Richard Mewhinney’s Ongutoi Medical Centre in Uganda

In 2009, Uganda was fortunate to gain a Rotarian who was willing to assist in the building of a medical centre. This little idea of Richard’s has gone a long way. People in this area of Uganda are able to look to a brighter future in terms of their well-being.

Richard Mewhinney has just returned from one of his visits, and has enlightened The Rotary Club of Newmarket with all the vast improvements in the system and the greatness this health centre is bringing to the citizens of Ongutoi. Just last Tuesday, I had the opportunity to conduct and interview with this Newmarket Rotarian. This interview consisted of nothing less than his inspiring project in Ongutoi, Uganda.

When Mewhinney arrived in Uganda in 2009, he came across a small medical building which was just arising from refugee status and was being occupied by swarms of rodents. To say the least it was a decrepit and run-down centre. Mewhinney reflected on how far his centre has come since the beginning. He states, “What do I know from building a Medical Centre?” It is shocking to know that someone with this little knowledge and experience accomplished the task of treating 121, 000 people at no cost; and that number is still going up! Treated stems from, getting the proper attention to the malaria and typhoid diseases to different surgeries to all sorts of treatments. A big disease being taken care of would be the HIV disease. Since recovering from refugee status, this area has a rate to be of double national average at a 12.5-15% in HIV infection. Another proud accomplishment of Mewhinney’s would be the centres HIV program which goes beyond positive and negative testing but actually gets down to the actual treatment. This has been a long and careful six year process to reach their current status.

The Ongutoi Medical Centre’s successes don’t stop at that. In fact they are just beginning. The Medical Centre is still in need of many other resources to continue their success. For example, the centre is in need of more equipment for new facilities in the lab. Also, according to Mewhinney, they are in desperate need medical officer in order to move up to a level four medical facility. With that title they can have the opportunity to even move up to the hospital level. There is still more to be done and still more to learn, “I’ve had 7 trips there and I’m still learning my way through their medical system” states Mewhinney. However, seeing as Uganda is not a country rich in health facilities like Canada is, even the smallest of improvements in one’s health can make the world of a difference in their life- the Ongutoi Medical Centre is providing this experience.

“People say “How did you find Uganda?” I always like to say Uganda found me as opposed to the other way around.” This statement said by Mewhinney resonated with me. It is fulfilling to know that the Rotarians of our world are doing the work they do out of the goodness of their heart. Also, it is inspiring to know that anyone can tackle a project if they are believe and are passionate about the results they will get. In Uganda, Rotary’s philosophy is evident everywhere. The building in its improved condition is one of the many reminders of what humanity can make possible if we all put service above self. The works Richard Mewhinney and many other volunteers will continue to be applauded.

By: Vanda Di Michele


Closer Than Ever Before

What do Archie Panjabi, Jackie Chan, and Bill Gates all have in common? Them, along with 1.2 million Rotarians are searching for an end. An abolishment, an eradication, an elimination of Polio. Rotary and Polio have been battling for years upon years and it is in due time that Polio reaches its demise.

Poliomyelitis, or more commonly known as Polio, is a viral infectious disease that spread from person to person. It enters the body through the nose or mouth and travels to your intestines where it reproduces. Through three severities of the disease, Polio was one of the most significantly fatal diseases in our history. According to, Polio is expressed in three ways, Abortive Polio, Nonparalytic Polio, and Paralytic Polio. Abortive Polio being the least severe and Paralytic Polio being fatal, people all around were affected in some way by the disease. However, through proper vaccination processes the Polio epidemic has calmed down since the early 1900s but is still evident today in three countries in our almost Polio free world.

In the times of the early 1900s and 1950s, a child’s summer did not invoke feelings of happiness and liveliness. Instead it conjured feelings of fright and panic. With large Polio outbreaks occurring every few years, parents shielded their children from catching the fatal disease. The Polio virus reached an extreme in 1952, with nearly 60,000 affected and 3,000 deaths resulting to Polio in the United States alone. There was chaos in the country and world. That same year Dr. Jonas Salk discovered a vaccine for Polio. However, it wasn’t until 1954 that the vaccine was tested in parts of North America. When the government allowed it to be released to the public the following year, mothers and fathers were a little more settled and grateful knowing there is a solution; a long a careful three year process. Today, because of people like Dr. Salk, the disease of polio has been destroyed in places like North America. But there is still more to do.

