by Steve Swearingen

May 24, 2022 — In the 1992-93 Rotary Year our family was lucky enough to be one of the host families for a young 16 year old Rotary Exchange Student from Poland, Kasia Bednarek (pictured left) .Kasia was part of a group of the first Rotary exchange students from Poland following the breakup of the old Soviet Union,  She wanted to stay in the U,S. and go to College. We convinced her she needed to go back to Poland and help rebuild her country. Kasia went home, attended medical school earning her medical degree, a degree in dentistry and macular surgery. She now works as a pathologist at a hospital in Poznan, Poland. She has made several trips back to Grants Pass to visit, including one summer after medical school with her husband.  With the help of Rotary, they got jobs with Fire Mountain Gems earning enough money for their first apartment. Our family has stayed in close touch with her and we were able to

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visit with them for a week in 2019,  touring Poland. They were coming to Oregon with their family in 2020, but Covid cancelled those plans.

When Russia invaded Ukraine we contacted her to see how the invasion was affecting Poland, Kasia was very concerned and her memories of living under Soviet rule were not helping. During that conversation, she mentioned that she had finally joined the Rotary Club of Poznan. She had just learned that their club project was to buy medical supplies and send those supplies to Ukraine. Kasia has many friends in the medical community in Ukraine. She asked if her favorite Rotary Club, the Rotary Club of Grants Pass would be able to help. I mentioned I would give a brief presentation to our Club and see what kind of interest we may have in the project. The project was well received because it was seen as a way people could get help quickly with no administrative fees, Rotary Club to Rotary Club. We raised several thousand dollars that first week. Kasia was able to  meet with us via ZOOM and explain how they were purchasing medical equipment from a medical supply company in Germany that is owned by a Rotarian.   The company is selling them the equipment at cost.

We have been able to get great coverage of this project from our daily paper, which has given us front page coverage . Two of our local Television stations in Medford did stories on our project. We were able to post Kasia’s presentation to our club on YOUTUBE.  That helped spread the word. The other two Rotary clubs joined in and raised funds for this project. The Rotary Club of Bend raised around $7,000 in one meeting. We have received money from friends and relatives all over the U.S. People wanted to do something to help the Ukrainian people.   The Rotary Connection was so appealing as all the money raised was buying the equipment and that equipment was getting to the hospitals that needed it. We have raised almost $94,000.00!  I am now working with a Rotary Club in Plymouth, Michigan. They have a goal to raise about $30,000.00 in the next few weeks .Someone in their Club saw the YOUTUBE presentation Kasia made to our Club. This project was not planned, it just happened because of the Rotary International Connections and the great people that make up Rotary International.

What a difference one Rotary Youth Exchange can make!  Click on image right to watch news coverage.