Galashiels Rotary Club may be small in numbers but it would be fair to say it has a global reach.
And there can be no finer example of that than one of its members receiving the Rotary International in Great Britain and Ireland’s Champions of Change Award.
On Friday, May 18, Peter Croan will travel down to Cardiff with his wife Gwen to receive the honour.
Peter was instrumental in organising and delivering medical units to Pakistan and Bangladesh in 2016.
The units are now being used to provide a wide variety of medical outreach facilities, including chest pain units, a mobile artificial limb clinic, breast screening and polio immunisation.
And the results are incredible. Since May 2017, more than 20,500 patients have visited the chest pain units, including more than 9000 cardiac patients.
Some 1247 people who have suffered a cardiac arrest have been saved as a result.
And it all started thanks to a Rotary Awareness Day at Borders General Hospital.
Peter (56)takes up the story: “Melrose doctor Amjad Gulzar Shaikh, a locum consultant orthopaedic surgeon, introduced himself to us and explained that he undertook corrective surgery on children with polio in Pakistan.
“He agreed to come along to Rotary Galashiels and give a talk on the work he was involved in through his charity, Rehabilitation Response.
“The club members were very humbled by the work he was doing for people who had suffered the serious effects of polio.
“At the club meal that night we discussed the needs of his charity and I mentioned the possibility of securing medical breast screening units that might assist with some of the needs in Pakistan.”
As programme director of the National Specialist and Screening Services Directorate (NSD), Peter knew 10 breast screening units were soon going to be made redundant, due to an upgrade from analogue to digital mammography x-ray screening.
After some discussions with the director of NSD, NHS Scotland kindly made available to Rotary Galashiels the 10 trailers.
Amjad advised that they could still be used in Pakistan but the costs of shipping them to the country were not small – £133,000.
Luckily, for Amjad and Peter, a Pakistan businessman stepped in to cover the costs.
Peter said: “He didn’t want any publicity – he simply wanted to help Amjad.”
The medical units were shipped on July 21, 2016.
Amjad organised a donation ceremony and invited both Peter and then club president, Tricia Paterson, to attend.
Peter said: “He contacted the Pakistan consulate in London so that our visas might be given priority.
“They can take up to six months but we had them in 12 minutes!
“On August 10, I also received a call from the British Consulate in Pakistan advising me on security and checking out that I was happy with all my arrangements in Karachi.
“I don’t know how they knew but our Government was looking out for us.”
When Peter and Tricia arrived in Karachi on August 11, they discovered the ceremony had been moved to accommodate new Sindh chief minister, Mr Murad Ali Shah, who wanted to attend.
It was worth the minor date change though as the minister went on to sing the praises of the partnership forged by Rotary.
Peter said: “He made a humanitarian speech thanking the NHS Scotland and Rotary Galashiels for their donation.
“He also pledged on-going Government support for seven of the units.
“The British High Commission also praised the work we were doing, stressing the importance of the bridges we were building and the fact we’d brought together people not normally seen in the same room!”
It was an experience Peter and Tricia will never forget.
He said: “When we saw how many guns there were, we understood why the consulate got in touch.
“There were bullet holes in the hospital where one drug dealer had come in looking for another.
“It’s a different world but we were well looked after.”
As for receiving the Rotary award, Peter said: “It was an honour to be nominated as Rotary works on so many fantastic initiatives.
“It’s also an opportunity to raise awareness of further work we are going to be doing as part of the project.”
Gala Club’s mission is not over
Peter Croan was born and brought up in Galashiels, where he now lives with his wife Gwen.
The couple have two grown up sons, Matthew and Steven, who are often roped into helping with Rotary fund-raising initiatives too.
Despite a busy day job and home life, Peter is hoping to travel back to Karachi later this year with his Rotary partner Tricia, when they also hope to visit Bangladesh.
Explaining why, Peter said: “We want to see first-hand how the units are being operated. They were all fitted out in Pakistan as they could do it far cheaper there, with a lot less red tape. It will be good to see the units in operation.
“Another medical unit was also delivered to Dhaka in Bangladesh in 2017.
“However, due to the doctor’s mother being ill, we were unable to make a planned trip to scope out work required there so we are looking for a suitable date this year.
“The next phase of this project is to scope the viability of Bangladesh.
“We can also then decide on the future rollout of surplus medical units from NHS Scotland and where best they can be utilised globally to meet clinical needs.”
Rotary International is also inching ever closer to polio eradication globally.
Peter said: “We are looking at a year that may one day be known as the greatest year in Rotary’s history – the year that sees the last case of polio.” Closer to home, Galashiels members are preparing to celebrate their own milestone – the club’s 60th anniversary at Gala Rugby Club on Saturday, May 19.
Peter added: “It’s going to be a busy weekend – flying back up from Cardiff that morning for the young musicians final and then the anniversary at night!”