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Last hurrah a big one for Pasco Rotarian

Dave Barzelay spreads his photos on the dining room table.

Here he is slogging among tons of garbage at the Guatemala City dump. Here he is in medical greens assisting a surgeon fixing cleft palates in India. Here's his bed in northern Ghana, double screened against malaria-spreading mosquitoes.

The photos may soon make their way into a book he's compiling about these travels, humanitarian adventures that highlight Rotary International's motto: "Service above self.'' But after almost 15 years trekking to some of the world's poorest corners, he has one more project — the biggest yet.

"This is a matching grant on steroids,'' he said.

Barzelay, a member of the Rotary Club of Seven Springs since 1997, has coordinated with Rotarians throughout Pasco, Hernando, Pinellas and Citrus counties to raise $200,000 for medical equipment for a new children's wing at the nonprofit hospital in Sorocaba, Brazil. This is the ninth international project Barzelay has undertaken with matching support from the Rotary International Foundation. Most have been in the $50,000 range.

"This will make a huge impact in a vital region,'' he said, "and save a lot of children's lives.''

Barzelay's first mission in 1999 matched local Rotarians with a club in Guatemala City. They collected $40,000 to provide a fresh water supply for children living at the garbage dump.

He was hooked. Over the next decade, Barzelay, a professional fundraiser, would use his skills for similar projects. He traveled to India and the United Arab Emirates to assist Dr. Sharadkumar Dicksheet repairing children's facial deformities.

He joined with the Rotary Club of Jerusalem to open a kindergarten dedicated to bringing together families of all religions. He spent three weeks in desolate areas of Ghana as Rotarians delivered 12,000 medical kits that diagnose malaria in children in the early stages.

Rotary International considers Brazil vital to the world's environmental and economical health. Before this latest project, the Seven Springs club in New Port Richey worked with the East Sorocaba Rotary Club twice to provide cancer detection equipment at the hospital founded by Portuguese missionaries 200 years ago 60 miles west of Sao Paulo. Rotary also paid for equipment that enables doctors to perform micro-surgery on children.

In each case, the donation for equipment included a maintenance contract, "so everything is still working great, saving lives,'' Barzelay said.

When he visits the hospital, he is especially gratified to see a plaque in a wing for diagnosing cancers that strike men. It honors Rotary and longtime Seven Springs member Dick Walker, who died in 2007 of prostate cancer.

"Dick was the model Rotarian for service above self,'' Barzelay said.

Barzelay, 65, retired two years ago as executive director of the foundation that supports the Center for Independence, which offers training to people with developmental disabilities. He had earlier directed the Pasco-Hernando Community College Foundation and directed fundraising for Youth and Family Alternatives. He has been an ordained non-traditional minister since 1972.

He intends to remain active with Rotary, but the trip to Ghana a few years back convinced him it might be time to limit the travel. "Three weeks on those rough roads took a toll on my knees.''

He rose from the dining room table and limped toward the kitchen.

"But I can tell you,'' he said, "Rotary has given me so much. I view it like a secular religion. You find a lot of that same fire in the belly that you find in dedicated church people. I like that.''

Last hurrah a big one for Pasco Rotarian 02/16/13 [Last modified: Saturday, February 16, 2013 1:53pm]

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