President Darren introduced our guest speaker Garth Perkins. Garth has been President of Coolamon Rotary Club twice, is still an active member and has been involved in some amazing projects which he is going to speak about. He is a Rotary Assistant Governor. He has been to Nepal, Cambodia and India with Rotary and has recently walked the Larapinta Trail in Central Australia to raise $27,000 for Shelter Box In his spare time he is a Councillor on Coolamon Shire Council and sings with the Rugby Choir.
Garth began with the words: How good is Rotary! But then he posed the question: How relevant do you feel as a Rotarian? He then went on to tell us what has inspired him in his Rotary Vocation.
In 2013, after being declared legally blind, the result of years of dust and hay in his eyes from farming, he went to visit Alok Sharma, Rotarian and Eye Surgeon. Over lunch Alok advised him that he required cataract removal. Once he had the operation Garth was invited to go to India with Alok on one of his regular trips to his native country, where he did cataract operations for the poor. Prior to the Indian Trip, Garth helped to raise $72.000 in one night to fund the Rotary sponsored enterprise.
Garth was blown away by what he saw and witnessed in India. With his team, Garth included, Alok assessed 2,500 people for eye surgery and 370 people had operations to remove cataracts and insert a lense, enabling the recipient to see clearly for the first time in many years.
The surgery was done in conditions that would horrify us here in Australia, but the surgeries were successful. Garth was even asked to assist by inserting anaesthetic needles into the back of the eye. (Shudders around the room). He also had the task of removing eye patches after a day or two.
Toward the end Garth decided to go and say goodbye to a number of the patients who had come along with members of their families. Garth was alarmed when an old man dropped to his knees in front of Garth and then prostrated himself and began crawling toward Garth mumbling in his language. Garth asked one of the team what is he saying? To which they replied he thinks you are a god! This was an extremely emotional moment for Garth. How can it be, he asked, that for the sake of a $25 surgery cost he could be regarded as someone who had the power to restore sight!
This Garth told us, is the power of Rotary and an example of how much good that can be done with energy and organisation.
Our Club veteran Peter Crozier shared his story of going to India on another occasion with Alok and how rewarding it was to see the outcome of this wonderful Rotary Project.
Darren gave a vote of thanks to Garth and presented him with a bottle of Olive Oil as a token of appreciation for his very enlightening talk.