This is my story of how Rotaplast came into being in District 7780 by Marie A. Williams
In 1997, when I first became District Governor, Past District Governor James “Jim” Labrie called and asked me if I could come to his home.  He asked me to invite then District Governor-elect Bill Skinner and District Governor Nominee Michael McGovern to attend at the same time as he wanted to share something with us.  We all went to the Labrie home in Rye, NH and PDG Jim showed us a news clip by Connie Chung about Rotaplast. 
When it was over and the tears were running down my face, he asked if I would be willing to start the promotion of this program to repair cleft lip and cleft palates in our district but there was one condition – Bill and Mike had to agree to continue the program in their years as District Governor as it would take it several years to get it really started.  As the saying goes, “that is history”!  Needless to say we all agreed!  How could any of us say no to such a worthwhile and life changing program for these children!  So that is how Rotaplast started in District 7780.  Jim got then Executive Director Anita Stengl to attend my district conference in May 1998.  Jim paid for her expenses to get fly here from California but didn't’t want it known.  Jim recently passed away and this is just one of the many things that Jim supported during his lifetime and it is part of our District History.  This had a special meaning to Jim as he had 6 reconstructive cleft lip and cleft palate surgeries by the age of 3.
Many Rotarians and non-Rotarians in our District  have taken part in the many trips to assist in these surgeries around the world and at their own expense.  I have asked them to share their "stories" with me and allow me to post them here for everyone to read.  All these stories are part of who we are as a District, shows what Rotarians do to make it peoples lives better and everyone should hear them.  I hope I will be buried                    with replies.
The first "story" is from the May 1998 District Newsletter.  It is remarks shared by Past District Governor James "Jim" Labrie from a
Rotaplast team in Argentina.
Rotaplast Report
PDG Jim Labrie shares the following remarks with us from the ROTAPLAST Team in Argentina.
"Eight year old Marta Cardenas received her first surgery on Monday, February 9 in the midst of an EL Nino hailstorm - and started her trip the operating room with a confident and fearless attitude.  Living with a cleft lip and palate for 8 years, her parents prepared her to look forward to having a beautiful face and being able to eat normally for the first time in her life.  She watched other children at the clinic on Saturday - the little ones who had the hole in their faces closed in surgery last year, and how beautiful they looked.  Those children are back this year to have their palates closed, and since they are younger, they won't have to struggle like Marta has for eight years.
During Saturday's clinic, many of the parents recognized members of the 1997 Rotaplast II team in Argentina and their expressions of gratitude moved us deeply.  Those warm feelings soon turned to steely determination as we faced more than 170 children who had come to ask for help.  One child with major and multiple medical conditions has miraculously survived to the age of 2; she will die and all we can do to provide her parents with a Polaroid photograph so they can have pictures of her.  In spite of the few children we cannot help, we are expecting to complete 15-18 surgeries per day for 5 1/2 days in operating rooms Argentinean surgeons, anaesthesiologists, and pediatricians are working side by side with American physicians.
The parents of our little patients sit in the hallway during surgery, outside the surgery suite for hours and hours, and their silent courage give us strength as we whisk past them.  They are so worried and anxious, but they are full of hope for their children's future.  It  no longer matters that we've had very little sleep, have been working alongside persons we just met and waited in airports to clear customs for 7 hours following a 16-hour flight on a jam-packer plane.  What matters is that American and Argentinean doctors, nurses, dentists and volunteers are working together - in spite of the diplomatic, bureaucratic, and political challenges that could have distracted us from this labor of love,  The common bond among us is our need to help children face their future with confidence and health.  Our time and talent is a small gift that we feel so honoured to give."
I started receiving Rotaplast "stories" on June 2, 2016 after my District History monthly article appeared in the June 1, 2016 District 7780 Newsletter which I am sharing below.
From: William Dunn []
Sent: Thursday, June 2, 2016 4:07 PM
Subject: Rotaplast
My Rotaplast story starts in 2001.  As a relatively new member of the Rotary Club of Yarmouth, I heard a talk by the late Bridget Burns on Rotaplast.  Since my professional career (consultant in the electric power industry) had taken me all over the world, I was intrigued by the idea of doing international travel that brought a more immediate sense of helping others.  I applied for a mission that year, but was initially not accepted on that year’s mission.  I say initially as later I was approached about participating, but by that time I had filled in my calendar with client obligations.
So, I applied again in 2002 for the mission to Cumana, Venezuela.  I was accepted on that mission and served as the Sterilizer.  The role of the Sterilizer is to keep each of the three operating rooms equipped with the correct set of sterilized instruments.  As a result of this role, I got very familiar with the different instruments used for cleft lip versus cleft palate versus rhinoplasty surgeries.  It was a great and emotional experience, it is not often you can help change a person’s life in an hour or two, but work and family obligations kept me from applying for another mission for several years.
In 2006 I applied again for a mission to Cumana, Venezuela and was again accepted, this time in the role of Quartermaster.  The Quartermaster is responsible for the 38 boxes of equipment brought from the United States into the country of the mission.  This includes getting the boxes though customs of that country, which can be a challenge.  During the mission the Quartermaster maintains the equipment and acquires needed supplies locally.  At the end of the mission, the Quartermaster is responsible for managing the 18 boxes that are returned to the United States at the end of the mission.  This includes export from the mission country and through US customs upon landing in the US.  On this mission I managed to talked the American Airlines employees at Caracas airport out of charging us $400 for transport of the 18 boxes back to the US.