Bob Scott, Rotarian from Cobourg, Ontario, is a noble one in fact. Being alive as a child during the largest Polio outbreak, he witnessed the massive commotion this disease was causing. According to Helen Stopps, CDCI West student, and writer for the Rotary Club of Cobourg, Scott states that all things kids could do to have fun in the summer were shut down. Their parents put all sorts of restrictions on them to prevent the fact that they could catch this illness. It doesn’t surprise me to know that Bob Scott went on to be one of the most important Rotarians in Polio History. Being the Chair of Rotary’s International PolioPlus Committee for eight years, Scott had reduced the Polio-endemic in many countries around our world. The number of affected countries has been reduced from one hundred twenty five to three. Bob Scott has recently stepped down from his position but will not stop fighting Polio. In a recent issue of The Rotarian, Scott stated, age is catching up and it was time for him to leave his position, however, he will never stop supporting Polio. He also left Rotarians an important message: when we all work together and believe together, we can make great things happen.

In 1985, Rotary took matters into their own hands starting the PolioPlus program. This action taken by Rotary International was one of the first movements taken by Rotary to finally put an end to all this Polio excitement. Since 1985, Rotary has distributed the vaccine to 2.5 billion children worldwide; leading to the abolishment in North America in 1991. PolioPlus also works with the Bill and Melina Gates Project and UNICEF to tackle Polio every day, getting better results. All these years of hard work busting Polio have added up to $1.3 billion, millions of volunteers and millions of hours spent terminating Polio. Thanks to all this dedication through PolioPlus, Polio has been reduced by 99% worldwide. Soon Polio affected Nigeria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan will remember Polio as a part their history too. It has also come to my attention that PolioPlus has been around for thirty years – congratulations PolioPlus, don’t stop fighting!

Here’s to the future of Polio; that with patience, time and proper care, Rotarians and the world will soon see the world with one less disease, one less problem and one less heartache. We are closer than ever before to a world that is Polio free.

By: Vanda Di Michele

All About Camp Enterprise

This year, on May 7th, the Rotary Club of Newmarket is coming together, once again, with fifteen other Rotary clubs across Districts 7070 and 7080. Sixty-four high school students will be joined together by Rotary for an opportunity of a life time. Camp Enterprise is making this possible.

So , what is Camp Enterprise? In Canada, Almost thirty-nine years ago, a Youth Service Committee of The Rotary Club of Toronto, established a three day camp where high school students get the opportunity to learn about different streams of business.

High school students each year are nominated by their business teacher. After being selected, the student must apply for Camp Enterprise and undergo an interview process. If chosen, this lucky student gets a chance to stay for three day overnight camp, where business exploration opportunities are available. Students will get a better understanding of how to start a business, how to team build, how to be a leader and so much more. Students gather at the YMCA Cedar Glen Camp in Nobleton, with fresh minds ready to learn more about different business streams.

Julia Jones, of the Rotary Club of Newmarket, states that with Camp Enterprise what never fails to change is the youthful enthusiasm of the high school students. These kids mean business. Children who participate in Camp Enterprise are generally very serious about going into a type of business and are committed to making this a part of their future. “You don’t have to worry about them staying in their seat, or misbehaving, they’re there to learn and it’s fun to watch them do it!” says Jones.

Rotary’s ethics are evident in each student. Commitment. A primary principle of Rotary is to be committed to the community and always help the best they can in every situation. Like the student, who is committed to making it into the business world. Commitment is the underlying theme in both positions. Rotary’s influence is all around Camp Enterprise. These students are fortunate enough to work with respected members of the community and are having fun while doing it.

Rotary and Camp Enterprise offer eleventh and twelfth grade students an unforgettable experience packed with new friendships, knowledge and of course memories.

By: Vanda Di Michele

All About The Rotary Club of Newmarket

The Rotary Club of Newmarket has contributed so much to our community and world, it’s hard to believe it stemmed from something bigger. Since Rotary International was established on February 23rd 1905, clubs all over the world began to form as well. Rotary International founder Paul. P. Harris emphasized the importance of unity in a community. To this day, Paul’s legacy still lives on; 1.2 million members belonging to Rotary International continue to strive for fellowship like Paul every day. Since the formation in 1984, the members of Newmarket’s Rotary club continue to follow in Paul’s footsteps with all their great works and participation in the community. The Rotary Club of Newmarket has a vision for the town of Newmarket. It involves the intertwining of different people with different beliefs to connect in a way where the Rotary Club of Newmarket can promote their service above self aspect in the community. The service above self principle is a common belief that binds all people belonging to the Newmarket Rotary Club. By using their core values they have been able to help and advocate the importance of giving back to the community. The Rotary Club of Newmarket has a mission designed around bringing fellowship into the community. By introducing Rotary through a positive and entertaining manner, The Rotary Club of Newmarket wishes to make a mark on the lives of many. Newmarket Rotary aspires to complete their mission to the best of their ability in all the days they serve as Rotarians.

