‘Always going to be a need’

South Surrey fundraising helps Rotary projects in Cambodia and Thailand, but there is still more to be done.

Rotary Club of South Surrey's Brian O’Ruairc (left)

Brian O’Ruairc has seen his share of shoddy living conditions, but the AIDS hospice he visited in Bangkok last year took him aback.

There were patients dying on beds with no linen, sewage running through the middle of the room and minimal equipment – conditions the average person likely couldn’t imagine being subjected to.

“Never (seen anything like it),” the longtime Rotarian said of the Ban Bang Boon facility, “and I’ve been in all the slums in London.

“The pictures kind of sanitize it,” he added. “You have to add 38-degree heat and 85- to 90-degree humidity. One of the (patients) I saw was just on the rusted steel.”

O’Ruairc visited the hospice with honorary club member Chip Bowness, after looking in on Rotary-funded improvements underway at an orphanage in Cambodia. Without hesitating, O’Ruairc committed his Rotary Club of South Surrey to raising $15,000 for a new roof, floor and more at the hospice.

“He couldn’t walk away and not say, ‘We’ll find it somewhere,’” said Deirdre O’Ruairc, his wife and past-president of the Rotary club.

On return to his White Rock home, and after sharing the plan to help with Peace Arch News, the funds were found within two months, through individual donations and help from two other Peninsula Rotary clubs (Semiahmoo and White Rock). One donor who wants to remain anonymous gave $10,000.

The opening of a new hospice – the facility had to be relocated –  was celebrated last May.

But while the conditions are much improved, there is still more to be done.

The hospice was started 22 years ago by a Thai woman who, now 61, continues to handle its daily operations – from laundry and patient care to removing the bodies of those who have died. With no government aid, she relies solely on donations, largely from her own family and the Rotary Club of Bangkok South.

“There is always going to be a need there,” said Deirdre O’Ruairc. “Just because the actual construction is done doesn’t mean the need is gone.”

Exactly how the Rotary club will continue its involvement has yet to be determined, but “it’s hard to get that far and walk away,” she said.

Brian O’Ruairc noted a donation that may seem small to some can make a world of difference.

“Five thousand dollars is nothing, but look what it can do,” he said.


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