Interact Club, Rotary fund medical care and clean water

The Rotary Club of Key West has been donating money to the non-profit Hospital Albert Schweitzer in Haiti for more than 30 years. Key West Rotarians Dr. Robin Lockwood and Michael Browning visited the facility recently to see how the funds were being used.

“There are a lot of people in need of medical care and I was impressed with what they were able to accomplish,” said orthopedic surgeon Dr. Robin Lockwood. “I felt the operating rooms were at American standards. It is money well spent from the Rotary Club of Key West and Interact Club.”

Hospital Albert Schweitzer is more than just a hospital, although it serves as the primary healthcare to residents in a 610-squqare-mile area. According to its website, it generates its own electricity, treats and processes its own water, operates and maintains vehicles that deliver medicines and supplies. It also screens for malnutrition in children, provides vaccines and medicines, trains health workers and helps communities with well projects. While Dr. Lockwood was checking out the hospital facility, Michael Browning went to see the well project, funded in part by the Rotary of Key West.

“Hydrologist Dawn Johnson spent the mornings and evenings with me and educated me about clean water,” said Browning. “It is something we take for granted.”

Browning said officials told him there are only 250 wells in the region the hospital serves. Each costs $3,000 to $4,000 and many are funded by charities. However, when the machinery breaks, Haitians must resort to collecting their own bacteria-infested water from streams.

Browning said much has been done in recent years to improve the accessibility and water quality of Haitian wells. Many are designed with only 18 moving parts to cut down on repair costs. Usually, the wells are managed by a committee who collects usage fees for the 5-gallon-a-day allotment and wells are locked down when not in use. (Browning said the poorest’s needs are subsidized by the rest.)

The Interact Club of Key West High School — inspired by the work of its grown-up counterparty, the Rotary Club of Key West — raised enough money by hosting car washes and bake sales to fund an entire well.

“Key West High school students are keeping people alive,” said Browning. “How many high schoolers can say that?”

Interact Club President Emelia Fernandez Cardenas explained why the mission is so important to the high school club.

“Many people forget about disasters because there’s always a new global atrocity, but Interact and Rotary doesn’t forget,” said Cardenas. “Through fundraising we were able to create wells in Haiti. It is our obligation to lend a helping hand not only in the community but also around the world.”

After the trip, and reports about conditions, Interact and Rotary Club of Key West each donated $1,000 more to Hospital Albert Schweitzer. To donate to the cause, go to


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