By: Vanda Di Michele

Our Four Way Test

How can we bring the community closer together? How can I help someone else today? How can I reach out to the community? These are all questions many of us have considered in our lives. The Four Way test created by Rotary International are the answers to these ponderings. Is it the truth, is it fair to all concern, will it build goodwill and better friendships, will it be beneficial to all concern, are the four questions people should ask themselves before putting their best efforts forth. Especially Rotarians! Before starting a project, Rotarians in our community have to do a little research. Does the information given contain traces of falsehood? Are the facts authentic? Making sure truthful facts are in place ensures the task at hand to be completed to the best of its ability. Newmarket Rotary’s dedication ensures a comfortable environment for all people in the community. Establishing justice amongst all people in different situations is one of Rotary’s top priorities. Promoting social good is a service that all of society should take part in. Newmarket Rotarians do their best to establish friendships and to strengthen ties between different groups. This aspect of the Four Way Test demonstrates equitable values the Rotary Club shares with others daily. The willingness to do good for others is what Rotary is all about. Rotary is continuously promoting service above self. Service above self relates to all these principles. Envisioning yourself in other people’s shoes is the key as to how our community can work together in a fellowship. The four way test has allowed Rotarians to improve the development of fellowship in the community, and has given those the opportunity to be a part of a mosaic of people doing exceptional deeds.

By: Vanda Di Michele

Art Building Children’s Dreams

In the Western world, education is a necessity and a great importance in living a successful life. In school, we are constantly reminded about our future and what we want to make of it. Fortunately for us, we have many options open to us; we are encouraged to pick any career we like and we believe that if we can dream it; we can do it.

13,513 kilometres across the world this is not the same mentality. Children in parts of Tanzania are not exposed to the multiple options and pathways in education like we are. These children are accustomed to living in a reality of immense poverty every day of their lives. Many children are threatened with the thought that they will have to stop their learning to support financial matters at home. Additionally, many are orphans or are living with a caregiver that has been affected the HIV/AIDS disease. These are the stories of the children in Kilimanjaro, Tanzania.

Frank Smith and Lynn Bird, founders of the Art Building Children’s Dreams (ABCD) foundation, were personally affected by the immense poverty in Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, when on a Sweat Equity trip with Rotary. Smith, a retired visual arts teacher, dreamed that these children would one day be fortunate enough to gain the education they deserve. Starting what we now know as the ABCD.

When the ABCD came into play, the poorest of children in Kilimanjaro are exposed to a continuous education. Thanks to the ABCD’s successful advisory committee. The chance to learn is a blessing to these children. Over 60 children sponsored by the ABCD, are given the opportunity to live out their dreams in hopes of a better future. Anyone can sponsor a child through donations, which will encourage these children to do well in school so they can make their dream a reality. Many children dream of being teachers, doctors, truck drivers, engineers and more.

The Rotary Club of Newmarket and other local Rotary Clubs have made quite the impact financially and personally to the lives of these children, with many donations given each year to support the foundation. Many of our Rotarians have also made an impact on the lives of these children through teaching and assisting the foundation in the many was they can. Our Rotarians are to be applauded. Additionally to our Rotary Clubs, Southlake Hospital, located in Newmarket, has donated every year to support these children’s dreams.

The children of the ABCD are in the hands of noble volunteers and Rotarians who are making the world of a difference in the lives of these Tanzanian children. Through continued financial assistance to the schools and families these children are one step closer to a bright future.

By: Vanda Di Michele

What It Means To Be A Rotarian

You may be surprised to know that I, a grade eleven student, am writing this article. I got this wonderful opportunity to write this and many other articles through cooperative education (co-op). When I first told my co-op teacher what I wanted to do for the next five months, neither of us thought journalism would take me here. My first day as a writer included learning all about Rotary. To be completely honest, I had an inkling of an idea of what Rotary has done. After my first day of research, research, and more research, I found it a complete honour to be writing for an organization that has done such magnificent things in our world. The Rotary Club of Newmarket alone; the club I am writing through, has helped so many internationally and locally. I have learned that Rotarians are these extraordinarily transformative people in society always striving for harmony; where this is peace there is a Rotarian. Our respected Rotarians in our community have inspired and helped multiple citizens, bringing goodwill and fellowship to the lives of many.

So why am I writing this article? It has come to my attention that many others do not know what a Rotarian is, let alone what Rotary is. Often when explaining my co-op placement to many, the response I often get is, “Wait, the what club?” I would like to change that reaction to one that sounds more like this, “Oh, the Rotary Club!” During these past few days I gathered two noble Rotarians, a couple students and a respected teacher from my school to interview them on their take on the Rotary club and Rotarians. Although at points humorous, their answers will surprise, shock, and inspire you as they did for me.

