Before I say anything about the details of this amazing, life changing trip, a big thank you needs to go out to our incredible sponsors, without whom these missions would not be possible. A special thank you to Chevron and Emirates for their very generous donations.

Ashraf Choudhury, Chevron Bangladesh, with Jaime Chavez, Rotary Club of San Jose

The week before departure a major snowstorm rocked the Midwest and also rocked the trajectory of half a dozen of the team members passports and visas. With Memphis and FedEx snowed in, it started to appear none of the passports would make it in time for the scheduled flights, but then of course, with a lot of phone calls, some last minute luck and DeSanto pixie dust, FedEx went above and beyond to make sure the mission was a success, found the passports in the piles of thousands of backed up packages, and the passports all arrived literally hours before the flights. Thank you FedEx.

I remember feeling pretty tired somewhere around the second day of travel in getting to Sylhet, Bangladesh from the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania suburbs and thinking to myself, “stop complaining, there are people actually traveling farther and longer to do this”. This mission includes 29 team members from six different countries, making it one of, if not the most, diverse missions Rotaplast has ever run. We also have a female Quartermaster for the first time that one of the founders can remember.

The task of putting together a trip like this is monumental, and requires a herculean effort from all who are involved. It was very much appreciated to receive such a warm welcome after the long trip from the Jalalabad Rotary Club in District 3282, Bangladesh and their District Governor. We were all greeted with transportation from the airport for our team and our luggage, and then with flowers which is apparently a Bangladeshi tradition.

After the warm welcome and a quick tour of Sylhet Women’s Medical College and Hospital, the 32 boxes of supplies and equipment from San Francisco Rotaplast Headquarters are located where they need to be at their stations and everything from tiny photo printers to anesthesia machines that made the journey. A lot of the nonmedical volunteers are Rotarians doing these jobs for the first time but they are quick learners and happy to do what it takes to complete their part of the mission.  

The next morning meant clinic. Clinic is the process where patients are evaluated for their chance at a successful surgery. Every potential patient gets a new medical file, a picture to go with the file, and interviewed by the doctors, surgeons, anesthesiologists, and nurses to determine who is the best candidate for a successful surgery.

This is the chance of a lifetime for these amazing children. These children deal with issues most of us couldn’t even imagine, and they take it all in stride. The stories of some of the lucky ones will be featured later on in this blog.

For more photos from Rotaplast’s 2024 surgical trip to Sylhet, Bangladesh, follow our Facebook page