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Brookings Rotary Club

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  • July 2008: More than 220,000 children in Haiti will be eating better, and about 500 families on the island will soon be recipients of free solar ovens, thanks to Brookings Rotarians and other Rotary Club members in the district. An overseas shipping container jam-packed with the ovens, food with a shelf life of three years, measuring cups and all that's needed to prepare nutritious food except the cooking pots were loaded by local Rotarians over the weekend for a train trip to the East Coast. From a New Jersey port, the shipping container will taken by ship to Cap Haitian on the northern coast of Haiti where it will be turned over to the 30-member San Michel Rotary Club. Those Haitian Rotarians will oversee the training and distribution of the food and ovens to needy families among the island's population of nearly 9 million. The shipping container being used was purchased by district Rotarians and will remain in Haiti for safe, secure storage of future shipments of food and ovens from Brookings, according to Al Rogers of the Brookings Rotary Club. With others, Rogers has been actively involved in the fabrication of the ovens in a Brookings warehouse, and in their delivery to Haiti. Since the local Rotary Club started its humanitarian project 10 years ago, thousands of solar ovens have been distributed free of charge to poor families in Haiti. The main cooking fuel source for most Haitian families is charcoal , which is expensive. Overharvesting of available trees on the island has nearly depleted the supply, and the use of solar ovens is seen as a way to reverse the practice of using charcoal. Over time, it is hoped that reforestation can take place on the nearly 11,000- square-mile island. Ron Fesler, also of the Brookings Rotary Club, was instrumental in initiating the project along with Dave Henning, who was club president at the time. During the program's early years, Fesler and other South Dakotans accompanied the solar ovens to the island and fabricated them there before helping train Haitian mothers on how to use them. For the first time in the history of the project, the Rotarians have used a shipping container to transport the first fully assembled ovens to the islands, Fesler said. Since the humanitarian program started in 1998 in affiliation with a Methodist Church organization, the Rotary Club of Brookings has provided the lead effort, and the work has now been taken on as a district Rotary project called Solar Ovens Partners. During the decade-long program , the Rotarians and local manufacturers have been constantly re-designing, fine-tuning and improving the ovens, making them easier to assemble and more efficient in capturing and storing solar energy for cooking, Rogers said. Rainbow Play Systems, Inc., Don Deibert and Counterpart, Inc., Larson Manufacturing Company, Central Business Supply and First Bank & Trust have been key businesses involved in helping with prototype design, improvements, work space and storage. The 500 ovens in the shipment prepared over the weekend included 1,100 cartons of food "Fortified Vegetarian Rice-Soy Casserole Chicken Flavored" that can easily be prepared in the ovens. The shipment will provide 220,000 servings, each with 226 calories. Kids Against Hunger, an international food relief campaign , prepared the food packets that were purchased by the Rotary district. Rotarians Saturday received unexpected help in loading the shipping containers from eight young Mormon missionaries who happened to be in Brookings for training and volunteered their services.[1]

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