Published April 03. 2013 4:00AM
Norwich - Haitian Health Foundation founder Dr. Jeremiah Lowney Jr. will be honored as a "Champion of Change" along with 11 other Rotarians from around the country in ceremonies at the White House on Friday.
"We've been at this for 31 years, so it's great that this award puts the spotlight on our work," Lowney said Tuesday. "We started out as a mom-and-pop and now we've got a $4 million operating budget. Getting this award from the White House gives us credibility that will be very meaningful to our benefactors and future donors."
The Champions of Change awards are given to Rotary Club members, nominated by their regional governors, who have volunteered their services to help communities in this country and abroad. Lowney, 76, said he has been a member of the Norwich Rotary Club since the late 1960s, and that both the Norwich club and other local clubs have given a lot of support to the Haitian Health Foundation's work in Jérémie, Haiti, over the years.
Rotary groups helped raise money to purchase goats and pigs for Haitian families and to build houses in Jérémie, among other projects.
"Many of our projects began with Rotary and expanded," he said. "Rotary has provided quite a few volunteers who have gone with us."
Lowney said he will travel to Washington, D.C., on Thursday to attend a National Press Club dinner that night, and then will be at the ceremonies at the White House on Friday.
The Champions of Change program was created as an opportunity for the White House to feature Americans - individuals, businesses and organizations - who are doing extraordinary things to empower and inspire members of their communities, the White House Press Office said in a news release.
Others receiving the award will include Rotary members who began projects in this country to provide clean water and sanitation, and services for homelessness, hunger, addiction and unemployment, and others who founded health programs in Ghana, Nigeria and India. Other honorees mentor youths in literacy and environmental initiatives.
In 1982, Lowney, an orthodontist, started the Haitian Health Foundation as a small dental clinic that eventually expanded into a primary health clinic. Over the years, the work expanded to include feeding centers for 104 rural villages around Jérémie, which today provide meals to about 6,000 people daily, Lowney said. The foundation also runs a housing complex for disabled people, supports a soccer program for about 4,000 young women and runs a school that educates about 1,200 students.
Although the group is busy with these ongoing projects, it is still taking on new ones. At the request of the Haitian government, he said, his group will begin projects to help prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS among women and children. The group is also starting a nursery to raise fruit trees to replace the many lost during Hurricane Tomas in 2010 and Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
Lowney said his next trip to Haiti will be May 6. About a dozen volunteers will accompany him, among them dentists who will provide free services, as well as a carpenter and his assistant. He and his group also will distribute goats to local residents.
His daughter, E. Marilyn Lowney, is the foundation's executive director, but Jeremiah Lowney still serves as president and said that although many his age stop working, he has no plans to quit.
"I wouldn't dare retire," he said.