Appreciation by State Representative Todd Smola
Upon completion of this project, the Sturbridge Rotary Club was recognized in this letter by Massachusetts State Representative Todd Smola.
The Kosovo Project
In 2012 the Rotary Foundation awarded the Sturbridge Club a $35,000 grant to equip the Plastic Surgery Department of the University Clinical Center of Kosovo (UCCK)
with surgical instruments to perform delicate reconstructive hand surgery. UCCK is a teaching hospital in Prishtina, the capital city of Kosovo, which serves the entire country of 2 million people. It is generally recognized that Kosovo is the poorest country in Europe, so there is much need for support by other countries.
Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia after the devastating civil war, a result of the breakup of Yugoslavia, which left the clinic desperate for equipment.
Dr. Gani Abazi, a previous recipient of the Rotary Foundation’s Ambassadorial Scholarship and native of Kosovo, planned with the Prishtina-Dardania and Sturbridge Rotary Clubs a project that would deliver both manual and powered surgical tools to UCCK.
Determination of the right tools proved to be difficult, as there are competing technologies, some of which were not familiar to the surgeons in Kosovo. So the search for the right instruments at a price within range of the grant led the team to expand the project to eventually include seven Rotary clubs in four countries.
Very significant financial help was received from the Stourbridge (UK), Fenerbahce (Turkey), Sturbridge (USA), Bedford (USA), Brookfields (USA), Billerica (USA) clubs. In addition, the Bedford Club provided great guidance resulting in the purchase of dozens of surgical hand instruments from a manufacturer in the USA.
While exploring the shipment options, we discovered that one of our own Sturbridge club members was familiar with the humanitarian assistance the US National Guard provides to a number of under-developed countries. Thanks to his efforts, the Iowa National Guard agreed to fly the instruments to Kosovo at no cost to the project, and deliver them personally in their own time; a wonderful humanitarian gesture.
A significant contribution to the project resulted from past Ambassadorial Scholar Joe Bernardo’s involvement with the Turkish club, which has now blossomed into a twinning of the Fenerbahce and Prishtina-Dardania Rotary Clubs.
In November 2012, a huge problem became apparent when it was discovered that the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) required very specific information about any shipment to be made to Kosovo. It is OFAC’s responsibility to ensure that only appropriate materials move into Kosovo. The issue was eventually resolved at the end of March 2013, so that instrument purchases could be made and the shipments begin.
A major difficulty finding surgical power tools was solved with the guidance of a Swedish surgical team from the Department of Hand & Plastic Surgery at the University Hospital in Linköping, Sweden. They are very familiar with the need, because they regularly visit UCCK, generously donating surgical training and equipment.
The electrically and pneumatically powered medical drills, saws, attachments and K-wires were eventually bought from a manufacturer in the USA and delivered to UCCK in late October 2013.
A big Thank You is appropriate for the generosity of the two American instrument manufacturers, who deeply discounted their prices for this Rotary Foundation project.
So this project was successfully completed after two years of effort by many people, resulting in much enhanced reconstructive surgical capability in Kosovo, now serving about 250 patients each year.