Author: Lawrence Schofer

May 1, 2019 – Rotaplast

Carol Lerner, Rotary District 7450 volunteer coordinator for Rotaplast, discussed the 2019 district mission to Monrovia, Liberia.

Rotaplast is a separate organization, a spinoff of activity of Rotary members, but one that is actively supported by Rotary clubs. Missions take place only to areas where local Rotary clubs can provide support.

A team of 21 people in this mission consisted of nine Rotarians and 12 health professionals (doctors and nurses). The official task is to provide surgery for cleft palate and cleft lip, conditions that  are routinely corrected in the United States but that can be physically and socially crippling in other countries. Ordinarily about 100 surgeries are performed in a 10 day mission, but because of logistical and financial reasons affecting the local population, only about 60 such surgeries were performed in this mission. The surgeons were able to expand their reach to include a number of surgeries for keloid scars.

Keloids are common among certain African populations. If untreated, these scars can become raised and become so large as to be disfiguring.

Each of the accompanying Rotarians was assigned a support job on this mission, such as being in charge of sterile materials, preoperational contact with the children, transportation within the hospital, and other assorted tasks. Carol spoke of the tremendous esprit de corps that developed among all the members of the mission as they were engaged in a significant humanitarian activity.

Missions are generally planned 6 to 8 months in advance. The mission for 2020 sponsored by our Rotary district has not yet been scheduled.

April 17, 2019 – Prevention Point

Clayton Ruley of Prevention Point explained the organization’s approach to dealing with the problems of drug abuse. Harm Reduction is a set of public health strategies designed to reduce the negative consequences of drug use and to promote healthy individuals and communities without necessarily reducing drug use.

 

The strategy of this program is improved health through access to sterile syringes, safer injection supplies, medical supports, legal supports, and social service supports. The idea is to use a non-judgmental approach in working with drug addicts and sex workers. There are currently 11 weekly exchanges and access sites, both site-based and mobile. Services are not “forced” onto clients. The cost of supplying the supplies is infinitely less than the cost of treating HIV-positive individuals and those with hepatitis C.

 

Statistics indicate a significant decrease in cases of HIV among drug users in Philadelphia, suggesting positive results for the program.

April 10, 2019 – Aging in Ghana

Cati Coe, an anthropologist based at Rutgers University, discussed the problem of aging in Ghana, a situation probably typical of African countries.

 

As elsewhere, people are living longer due to reductions in infant mortality. Even with a decline in the birth rate, 50% of the Ghanaian population is under age 30; 5%, over age 65.

 

The traditional way of caring for the elderly has been to keep the people in the family. Ghanaians still respond that in the West, particularly in America, families do not play the same role; public opinion suggests that the local society is superior to the West in this regard. However, with large-scale emigration from rural areas to the cities, and paradoxically with the growth of a middle-class, families are finding it increasingly difficult to maintain the elderly only with relatives. Most commonly, women from the outside are hired to help in homes.

 

Dr. Coe has done most of her research in southeast Ghana, which is a rural area with a preponderance of elderly families because younger persons have emigrated. What care that is provided by the community is usually church centered, often in fellowship groups, but care in the home  or in group living is rare.

 

Dr. Coe also explored some sporadic attempts to set up what we in the West call continuing care homes, but there are very few people in such homes.

March 27, 2019 – Emlen School

Meredith Sutzer, school counselor, and Tina Fields,  community partnership coordinator, Emlen Elementary school (K-5), discussed the school. The school currently has 375 children, two classes per grade. The school enrollment consists of 100% free and reduced lunch children (low income).

 

The school has a number of partnerships with community associations to provide services for the students – e.g., the Germantown soccer club, a hockey group, a community garden, computers on loan, girls on the run program (for building self-confidence). Students from Germantown Friends school have assembled a large number of books and arranged them into a library for use by all the schoolchildren. The school system currently supplies programs for gym, art, and computers; there is no music program and no formal health education program.

 

In the past our club has distributed dictionaries all third-graders in this school.

 

The school experiences a severe problem of truancy (defined as six unexcused absences). Since these are such young children, it is assumed that these absences are a function of lack of parental support for school attendance.

March 13, 2019 – Clean Water in Philadelphia

Dottie Baumgartner explained stormwater management in Philadelphia in some detail. It is important to manage the rain as it comes off of one’s property, since in this neighborhood all water flows down to the Wissahickon Creek. This is our neighborhood drinking water! The intake is in the Queen Lane treatment center, where the water is prepared for drinking.

