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Rotarian honoured for work in Africa

Rotary International awards Service Above Self Award to New West business owner

Columbia Bowell Funeral Chapel owner Michael Crean recently received one of Rotary International's highest honours.

Crean joins Irwin Stewart and George Sandwith as the three Rotarians from the Rotary Club of New Westminster to be honoured with the Service Above Self Award.

"I was very surprised," says Crean, a Massey Heights resident. "I thought that there's so many people in Rotary doing a lot of great work - I don't really feel I was more worthy. There (are) so many people doing as much or more than I, from my perspective."

Crean was involved with the work Dr. Irwin Stewart started and was then taken over by Dr. Brian Westerberg.

They have been working in Uganda on a number of projects - a hearing health project, which involves surgeons doing ear surgery and doing training, Crean says. Additionally, they've done a number of water projects, shipped medical equipment over to Uganda, which they distributed to hospitals. They've also done water and sanitation projects in a number of areas.

Crean's been involved with Rotary since 1987. He joined because he respected the people he knew who were involved in Rotary.

Crean was invited to join the organization.

"You are usually invited to join Rotary, it's not something you just go and (sign up for)," he says.

"I've always found that Rotary is a great organization. There (are) a lot of very dedicated and hard-working people, and also they're very efficient with their time. That's been my experience anyway. Also, they give a lot of their time for both our local community and the international community."

Crean says Rotary isn't simply a business networking organization.

"There is a certain component which is connecting with other business leaders, but it's very much around a certain ethical or - community-minded spirit. They're all usually people who want to make a difference in their community."

Being involved in the third-world projects has profoundly impacted Crean. He was also able to bring each one of his five children on various trips he took to Africa.

"It was certainly an eye-opening experience for them, and certainly we've met a lot of great people," he says. "Anything like that when you have an opportunity to meet people in a completely different world - it certainly helps you to appreciate all of the things you have here.

Crean says he's learned a great deal from the people's he met in Africa.

"A lot of those people are very happy living a very simple life, and they appreciate so much more the things that they have. So I would say it's taught me a great deal."

The work they do in Uganda is not simply about giving aid, he says, but about developing relationships there so that people can help themselves.

There are Rotary clubs in Uganda as well, Crean says.

Asked whether he feels he will ever make a dent in the needs of the third world, Crean likens it to the story of the person walking down the beach and sees a person throwing beached starfish back in the water. There are thousands of starfish on the beach. The person walking by asked how it can make a difference to throw some back when they can't possibly throw them all back. He throws another one in and says, "Well, it made a difference for that one."

"Part of it's that," he says, adding that if we all do a small part, collectively, it makes a difference.

The New Westminster Rotary Club formed in 1928 and participates in fundraising endeavours in the community. For more on the organization, go to