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Pagosa Springs Rotary Club helps bring medical services to rural Pakistan

Did you know that Pagosa Springs is the only town in America that has an official sister community in Pakistan?

And did you know that the Pagosa Springs Rotary Club is part of an international effort to fund medical services and skills training for this remote area in Pakistan which, until recently, had virtually no medical services?

The Pagosa Springs Rotary Club — with additional support from two Pakistani Rotary clubs and several Colorado Rotary clubs — is part of a partnership with the Pakistan-based Pakistan Relief organization and a grant-giving arm of Rotary International.

With contributions coming principally from the Pagosa Springs Rotary Club and The Rotary Foundation, a $48,000 medical mobile unit will soon be serving people who live in a series of small villages lying along a river valley of Pakistan’s Gurais Valley. In addition to providing medical services to some 45,000 inhabitants, the medical mobile unit will be part of a multi-faceted effort which will train the Pakistani locals to provide basic medical services to their fellow citizens in the valley.

Among the other medical and skills-building projects already completed are the establishment of a computer literacy program for villagers who have never seen a computer, and the sending of 10 young women of the Gurais Valley to be trained as midwives. Upon their return to the villages, these newly-trained midwives began providing crucial medical services heretofore unavailable to mothers and newborns.

The Pakistan Relief organization grew out of a vacation trip taken in 1992 by Pakistani college students to a remote, mountainous region of Pakistan. The students were shocked to discover that the people there had no medical services, no doctors or nurses, and not even such items as aspirin. For the next few years, these students collected basic medical supplies from their friends and families, and brought them to the remote villages.

Mujtaba Imran was one of those students on the 1992 excursion into these rural mountain areas. In the 20 years since, he has spearheaded the now-international effort to bring basic medical care and skills education to this area. This past Thursday, Imran — president of the “Pakistan Relief” organization — spoke to the Pagosa Springs Rotary Club about the project’s history and about the “Pagosa Connection. ” He and the project’s program coordinator, Nauman Keyani, spent several days in Pagosa Springs. Much of their message was centered on the notion of training the people of the Gurais Valley in basic life skills and medical knowledge so that they could help themselves over the long haul.

The Pagosa Connection began in 2008 when the Town Council officially designated the Gurais Valley as Pagosa Springs’ Sister Community. Since then, Pagosans have initiated several humanitarian aid projects. Additionally, Pagosa children have sent story books, crayons, pictures and letters to the children of the Gurais Valley. In turn, the Pakistani children have sent Pagosa children letters and drawings.

As the future unfolds, the Pagosa Springs Rotary Club expects to continue its efforts to improve education and healthcare in its Pakistani Sister Community.

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