Thu07242014

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After the tsunami: Los Altos Rotary Club performs disaster relief the right way


Allart Ligtenberg, chairman of Los Altos Rotary Club's World Community Service committee, went to Indonesia to dedicate the new boats his club financed.

In the year since the Dec. 26 tsunami in Southeast Asiea, the world has seen many more natural disasters - and disastrous efforts to respond to them. What help is needed? How can we bypass the red tape, the delays and the sticky fingers of multiple government and nongovernmental agencies? In short, how can we, as private citizens, reach across the world and make a positive difference?

The Los Altos Rotary Club (LARC) may have found the key to these questions. The answer: Use the global reach of Rotary's 32,000 clubs in 166 nations around the world. Combine that global presence with the pervasiveness of Internet technology. Add to that mix some willing hearts, and you have the recipe for extremely effective, people-to-people humanitarian aid.

Moved by the magnitude of the tsunami disaster, a group of people from LARC came together. Not knowing where the funds would come from, they pledged $25,000 in aid.

Newcomers to the club, called "Red Badgers," subsequently decided to dedicate the proceeds of their annual auction to the cause. So there was a will and a way. Then the question was: where?

The hardest-hit country, Indonesia, was in the midst of a civil war and had a reputation for corruption.

There, the combination of Rotary's international presence and the Internet proved very powerful. Club members got on the Internet, asking Rotary clubs in Indonesia how Los Altos Rotary could help.

Leaders of the Rotary Club in Jakarta quickly responded. Help was urgently needed on the northern island of Sumatra, where all the boats in the fishing village of Lhokseumawe had been destroyed.

"Help us rebuild the boats," they implored, "so that our people can regain their livelihoods." Furthermore, said the Jakarta Rotarians, they would personally oversee the project and ensure that the funds were properly spent. Boat recipients are required to pay back a portion of their boat's cost, enabling the Jakarta Rotary to continue the cycle of help.

This fall, the first fruits of the partnership were launched - 15 beautiful boats. The dedication on one of the boats - "working together in friendship" - summarizes the story well.

This is disaster relief done well. Now, with Katrina victims needing assistance, Los Altos Rotarians are planning to repeat the recipe in this country.

Proceeds from purchases at the Rotary Fine Art in the Park support projects such as these. For more on Rotary activities, visit www.losaltosrotary.org.

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