In 1995, a 44 year old Stockbroker from London, entered the Hotel Ero, in Mostar, Bosnia, for a meeting with the man who was the effective government; Lieutenant-General Sir Martin Garrod, former Commandant General of the Royal Marines, and EU Special Envoy in Mostar
The bitter civil war was still in progress, security was extremely tight, with several checkpoints to negotiate; there was also the very present risk of being shot, not for nothing were streets in Mostar darkly nicknamed ‘sniper alley’.
Mostar was a divided city, divided on religious and ethnic lines and neither side trusted the other.
With Phil was a Doctor from the then Child Advocacy International, Lions’ partner in the struggle to rebuild children’s medical services in Mostar.
Phil was there, at Sir Martin Garrod’s invitation, to seek support from the EU towards the cost of rebuilding two children’s hospitals in Mostar, one in the eastern, Muslim, part of the city and one in the western, Christian, side. The Lions of MD105, supported by a grant from LCIF had already raised significant sums, but more was desperately needed.
In the meeting Sir Martin Garrod announced that he had managed to find funding from a grant, but, the grant, for 250,000 German Marks (DM), was conditional, in that it must be spent in the western side of Mostar, the non-Muslim side.
To the complete astonishment of everyone in the room Phil said that although it was a fantastic gesture, he could not accept the money; everyone thought he had gone mad.
When Sir Martin Garrod had recovered his composure, he asked, why not?
Phil replied that Lions Clubs International, who had provided a grant through LCIF, had no religion, no ethnic limitation, was open to everyone regardless of colour and had no political affiliation; as a Lion he could graciously accept the donation but only if it was not ethnically ring fenced.
Although Sir Martin Garrod told him that he admired his ethics and integrity; the Dr. was speechless and could not understand why Phil had turned down money that might have enabled them to complete at least one of the hospitals.
48 hours later they were summoned back to the Hotel Ero, where Sir Martin Garrod commented that it had been a pleasure to meet him and that his approach had been a breath of fresh air given what he was dealing with on a daily basis.
He advised Phil that he had returned the DM250,000, as he could not use it, but had secured funding of €300,000 for the hospital project, which he could spend where he wanted.
That grant was split 50/50 between the two children’s hospitals and enabled both to be completed.