After seeing the devastation left by last year's hurricane Stan while shooting his latest movie in Mexico, International Film Star Mel Gibson agrees to help by donating $1 Million to the relief effort BUT only if he could do it through The Rotary Foundation.

By Vanessa Glavinksas and Vukoni Lupa-Lasaga
Rotary International News

11 April 2006

While scouting locations for his film Apocalypto, Mel Gibson came upon a near apocalyptic situation in southern Mexico: the aftermath of Hurricane Stan.

The storm ripped through the states of Chiapas and Veracruz in October, killing 15 people and displacing 370,000, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Gibson met with Mexican President Vicente Fox and told him he would donate US$1 million to help families rebuild, with one condition: He would make the donation through The Rotary Foundation of Rotary International.

The Hollywood actor and director learned of Rotary from several of his relatives who had traveled with members of the Rotary Club of Tarzana Encino, California, USA, on medical missions to Central America. Gibson and his wife, Robyn, were impressed that The Rotary Foundation had matched their family members' donation to participate.

"The key in their minds [to] the money coming [through] Rotary is that they felt it would be responsibly handled," says Clare Short, of the Tarzana Encino club.

Following the Gibsons' donation, the Foundation has set up a hurricane disaster recovery committee, along the lines of similar national committees appointed after the South Asia tsunami, to oversee rebuilding efforts. Foundation Trustee Chair Frank J. Devlyn heads the committee, and Past RI Director Francisco Creo is serving as an adviser.

Rotary clubs closest to the affected areas will help the committee identify people most in need of assistance.

Devlyn is in talks with a nongovernmental organization specializing in low-cost housing about help with rebuilding efforts. Through a cosponsorship, the Gibsons' funds could be matched and homes for disaster survivors built at nearly half the normal cost.

"The Mexican government is giving the land and the services, such as electricity and drainage, in this unique [collaboration]," says Devlyn. The government will also provide a new school and clinic near the planned homes.

To give them a true feeling of ownership, beneficiaries of the low-cost homes will be asked to contribute a small amount, about 10 percent, of the commercial value of the homes.

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