Rotary pitches in for the Philippines

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About 30 volunteers from the Oxford cluster of Rotary Clubs, Friends of Rotary, and Rotary exchange students recently helped load two trailers of school supplies and furnishings at the former Maple Lane Public School to be shipped to the Philippines.

Participating Rotary Clubs in the Oxford cluster included Tillsonburg, Ingersoll, Woodstock, Tavistock, Woodstock-Oxford, and Grand Bend.

"Thames Valley (District School Board) has given us the furnishings at Maple Lane School to be sent to the Philippines," said John Gilvesy, a member of the Tillsonburg Rotary Club.

"The hurricane they had flattened everything," said Tillsonburg Rotary Club's Brian Clark, referring to Typhoon Haiyan in November 2013. "They're lacking in school supplies and that kind of stuff, so we're sending stuff to help."

Rotary Clubs here and in the Philippines are coordinating the relief effort, following the current Rotary motto for 2016-17, 'Be a gift to the world.'

"It's humanitarian service – people to people," said Clark.

School desks, chairs, tables, and 12 skids of books – and even gym floor mats – were among the items donated by TVDSB to be sent to Cebu, Philippines. Enough to fill two 40-foot containers, along with food and medical supplies donated by the community, all scheduled to arrive by boat on June 30.

"Ontario Christian Cleaners from Cambridge donated 190,000 servings of (dry) soup," said Peter Stam from the Woodstock-Oxford Rotary Club. "Sick Children's Hospital donated an X-ray machine. And I got wheelchairs from local retirement homes – we got donations from all over the place.

"Thames Valley gathered furniture from other schools, too, and put it all in here (Maple Lane). Thames Valley has been very cooperative, they gave us a lot of help.

"This is part of a matching grant project ($140,000 US) that Rotary Clubs together, including Rotary International, are spending to refurbish five schools, all in Cebu. The schools were damaged three years ago by Typhoon Haiyan."

The Rotary has access to furniture from closed schools in Avon Maitland (Huron and Perth Counties) and Thames Valley District School Boards (London, Middlesex, Oxford and Elgin Counties), said Stam, that used to be sent to landfills and dumpsites.

"The Rotary saw it five years ago... and changed the whole thing. So far more than 60 of these containers have been shipped to different parts of the world. Mostly to South Africa (50 of the 60), some to Haiti.

"It's part of a program of giving people what they need," said Stam. "We do fundraisers to ship the containers to other countries in the world."

Loading began early Saturday morning at Maple Lane, and they estimated it would take until 3 p.m. to finish.

"The trick is to get it done before it rains," Gilvesy smiled.

In addition to their humanitarian efforts in the Phillipines, local Rotary Clubs are also currently donating money to Rotary Clubs in Alberta to aid the Fort McMurray fire relief. 

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