Gift of Life International


Gift of Life International (GOLI) is a Rotarian based non-profit organization whose mission is to provide hope to children from developing countries who suffer from heart disease, regardless of their gender, creed, or national origin, by supporting autonomous Gift of Life programs in an effort to care for these children in need and to coordinate the development of sustainable pediatric cardiac surgery and aftercare programs in select countries through the empowerment of local healthcare professionals.

It was established in 1975 by a Rotarian from the Manhasset Rotary Club who answered a plea for help for a 5 year old child from Uganda in need of heart surgery. Today, that child, Grace Agwaru is an ambassador for Gift of Life and Director of Gift of Life Uganda helping to develop a sustainable pediatric cardiac program to help other children in her own country.

During the past 4 decades, more than 70 Gift of Life programs (all run by Rotarians) spanning 67 countries across 5 continents have contributed to the saving of over 16,000 children afflicted with heart disease.


GOLI 2013 video: 9:26 min:


Core Programs

In 2008, GOLI created the global initiative "Our Hearts are in…" Through this program, GOLI developed 3 Core programs. These programs were designed to engage GOL programs and like-minded, non-governmental organizations around the world in 5 year strategic plans which will create sustainable pediatric cardiac surgical and aftercare programs in Uganda, El Salvador and Jamaica. Over the past 5 years, 33 GOL programs and numerous like-minded, non-governmental organizations from five continents have participated in these Core programs.

The following criteria was applied in selecting the countries in which our Core Programs are focused:

  1. Supportive and invested government.
  2. Motivated and involved hospital administration.
  3. Established pediatric cardiac surgery program.
  4. Existing in-country NGO to support the program.



The ‘Our Hearts are in…” Global Initiatives in Uganda, El Salvador and Jamaica have provided GOL programs worldwide opportunity to bring lifesaving surgeries to over 1,400 children in 5 years. Additionally, through this program, local surgical and aftercare teams are being empowered to care for their own children and waiting lists of children in need of cardiac intervention have been dramatically reduced.


World renown pediatric cardiac surgeon,
Sir Magdi Yacoub from England provides training
to the Ugandan surgical team at the
Uganda Heart Institute in Kampala, Uganda.

Our Hearts are in Uganda was implemented in 2009. Since then:

  • Over 350 children have been treated.
  • 9 training visits have been conducted to the Uganda Heart Institute.
  • More than $500,000 in Rotary grants have supported training visits and the acquisition of essential equipment, supplies and medications for surgeries.
  • Ugandan government has signed an MOU committing to pay Uganda Heart Institute $500,000 per year to operate on 100 children.

Our first nutritional assistance distribution in Uganda took place in February 2013. These are the first 5 recipients. We now have more then 30 Ugandan families enrolled in this program.


Gift of Life International Executive Director, Rob Raylman signs a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ugandan government solidifying their support of the pediatric cardiac surgery and aftercare program at the Uganda Heart Institute in Kampala, Uganda.


Salvadoran Child, Lazaro, was waving and
blowing kisses to everyone just 24 hours after 
receiving his lifesaving heart surgery at
Hospital Bloom in San Salvador.

Our Hearts are in El Salvador was implemented in 2010. Since then:

  • Over 700 children have been treated.
  • 18 training visits have been conducted to Hospital Bloom.
  • Thanks to the generosity of the business community in El Salvador, over $600,000 of in-country funding has been donated to our program to help ensure its sustainability.
  • More than $250,000 in Rotary Grants have supported training visits and the acquisition of essential equipment, supplies and medications for surgeries.
  • Salvadoran Rotarians raise over $40,000 per year to help fund Rotary Foundation grants to help support our program.
  • Gift of Life International has invested over $500,000 to support the development of a sustainable pediatric cardiac surgery and aftercare program in El Salvador including both targeted and team training opportunities, conferences and seminars, the acquisition of essential equipment, supplies and medications to ensure surgeries are performed on a reliable basis, as well as salaries and incentives for members of the pediatric cardiac team.

San Salvador Rotarians attend a press conference at Hospital Bloom to acknowledge their donation of $53,000 worth of essential equipment through a Rotary Matching Grant.

Our Hearts are in Jamaica was established in 2011. Since then:

  • Nearly 300 children have been treated.
  • Training teams regularly visit Bustamante Hospital for Children (BHFC) on a rotating basis ensuring continuous improvement of the program.
  • Over $1 million USD from Rotary and Gift of Life International has supported training visits, children's surgeries and the acquisitionof essential equipment, supplies and medications for surgeries.
  • The Digicel Foundation, Chain of Hope and Sagicor are funding the construction of a dedicated pediatric cardiac unit at BHFC, which will include an operating room, catheterization lab and 10 critical care beds. Construction will be complete by April 2014.
  • A $1.2 million Rotary Foundation Global Grant is being funded by Rotary Clubs and Districts, The Rotary Foundation, Gift of Life programs, Chain of Hope and The Shaggy Foundation to purchase a state-of-the-art catheterization lab.


The Filipino Gift of Life Recipients thank the
Rotary Club of Makati West and their
partners who funded a Rotary Matching 
Grant to provide them with a second chance at life.

Our secondary countries of focus are Haiti and The Philippines where we are conducting between 2 and 4 medical missions per year to work down the daunting waiting list of children in need of cardiac surgeries. These countries do not have the infrastructure to support a sustainable program at this time. However, that would be the long term goal in these countries.

In Kosova, we are conducting annual screening missions since there is currently no treatment for these children in their own country. Children who are deemed operable are then sponsored by GOL programs who host the child and parent while they receive their lifesaving heart surgery at a GOLI affiliate hospital in various countries around the world.

Other children from various countries around the world are helped ‘one child at a time’ through our caring network of GOL programs and affiliated hospitals.


Going beyond

Finally, Gift of Life International believes that it is essential to go beyond the walls of the hospital in caring for the children that we treat. We have developed aftercare programs that focus on providing nutritional assistance to children and their families and vocational training for their parents. Nutritional Assistance programs have been implemented in Uganda, Haiti and El Salvador, where more than 400 children have participated, and Vocational Training programs have been created in El Salvador and Uganda. A criteria is in place for families to qualify for this assistance and Rotarians in each country are facilitating the monthly distributions of food, vitamins and basic hygiene items. Furthermore, 90% of the sponsors for this program are Rotarians and Rotary Clubs. Just $500 feeds a family for an entire year.

Global grants are in progress and also new global grants are in the works to support the many programs around the world. We invite all Rotary Clubs and Districts to join the global network of caring to save the lives of children around the world and turn despair to hope one heart at a time.


More information

More information is available at as well as on our Facebook page. Please 'LIKE' Gift of Life International on Facebook for weekly updates from various countries where lives are being saved.


Website Sponsors