As a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar living in Barcelona, Spain for a year, I was searching for a service project to give back to my new community and fulfill one of my duties as a scholar. Only a few months after arrival, I was contacted by my scholarship coordinator about the Wulf family needing economical housing for their one week visit to a special doctor in Barcelona, Dr. Martinez founder of the Manuela Martinez Foundation (www.martinezfoundation.org). The Ronald McDonald House, where the family usually stayed, was full at the last minute and couldn’t accommodate them. They were arriving from North Carolina in just a few days. A hotel wasn’t an easy solution because of its high cost for the visiting family of three for a week and also that they needed a kitchen available to prepare special food for the patient. I quickly went to the first Rotary meeting I could and luckily found an assistant governor of the district. He emailed my request for housing to all the clubs in the Barcelona area and within a day I had located a Rotarian’s apartment for the family.
The Foundation was created for the research, diagnosis and treatment of children with peroxisomal disorders and other lipid diseases. After speaking with the Wulf family, a trustee of the Foundation, and various others, I learned that Dr. Martinez is the only doctor in the world successful in treating this rare disease and that is why she has patients flying in with their families from all over the world. Dr. Martinez doesn’t charge for her services and has been working for the Foundation for a few years without a salary because there is little money and awareness for the rare disease and she is so passionate about her work and helping her patients.
From that point on, I have continued to find housing for patient families, developed a relationship with the Wulf family and Dr. Martinez, organized a benefit dinner for the Foundation, and spoke about the Foundation at all my scholar presentations. I have helped raise more than 800 euros for the Foundation just from Rotarians and Rotary clubs in Barcelona. I have also raised much needed awareness for the relatively young Foundation and given hope to Dr. Martinez and her patients. I am currently preparing a brief summary of my work this last year and suggestions and contact information for the three future scholars to Barcelona so that they can continue this worthy project. My work with the Foundation, I believe, has made the largest difference in people’s lives during my Ambassadorial Scholar year.
June 30, 2005