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Global grant helps pediatric heart surgery project in India, Pakistan

By Stella Almond - Posted on 04 December 2012

After his surgery, Momna, a patient from Pakistan, is held by his father

A Rotary Foundation global grant of over US$54,000 is helping to fund Heart to Heart, which provides surgeries for children with congenital heart disease in India and Pakistan. The project supports the maternal and child health area of focus under the Foundation’s Future Vision Plan.

Rotary clubs from districts 3240 (India) and 5340 (USA) raised funds and sponsored children whose families could not afford the life-saving surgery, which was performed at Durgapur Mission Hospital in West Bengal, India.

During his term as governor of District 3240, Ashok Kumar Agarwal learned that the Rotary Club of Imphal in Manipur had sponsored 22 children for surgery. Among them was Rishikanta, a 7-year-old boy whose story was turned into the award-winning film Heart to Heart.

Agarwal took up the cause and decided to provide surgeries to young children from poor families with congenital heart defects. “I pegged the final figure at 100 children for this project,” he says.

Agarwal hopes that, in addition to improving the health and quality of life for children with congenital heart defects, Heart to Heart will help the children become active members of their communities and the project will improve India’s relations with the neighboring country of Pakistan .

The Rotary Club of Vista, California, in District 5340 is the project’s international sponsor. The club has worked on similar efforts, including a mobile medical van project that stemmed from a club member’s trip to India.

Past Vista president Matt Koumaras says it was important to club members not just to help children “in such desperate need, but also to bring some sense of community.”

Past District Governor Larry Sundram, also a Vista club member, helped promote and implement the project, and five other clubs from District 5340 helped financially sponsor children who qualified for surgery.

In 2010, District 3240 partnered with Korean districts 3660 and 3630 to establish Heart to Heart, and received a $70,000 Foundation grant that helped provide surgery to 46 children. Additional funds were raised for more surgeries, with the project benefitting 56 children total that year.

Agarwal says that with this second grant, along with additional funds and contributions, he’ll be able to reach his initial goal of helping 100 children.

“This project has drawn widespread acclaim in our district and the council of governors is of the opinion that we continue this project in order for as many children as possible to benefit from it,” Agarwal says.

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