grant application. The caption reads “Cancer patient Amena Begum, 35...and her mother lie on the floor near the entrance to National Institute of Cancer Research and Hospital.....After reaching Tangali’s [sic] Elenga on June 8, she [the mother] managed to give a sample for Covid-19 test four days later. She is yet to get the result, which is required for her cancer treatment. They have been staying on the hospital floor unable to afford accommodation”. Picture credit: Anisur Rahman/Daily Star (Bangladesh).