ROTARY Club of Kenwick members have spent the past 11 years changing the lives of children in need.
Since 2006, the club has raised more than $750,000 for not-for-profit surgical organisation Interplast to travel overseas and operate on children who require urgent medical attention.
Club president Steve Weychan accompanied Interplast on a trip to Fiji in 2011 and said it had a profound effect on him.
“If I showed you the ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures, you would be drawn. They are unbelievably moving,” he said.
Mr Weychan said he witnessed first hand the incredible work the surgeons did, including repairing a serious cleft palate for a young child.
“Up came the father, who says to me, ‘In this country, it is our custom to give you a gift or money for what you have done for our family. I have no money to buy a gift, but all I can give you is my thanks,’” Mr Weychan said.
“When someone says that, what do you do?”
He said the trip was an eye-opening experience as he saw surgeons who gave up their own time to work daily to help those less fortunate.
“I saw children with their arms burnt, welded to their side and all they (the doctors in Fiji) do, they give these kids, who were about 12, an aspirin and painkillers and say go home.
“The surgeon comes along, snip snip snip, wraps them up, takes skin off their leg, puts it on their arm, and they’re done.”
The trip consolidated Mr Weychan’s passion for the cause and invigorated his club, which recently held a thank-you evening for donors featuring Interplast surgeon Andrew Miller and nurse Shannon Muir.
In recent times, the club has also fundraised for Interplast to support the travel expenses of doctors from other countries to come to Australia and learn from doctors here.
“Last year, we raised enough to bring a surgeon into Australia to have a two-week training so he can take his skills back to Samoa/Fiji,” Mr Weychan said.
Mr Weychan said while the club enjoyed strong backing from many local businesses, they were always on the lookout for new donors.