Harvey Clark introduced our guest speaker, Paula Blessman who dedicates her time and energy to positively impact the people of South Africa through the Blessman Ministries and Days for Girls International. Much of the work done by these organizations benefits through the efforts of Rotary.
Dr. Jim “Doc” Blessman was a successful and entrepreneurial doctor in Iowa, but he left his practice in 2001 so that he and his wife could focus on ministry and humanitarian work. They found the needs were so great in South Africa that they eventually concentrated their efforts in the province of Limpopo, South Africa, where 79% of the people live under the national poverty line. About 18% of the population is also infected with HIV or AIDS. There are 1.6 million students in primary and secondary school.
Blessman Ministries:
  • Feeds more than 7500 children every day
  • Provides thousands of pairs of eyeglasses and shoes throughout the year
  • Provide housing and clean water
  • Teach farming methods
  • Install toilets for schools
  • Started micro-enterprises to employ local people, including a bakery, construction company, farming co-op, lodging and hospitality, sewing center, and well-drilling and repair
These efforts are all supported by strategic partners, including Rotary. “When I was there in September, they were all celebrating the new water system that had just been put in by the Polokwane Rotary Club, Rotary International, and Hy-Vee Grocery Stores.
Lee, a Rotarian from Iowa (District 6000), attended our meeting with Paula. He had just returned from South Africa, so Paula shared the spotlight with him.
“There were ten clubs from District 6000 that arranged a district and international grant for $160,000 to put wells in South Africa. The first one was at this school. It’s a remarkable thing. There is no electricity, and probably never will be electricity in this school, but having water – I think we’re all entitled to that… The water project is going well. Right now, we have three wells drilled; the tenth will be finished by June 3rd.” The next project will be to install ten 4-seater toilets in Limpopo. There is a need for 7000.”
If anyone would like to go along on the return trip in February/March of 2017, the experience will include the extreme 19th hole at the Legends Golf Course (the ball is hit off a mountain) and an opportunity to go on safari, as well as the rewarding experience of helping people in need.
Paula ended with information about Days for Girls International. Many girls in South Africa are not able to attend school when they are menstruating, so most girls drop out of school by age 15 because they have missed so much school. Days for Girls International provides health education and hand sewn bags with sanitary supplies, which allow the girls to continue school.