By Mary Jane Calvey
Co-chair, International Services Group
Riga, Latvia, situated like the keystone of the Baltic arch between Estonia and Lithuania is an ancient city that once was a part of the Soviet Union and is struggling to re-establish infrastructure including their hospitals and medical equipment. Global Grant 1525312 aimed to provide needed and innovative equipment for the regional maternity and neonatal hospital. All at risk or severely ill newborns are transferred to this hospital from around the country and medical staff struggle to help extremely low birthweight infants survive. Hospital staff presented an overview of their challenges and successes during the project dedication ceremony at the hospital in June 2016.
The grant was a joint project of Rotary Club Riga, Riga Ridzene, Sweden’s Degafors and Karlsgoda Nobel, along with Oklahoma City Rotary Club and Budapest City Rotary Club. Districts 2340, 1911 and 5750 participated in this $51,964 project. New friendships and potential future partnerships were formed. Hotel Roma, situated in the heart of old town Riga provided opportunities to explore on foot the narrow streets and broad squares of Riga.
Our hosts helped order appropriate equipment and ensure the installation and training on use of the equipment which included monitors, blood gas analyzers and neonatal intensive care incubators. We toured the hospital and observed the equipment in use as well as seeing the newly renovated home for families who come to Riga with their critically ill infants to be with the child while they struggle to gain weight and breathe on their own.
Riga is situated on the Daugava River about an hour from the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Finland. An excursion to Jurmala directly on the coast was hosted by Rotarians who also have homes in the resort area. We toured the concert hall just recently renovated and admired the new building occurring in that area as well as the much older wooden homes recalling bygone days. In Riga, we attended the opera, Macbeth, in the historic Opera House as well as celebrating the friendship of our clubs at a dinner in the multi-functional concert hall near our hotel.
Rotarians, Robert Medley, Larry Stone, Marty O’Gwynn, Clytie Bunyan and Mary Jane Calvey from Oklahoma City Rotary Club participated in this grant and exploring Latvia while we made friends both from Latvia and from Sweden. The clubs from Sweden had helped with District Grants in Latvia before and enjoyed revisiting their relationships and telling stories of visiting grant projects during the winter!