Changing Lives in Panama Rotary Club Coronado

Michael Vuytowecz

I met Mark & Jackie while I was speaking at a Live and Invest Overseas conference in Panama City, in 2010. Afterwards they came to the beach area of Coronado to have a look around.   After a whirlwind week of conference, and exploring Coronado and the surrounding area, they bought an amazing condo in a tower on the golf course.

The thing that sets them apart and the reason I am writing about them today is because I am truly touched by their dedication and their desire to help others.  I tip my hat to them both, and the others that assist them.

If you ever find yourself wondering what you could do after moving to a new country, consider Mark and Jackie’s story in their words.

“Two years ago this week my husband and I left our home in Washington State to live in Panama.

We left much behind but the one thing we just couldn’t leave behind was our beloved Rotary Club.  We both had been members of this vibrant club for 11 years.

Panama Rotary Club Coronado
Panama Rotary Club Coronado

Actually, I have been a Rotarian for 23 years now and the emptiness I felt was huge.  Being a Rotarian for such a long time has offered me the opportunity to change lives in a big way through the auspices of Rotary International.

So, when we met Denise MacDonald we discussed the possibility of starting a Rotary Club here in Coronado.  It was such a coincidence because she had just been to the IPEH School in Penenome and had met several children with severe deformities. During the course of establishing a Rotary Club here, we kept in contact with our former District in the U.S. and Canada and while reading the news from there, we saw that the Rotarians there were booking a cruise from Los Angeles to Miami via the Panama Canal.  The ship was being anchored in the Canal in order for the Rotarians to disembark and deliver wheelchairs here in Panama!  We just couldn’t pass up this opportunity to fulfill the wishes of our friend here.  So, since we knew those who were coming here, we started a fund-raising campaign to purchase some wheelchairs for the children in Penenome.  We were allotted only 30 chairs on that delivery.

Long story short our message got out to the entire country and, oh-boy, did the entire country respond!  Panamanians and ex-pats alike jumped on the bandwagon and we raised over $45,000 which enabled us to start working with THE Wheelchair Foundation in California.
They partnered us with a Rotary Club in Pleasanton California which enabled us to order 270 wheelchairs in a 40-foot container.  It arrived about a month ago and this week we have welcomed members from the Pleasanton Rotary Club and this week have been to IPEH schools in Anton, Santa Rita and Penenome.
We have changed the lives of the families from those areas in many ways.  This is Rotary and now we finally feel at home here.  For those who are unfamiliar with Rotary and what it accomplishes, this is just a small piece of the big puzzle.

I you find yourself in Panama and would like to consider  filling your time making a real difference, please contact me directly so that I can proudly introduce you to them, and the Coronado area chapter of Rotary. You will be glad you did!

Visit the Playa Coronado Rotary Club Website here!

Visit the Panama Rotary Club Website here!

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