When asked what the Rotary Club was, it was Ariana Fermo, student of St. Maximilan Kolbe Catholic High School (SMK), who hit it right on the nose. She brought up some valid points that summarized all the goodness Rotary represents. When asked what she thought the term Rotary meant she stated that it reminded her of sharing and part taking in experiences. Compared to another peer of mine, Hailey Newton, who thought the term ‘Rotary Club’, was a book club and Rotarians were pretentious figures who enjoy the company of good book, preferably in famous works of literature. Although not quite the answer I was looking for, it did give me a good laugh. Fermo states, “A Rotarian seems like someone who mends their whole efforts and comes together with other people to help the greater good.” Bingo! When telling Ariana what Rotary has done over the past one hundred ten years of existence, she couldn’t believe she hadn’t heard about Rotary before. Newton was also impressed by Rotary’s efforts, “A Rotarian sounds like someone who just wants to make someone’s day better, someone whose there when no one else is.” Rotary and its Rotarians are there for the young or old, the wealthy and the poor and so on. Rotarians are unbiased as to who they serve, the good work they do is not to benefit them, but to benefit others. Their hard work and dedication is to be appreciated.

Teacher, Nella Quintieri of SMK, thinks of a cycle and the exchanging of talents and strengths when hearing the words ‘Rotary Club’. “A Rotarian means putting others before you, engaging in selfless acts and helping those who are in need.” Quintieri brought up a great point when mentioning putting others before oneself. Rotary’s primary rule is to always put service above self. It is a way where they can give back without expecting anything in return. It’s for goodwill and it is a way they can help shape the community into a place full of friendships.

My last interviews are ones that I am honoured to have conducted. President Lynn Bird of the Rotary Club of Newmarket, was asked a few questions about what she thought it meant to be a Rotarian, along with fellow retired Rotarian Doug Simon; very interesting and inspiring perspectives. Like many others, Lynn Bird, Rotarian of twenty four years, did not know much about what Rotary did, but was soon drawn in by the infinite possibilities Rotary would give her to make a positive influential change in the world around us. Doug Simon, Rotarian of 20 years, also did not know of the club until he came across a poster in an associate’s office. I quote Bird, “After attending the first Rotary Club of Newmarket meeting, I felt a strong sense of belonging, a sense of belonging to something much larger and more dynamic than anything I had ever known.” Doug also felt the same sense of belonging when stating, “It provided me with many good friendships and a sense of belonging that I have not experienced elsewhere.” Big or small, Rotary has acted through their projects to make a change in lives of many and has made many aware of the endless possibilities there are to provide care to all. Rotary’s demographics have stayed the same over the years but have brought life and youth to many aspects of the club. “When I first joined Rotary, it was a “mature” club; they considered me a move towards youth at age 47!! The Club has continued with Rotary’s objectives of providing help to those in need, both locally and internationally, but with a new combination of youthful enthusiasm and the wisdom and experience of the longer-serving members. I am proud of what I helped to start in that area and hope that it will continue.” Doug and many others legacies are living on, our communities have found great appreciation in the common good and those who are willing to serve it. “Of great importance is the amount of fun that Rotarians continue to enjoy at each club meeting; a fundamental characteristic of our club. We put fun in “Service Above Self”” I admire what Lynn said about enjoying the service they do. Serving is not an obligation, it not like that frightening ‘To Do List’ you see almost every weekend; service about is finding it within your heart to make the best out of a situation, and giving it your all. Making it fun is defiantly apart of the package. So, what do Doug and Lynn think it means to be a Rotarian? According to Lynn, “For me being a Rotarian means getting involved, taking the opportunity to learn about Rotary and its many programs. It means using that knowledge to address the needs of others, both locally and internationally. It means recognizing one’s own skills and talents and committing to using them to make the world a better place to live.” This is similar to Doug’s well put response, “To me, being a Rotarian means that I am associated with a group that promotes high ethics, both personal and business, and one that is dedicated improving the world by helping those less fortunate.” What uplifting takes on how anyone can change the lives of others, I couldn’t have said it better myself! Bird also added, “I am proud to be a Rotarian. We change the world…one project at a time!” indeed you do Lynn!

As for me, I see a Rotarian as a leader, someone who courageously takes on challenges and someone who society looks up to. I have been given the chance to work closely with a dedicated Rotarian and this leadership trait has been evident since day one.

So, what does it mean to be a Rotarian? Opinions and views may vary but if there is something most can agree on its, Rotary has a resemblance to a mosaic. Different pieces coming together to establish something extraordinary. Rotary has allowed everyday people to improve the development of creating a positive world, and has given those the opportunity to be a part of this mosaic of people doing exceptional deeds.

By: Vanda Di Michele