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GALLERY: Belmont Rotarians helping others 4,200km away

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A national Rotary project to end trachoma has garnered the support of not only the Belmont club but the Hunter Valley community, too.

The bacterial infection is the leading preventable cause of blindness in the world.

It triggers a roughening of the inner surface of the eyelid, which can scratch the cornea.

And, with repeated infections, it often results in blindness.

Prevention is to improve the cleanliness of the face and, in particular, the eyes.

The EndTrachoma initiative, targeting children in the Northern Territory, engaged more than 70 Rotary, Rotaract, Interact, RotaKids and other groups and organisations.

Collectively, they made in excess of 3,600 toiletry kits for students in schools.

It was a fantastic result, according to Rotary Club of Belmont local coordinator Tony Larkin.

“Because trachoma is contagious, individuals need their own face washer and towel,” he said.

“So, the original goal was to provide 1,000 children with their own kit.

“However, there were so many volunteers, that target was very quickly exceeded.

“We decided to support this program in 2021 ourselves and made 50 toiletry kits to be sent to the Robinson River School.

“Donations were received from individuals and there was a substantial one from the staff at Spotlight at Bennetts Green, which was much appreciated.”

The Belmont Rotary members busily sewed the cloth bags under the watchful eye of Mr Larkin, whose job was also to procure other items including washers, hand towels and soaps, for example, for each student.

“It was a valuable project undertaken by everyone at the club,” he said.

“People enjoyed making something that would see a benefit to the Robinson River community.

“At the beginning of the school year, there will be a program to educate the pupils, the staff and the parents about trachoma and how it can be prevented.

“The bags will then be distributed to students – each one is unique so as to prevent the children from sharing such things as face washers, hand towels, toothbrushes, hairbrushes and water bottles.”

The kits also include a personal message.

“In each bag, there is a letter from a pupil at Swansea Public to one at Robinson River,” Mr Larkin said.

“Swansea Public principal Brett Carr was eager to get his students involved in linking up the two schools.

“Robinson River is a far cry from Swansea.

“But, both schools will benefit from the interaction.”

Mr Larkin said the EndTrachoma initiative was a “whole community project”, even for the Rotary Club of Belmont.

“Donations from Spotlight, the involvement of Swansea Public School, our Rotary members and individuals helped produce the toiletry kits,” he added.

“Then, as a result of his connections, local Rotarian Gerry Wubbels organised for Repco to transport all of the bags to Katherine in the Northern Territory for the distribution to Robinson River.

“It’s amazing how Rotarians in Belmont can assist a community some 4,200km away.

“It just takes a goal – and belief to make it happen.

“Thank you to all those who have assisted us.”

For further information, go to [email protected] or www.endtrachoma2020.org.au

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