Garrison Green Resident Awarded Rotary’s Highest Honour
Long-time Rotary Club member Walter Haessel has been given Rotary’s highest award, the Distinguished Service Award. Walter joined Rotary in 1982 and served in a number of capacities, but he distinguished himself with his leadership and fundraising abilities, which were put to good use in Cambodia, Thailand and Latin America where he worked to better the lives of the poor.
“I was flabbergasted. I wasn’t expecting anything like that at all,” Walter said from his home at United’s Garrison Green.
Recently, he was also honoured with Rotary’s Service Above Self Award for his “exemplary humanitarian service”. And in 2005 he was honoured with Alberta’s Centennial Medal for his contributions to fellow citizens, community and the province.
He has travelled to more than 20 countries. He worked with Calgary’s CAWST (Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology) to bring clean water and basic sanitation to developing countries. But he felt the deepest connection with Cambodia, where he helped rural villages improve thee quality of their lives with new wells, irrigation systems, schools and training. He has travelled there numerous times to work with Sustainable Cambodia.
“We love to travel, and it was exciting to go there. The culture is so interesting and a lot of good can be done for a few dollars. It is very rewarding to see the changes we have made,” said Walter.
“Most recently I have worked with a small non-governmental organization that works with children who have cerebral palsy, especially in Cambodia and Thailand. We brought wheelchairs in from Australia. We’ve raised a considerable amount of money for that project, but when COVID hit, the project was temporarily put on hold.”
Walter is married to Ann Haessel, a professional artist who has donated proceeds from her art sales to schools in Cambodia and the Philippines.
“I would often travel with Walter to Cambodia and it was clear to me that I could also make a difference with my art.”
Photos by Walter and Ann Haessel. Videos by Sherana Productions.
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