Rotaplast International began as a club project of the Rotary Club of San Francisco in 1992, organized by Dr. Angelo Capozzi and then Club President Peter Lagarias, originally sending a medical team consisting of plastic surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses and pediatricians with non-medical Rotarian volunteers to La Serena, Chile. Their mission was to perform plastic surgery on infants and children with congenital disorders, primarily cleft lip and palate and other birth defects, whose families would never have been able to pay for the life-changing surgeries given freely by these medical professionals. Since that time, the mission has grown into a separate non-profit organization traveling to as many as 18 sites per year to bring this gift to more than 1,500 patients annually. The organization has recently celebrated helping it's 10,000th patient!!

It is a true Rotary to Rotary experience, Service above Self, with each mission team consisting of approximately 18-20 medical personnel and 10-12 non-medical Rotarians. The non-medical team members are given a rare opportunity to perform services such as keeping medical records, recovery room assistance, sterilizing equipment, quartermaster duties, and ward coordination--jobs that we could never do in an American hospital--so rewarding and such a gift to be able to experience firsthand the miracle of healing and virtual rebirth--a new chance at life for a teenager who has left school because he can't bear the teasing of friends, the joy of a little one that has never been smiled at by people outside his family, a 20-year old young woman who will now have the chance of a decent job and possibly a good husband and family.

Often members of the medical team are Rotary members as well and bring their own personal commitment of service to Rotaplast. The mission works in cooperation with the host Rotary club(s) in the destination country and city. The local Rotarians provide us with such items and services as the invaluable welcome at the airport and helping clear customs (sometimes a daunting task when you are traveling with 30+ people and 30 boxes of medical supplies), translation, housing, meals, a hospital to work in, and transportation between the hospital and lodgings. They locate patients for us so that we can begin screening and developing surgery schedules on the second day after our arrival. Often they provide the patients and their families with food and housing as well.

The District 5170 Rotaplast committee started as a committee of the San Jose Rotary Club, but now includes members from Rotary clubs throughout the District. Any Rotarian interested in being on the committee, discussing the possibility of their club funding all or part of an up-coming mission (usually $50-60K), or volunteering for the organization as a team member or local support person should contact Kathy Wiley, Chairperson by clicking here, or see