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Published August 23rd, 2017
Moraga Rotary kicks off a community endeavor to help orphans in Sierra Leone
Dianne Wilson of Moraga Rotary receives a $121,000 check from Dave Kemnitz of Clunkers4Charity to jumpstart the club's fundraising to build an orphanage in Sierra Leone. Photo Kara Navolio

During Sierra Leone's civil war, when he was 15 years old, rebels attacked Bambay Sawaneh's small West African village and demanded money and information; they rounded up all the young men and cut off their hands if they refused or remained silent. Sawaneh was the only young man to survive that day, losing both hands to rebels, but instead of turning to anger and revenge, he made it his life's work to help others; he now cares for 24 children orphaned by the 2014 Ebola crisis.
Approximately 50 people filled a meeting room at Saint Mary's College Aug. 8 to hear the story about this man and to learn about the Moraga Rotary Club's goal to build an orphanage in Sierra Leone for the many children orphaned during the Ebola crisis.
The Moraga Rotary has brought together many organizations, all working to help each other make building this orphanage a reality.
FC Seattle Sierra Leone, a nonprofit whose original mission was to provide soccer balls to the children of Sierra Leone, increased its presence and the scope of its mission after the Ebola crisis and has partnered with Sawaneh to help him care for the most vulnerable of the orphans, the ones without any distant relatives to take them in. FC Seattle Sierra Leone director Becky Baker presented a slide show of the orphans and told Sawaneh's story at the Aug. 8 meeting.
Dave Kemnitz with Clunkers4Charity who is also a member of the Clayton Valley Concord Sunrise Rotary Club presented a $121,000 check at the event. An anonymous donor gave the organization a used motor home that Kemnitz reconditioned and sold with all the proceeds going toward the Moraga club's orphanage project.
Also in attendance was Michael Mendonça, a member of the Pleasant Hill Rotary Club and co-founder of the Ellen Meadows Prosthetic Hand Foundation. The nonprofit's mission is providing prosthetic hands to people all over the world, mostly in developing countries without access to quality healthcare. Mendonca is the previous co-owner of a plastic injection molding company who was commissioned by Ernie Meadows to help make the grips on the fingers of the plastic hands he invented. Meadows, an engineer, was inspired to make the hands after losing his daughter in a car accident. Mendonça had the technology for the grips and together with Meadows the first prosthesis was created by the partnership.
Mendonça eventually took over production and made improvements to the design. He now runs the 501c3 and thus far has provided over 31,000 hands to people in 79 countries completely free of charge. His biggest challenge is finding the individuals in need of the hands and dispensing outlets in those countries. The hands are so easy to use that a person who has been an amputee for years can learn to write again in 15 minutes.
To top off the evening meeting, Mendonça presented a set of prosthetic hands to Baker to give to Sawaneh on her next trip to Sierra Leone.
The club's fundraising efforts for the new orphanage and to help FC Seattle Sierra Leone send additional children from surrounding villages to school are ongoing. "Our goal is $275,000 and they plan to break ground this time next year," said Moraga Rotary member Dianne Wilson.
To learn more, visit www.LN-4.org, www.fcseattlesierraleone.com, www.clunkers4charity.org, or www.moragarotary.com.

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