Feature on Latin America Rotary Aid Program set for April 21

BEMIDJI, Minn. — Chris Keenan will discuss the 2009 Latin America Rotary Aid trip and outline the results of the 20-year program that had its start in Bemidji during a 10 a.m. Academy of Lifelong Learning lecture Tuesday, April 21.

Open to the public at no charge, the 90-minute program will be held at the Bemidji State University Center for Research and Innovation, located at 3801 Bemidji Avenue North.

The aid trips began when the Rotary Club of Santa Barbara, Honduras, and the Santa Barbara Hospital asked clubs in District 5580 to assist in alleviating severe malnutrition and persistent diseases that afflicted area residents. Dr. Ted Will, a Bemidji surgeon, spearheaded the first mission in 1990 to bring the region hospital beds and other medical equipment donated by Rotary clubs in District 5580, which includes North Dakota, northern Minnesota, eastern Wisconsin and southern Ontario.

Keenan will explain the involvement of the Bemidji Noon Rotary Club in the history of the program. More than six semi truckloads of equipment were provided to the region before that effort was reduced and new initiatives added.

A city of 25,000, Santa Barbara is located in the highlands of western Honduras and includes the second-highest mountain peak in the country. Many other people live in remote mountain villages where burros, when available, provide the main form of transportation, families are housed in thatch or mud huts and there is no sanitation or clean water.

As a result, the Rotarians have undertaken medical, dental and construction projects in more recent trips. The 2009 group, consisting of 31 individuals, included dentists who extracted teeth and applied sealants to children’s teeth; a medical team who trained Honduran healthcare workers in endoscopy techniques, performed urological surgery, and conducted EMT training; and a construction group who replaced and built roofs on school buildings, painted schools and erected a water-latrine system to serve villagers living in some of the roughest terrain in the area.

Keenan has participated in more than half of the LARA trips and last fall led three representatives from local Rotary Clubs to Honduras to plan and prepare for this past winter’s trip.

Coming Up
The spring 2009 Academy of Lifelong Learning lecture series will conclude April 28 when Dr. Art Lee, professor emeritus of history at Bemidji State University, presents a program on the post-World War II Nurnberg Trials.

The Academy of Lifelong Learning offers humanities-based programs made possible in part with private donations and support from Bemidji State University. Individuals who wish to be added to the ALL mailing list or have questions about this program should contact the Bemidji State University Center for Research and Innovation at (218) 755-4900; toll free, (888) 738-3224; e-mail, cri@bemidjistate.edu; or at http://www.cri-bsu.org.

April 21
– 10 a.m. – Bemidji State University Center for Research and Innovation hosts Academy of Lifelong Learning lecture on the Latin America Rotary Aid Program. Presenter: Chris Keenan, aid program participant. Location: CRI; 3801 Bemidji Ave. N., Bemidji, Minn. Cost: free. For information: (218) 755-4900; (888) 738-3224; http://www.cri-bsu.org.