Rotary offers helping hand

Graham and Elaine Smith and Morpeth Rotary president Jim Dunn.
Graham and Elaine Smith and Morpeth Rotary president Jim Dunn.

Morpeth Rotary Club

ELAINE Smith, President of Alnwick Rotary Club, was invited to brief Morpeth Rotary about its Sri Lanka project.

Morpeth President Jim Dunn heard about it when he took a group of members to the Rotary District Conference in Harrogate.

Mrs Smith was accompanied by her husband Graham, also a member of Alnwick Rotary. She outlined what had been done so far and plans for the future of Project Sri Lanka.

Five Rotary clubs in the district are now supporting it and Morpeth has agreed to raise at least £300, possibly more, during the year ahead and to send members to Alnwick to help with its fund-raising ventures.

Alnwick member Professor Joy Palmer-Cooper, who was Vice Chancellor of Durham University, has close links with Sri Lanka and had a home there when the tsunami struck.

Members of the club decided that they must do something to help and contacted the worldwide Rotary body, which put them in touch with the Rotary Club of Mid City Colombo.

Together with Rotary International and the oldest humanitarian aid organisation in Sri Lanka, they agreed to set up a Re-awakening of Schools Project. It was to re-build 12 schools that had been destroyed.

University students from Durham joined in to provide teaching volunteers. Other Rotary clubs, including Berwick, asked about the project and offered help.

Alnwick Past President Marion Long and Prof Palmer-Cooper went to Sri Lanka to visit the schools. While noting that many had died, they wanted to help those who had survived.

The project is to provide buildings and sponsor young people to go to school. Schools are free out there but not books, uniforms, food and travel.

For £120 a year, a child can be given the means to cover all of the costs to be educated.

The high school in Alnwick has adopted a student and will see her through to the end of secondary schooling. A secondary school in Sri Lanka was rebuilt by Rotary clubs after being destroyed in the tsunami.

In the last 12 months, the project has also provided new wells in a couple of barren areas.

Mr and Mrs Smith had spent many years in Africa and south east Asia and saw how aid money disappeared down a black hole of corruption. But this scheme is closely supervised by Rotary and all of the money raised goes to it.

Even the charity supporters there are volunteers and pay their own expenses.

Mr Dunn thanked Mrs Smith and promised full support from Morpeth Rotary Club.

• The club will be supporting another charity next week when it stages a steak dinner at Morpeth Golf Club.

Money raised at the mouthwatering event, it costs £16 to eat from the menu, will go towards the purchase of ShelterBoxes, which contain a range of useful shelter and aid equipment. They are given to people badly affected by disasters.