 

The Wissahickon watershed area consists of those areas, stretching from Montgomery County through Philadelphia, where rainwater runs into the creek. This watershed is part of a larger Schuylkill River watershed area.

 

In Philadelphia, some 40% of residences split rainwater runoff from sewage; 60% have combined sewers. It is therefore important that rainwater run onto the land and not directly into the sewers. In periods of heavy rainfall, the sewer lines become full and the combined rainwater-sewage runs directly into the creek or into the Schuylkill River.

 

The cycle of treatment is as follows: runoff into the river  à treatment plant à homes à wastewater treatment à river.

 

Dottie Baumgartner was formally a science teacher. She took business courses at the Business Center (run by our own Pam Rich-Wheeler) to help her prepare for a transition to independent consultant and educator. She now works primarily for the Philadelphia Water Department and several schools.)

March 6, 2019 – W. Phila. Alliance for Children

Anisha Sinha, Executive Director, West Philadelphia Alliance for Children (WEPAC)

 

WEPAC is an organization devoted to promoting reading among elementary school children. Of the 237 public schools in Philadelphia, only seven have full-time librarians. A few schools have libraries and librarians supported by neighborhood organization.

 

WEPAC works with principals and teachers in specific schools to develop libraries. Currently 14 schools are being served, with the hope of serving 20 by the end of the next school year. The organization delivers books and coordinates volunteers to help in these individual schools. It requires $25,000 to open the library, though maintenance costs afterwards are much less.

 

WEPAC works with existing organizations, such as Team First Book Philadelphia, as well as with the Philadelphia school district itself.in order to reach its goals for the next two years, the organization must raise $200,000.

 

The organization may be supported by donations of supplies and books, by volunteer time, and by contributing the funding.

 

The current emphasis is on grades K-4.

 

It is difficult to evaluate the program, but surveys of teachers indicate that 70% of the teachers involved in the program see a positive impact on the children.

 

 

 

February 27, 2019 – Councilwoman Cindy Bass

Councilwoman Cindy Bass discussed her proposal to eliminate the 10 year tax abatement in Philadelphia. The tax abatement program in the city goes back to the 1990s, and it was successful in supporting development in Center City.

 

Councilwoman Bass feels that the program was successful in the past, but it helped only in certain neighborhoods. Now is the time to end this abatement so that funds can be raised to support the Philadelphia school system and to combat poverty in the city. She estimates that cancellation of the abatement will recover $500-$700 million over five years.

 

Other bills have been introduced that would restrict the abatement in various ways. No hearings have been scheduled on these bills in city Council, and Councilwoman Bass has taken on the task of persuading the Council to hold hearings on her proposal.

February 27, 2019 – Councilwoman Cindy Bass

Councilwoman Cindy Bass discussed her proposal to eliminate the 10 year tax abatement in Philadelphia. The tax abatement program in the city goes back to the 1990s, and it was successful in supporting development in Center City.

 

Councilwoman Bass feels that the program was successful in the past, but it helped only in certain neighborhoods. Now is the time to end this abatement so that funds can be raised to support the Philadelphia school system and to combat poverty in the city. She estimates that cancellation of the abatement will recover $500-$700 million over five years.

 

Other bills have been introduced that would restrict the abatement in various ways. No hearings have been scheduled on these bills in city Council, and Councilwoman Bass has taken on the task of persuading the Council to hold hearings on her proposal.

November 28, 2018 – PA Horticultural Society

Today’s meeting was held at Face-To-Face Germantown, a charitable organization that was described to us several weeks ago at a club meeting. The club made a donation to the organization today.

 

Presentation by Glen Abrams, Philadelphia Horticultural Society (PHS)

The single biggest project of PHS is the annual flower show, which has been running since 1829. The 2019 show is scheduled for March 2-10, and is entitled “Flower Power ”.

 

Glen reviewed a number of the programs that PHS is involved in outside of the flower show:

The greenhouse in Meadowbrook

pop-up gardens

Greening project

City Harvest – working with prisoners to provide jobs for returning citizens

Neighborhood Gardens Trust – local gardens

Tree Tenders – training for the care of trees. 2000 trees planted annually

Treevitalize watersheds – work with local districts to reforest along streams

Philadelphia land care – clean and maintain 12,000 vacant lots – work with local residents and businesses Neighborhood parks – improve local sites

Maintain public landscapes – for example, around Rodin Museum, Navy Yard

Horticultural education schools

Rain check – residential stormwater management

Horticultural education

 

PHS, founded in 1827, has 21,000 member households and 5000 volunteers. It has a budget of $27.5 million.