It was sometime after this mission that I became the District’s Rotaplast Ambassador, a position I held for about 5 years.  In that role I organized meetings of the Rotaplast Committee, coordinated fundraising, including speaking at numerous Clubs around the District, and with the Committee selecting future missions and the District members to participate on those missions.
I next participated in two District missions to Peru, one to Tacna in 2007 and one to La Oroya in 2008.  On both of these missions I served as Assistant Mission Director.  That meant that I managed a lot of the details associated with the entire mission, including the interface with the local Rotary Club and hospital staff.  Up until this time most missions consisted of between 25 and 30 people, ~10 of which were non-medical.
These Peru missions led to me to attempt a life change.  Being a bit bored with consulting in the electric power industry, I looked around for something else to do.  This resulted me in March 2009, at the age of 61, starting a one year program at Maine Medical Center to become a Certified Surgical Technologist (CST).  CST is the current term for what used to be called a scrub nurse, the person who stands next to the surgeon and hands them instruments and medications in a sterile environment.  After passing the national exam and becoming a CST in March 2010, I worked for a year in the operating rooms at Parkview Hospital in Brunswick, ME.  However, it turned out to be hard to teach an old dog new tricks.  The role of a CST in the operating room never became second nature to me.  I had to think through what to do next rather than simply naturally reacting.  So, I went back to my consulting career.
That, however, was not the end of my involvement with Rotaplast.  In October 2013 I was the Mission Director on a mission to Cebu City in the Philippines.  This mission did not include any other Rotarians from our District as they usually like to have the Mission Director be from a different District than the one sponsoring the mission and providing the non-medical volunteers.  As Mission Director I was responsible for the whole 23 person team (smaller than usual) and coordinating with the Medical Director.  There was no Assistant Mission Director on this mission, so I had to perform that role, plus keep track of finances, resolve problems and provide a detailed report to Rotaplast at the end of the mission.  Since that mission, I believe the District has sponsored two additional missions, this one to Togo and one to Guatemala, but I was not involved except for meeting with the teams.
I am sadden to observe that the District seems to have lost its enthusiasm for Rotaplast and similar organizations providing cleft lip and cleft palate surgeries in developing countries.  The need is there as children are born every year with these defects in countries where immediate corrective surgeries are not provided.  This District needs a new champion for this kind of work, whether with Rotaplast or some similar organization.  Nothing can change your life like participating on one of these missions, at the same time you are forever changing the lives of many others.
Not sure if this is what you were looking for, Marie.  Let me know if you have any comments or questions.
Bill Dunn
Past President
Rotary Club of Yarmouth
10 Sunset Point Road
Yarmouth, ME  04096-5933
Home:  +1 (207) 847-9342
Mobile: +1 (207) 847-9345
From: "joan correll" <>
Sent: Sunday, June 5, 2016 10:29:50 PM
Subject: Rotaplast
Hi Marie,
What a treat to learn the history of how our district got involved with this wonderful program.  Those names, Jim Labrie, Bill Skinner, sure bring back wonderful memories.  They were true gentlemen.
My Rotary story is the wonderful opportunities we have as Rotarians to travel the world to places we would otherwise never go (Rich would never put Togo, West Africa or Delhi, India on any joint bucket list) and do something really great while there.  I love traveling not as a tourist, but as a Rotary traveler. 
Togo was my Rotaplast trip in 2011.  Our group was phenomenal, not the least because we had Rotaplast Co-Founder Angelo Capozzi along with other really great volunteers from San Francisco, Rotaplast's headquarters where it all started as an international project for the Rotary Club of San Francisco in 1992.  They are such a dedicated group who have been doing these missions from the beginning.  Other volunteers (other than our District group) came from all other parts of the world.  We had a charismatic Pediatrician, Rene from the Netherlands; a Dentist from Uruguay, other specialists from Turkey, Mexico, and all parts of the USA. 
We immersed ourselves in the local culture while performing our mission.  I was surprised to see that Togolese children are not all starving with protruding bellies.  The Togolese live with very little material things but are able to grow plenty of food for their families.  They are very happy people.  However, they are sorely lacking in the medical opportunities we take for granted.
But that's all periphery stuff.  The mission itself was THE incredible experience.  The transformation for the families we were honored to help from such a visible deformity to a more normal appearance was life-changing for both them and those of us involved.  The broad and grateful smiles of the parents (the children themselves were unable to smile post-op) were what I went to sleep at night envisioning.  You cannot duplicate that.  Then we had the added bonus to also help some children with huge burn scars.  The Togolese live with their houses built around an open fire.  Many of the children get horrible burns.  We were able to help them since the surgeons had that type of expertise as well.  We also helped with a major facial tumor deformity.  And the list goes on.
There was one baby, however, we could not help.  The image of the mother with hopeful eyes holding her precious daughter will never leave me.  She was told later the baby was too underweight and anemic to survive surgery.  Up till then, we thought we could save the world.
In conclusion, I believe that these types of Rotary missions are just as important in spreading mutual peace and understanding as well as performing our medical missions.  We get to know and understand them, and they get to know and understand us; which all leads to Rotary's main goal of world understanding, goodwill and peace.  Thank you, Marie, for this opportunity to reinforce what Rotary means to me.
Affectionately Yours in Rotary,
Joan Correll
Past President, 2009-2010
Rotary Club of Hampton, NH
603-926-4639 S