Month: October 2017

Honoring champions of peace for Rotary UN Day

Rotary Day at the UN filled with peace champions and workshops

By Geoff Johnson

Rotary will honor six champions of peace at the United Nations on 11 November.

The Palais des Nations in Geneva, built as the headquarters for the League of Nations, remains an enduring emblem of humanity’s hope for global peace, making it an ideal setting for this year’s Rotary Day at the United Nations on 11 November.

Underscoring this year’s theme — Peace: Making a Difference — the event will include workshops devoted to sustainability and peace, as well as a workshop on education, science, and peace, designed by and for young leaders.

A variety of speakers will contribute to the discussion, including Rotary International President Ian H.S. Riseley; Rotary Foundation Trustee Chair Paul A. Netzel; Walter B Gyger and Claudine Wyssa, the representatives of Rotary International to UN/Geneva; and Dr. Mohanned Arabiat, president of Generations for Peace.

Rotary General Secretary John Hewko will introduce each of the People of Action: Champions of Peace. They are:

  • Jean Best, Rotary Club of Kirkcudbright, Scotland
  • Taylor (Stevenson) Cass Talbott, Rotary Peace Fellow, Portland, Oregon, USA
  • Ann Frisch, Rotary Club of White Bear Lake, Minnesota, USA
  • Safina Rahman, Rotary Club of Dhaka Mahanagar, Bangladesh
  • Alejandro Reyes Lozano, Rotary Club of Bogotá Capital, Colombia
  • Kiran Singh Sirah, Rotary Peace Fellow, Tennessee, USA

Other highlights will include a polio-tulip-planting ceremony, updates on polio eradication, and closing remarks from Edwin Futa, dean of the Rotary Representative Network.

Peace partnership

Rotary Day at the UN culminates Geneva Peace Week. That event’s organizers include the Institute for Economics and Peace, a global think tank that uses data-driven research to analyze peace and quantify its economic value.

  • Watch the Rotary Day at the United Nations on UN TV
  • See program details

This summer, the institute and Rotary announced a strategic partnership that will pair the two organizations’ individual strengths — empirical research and community connections — and focus them on resolving conflict and achieving peace.

On 8 November, as part of Geneva Peace Week, the institute will join the Geneva Centre for Security Policy in hosting a panel discussion, “Building the Evidence for Better Prevention.” Staged at the Maison de la Paix, it will systematically evaluate conflict prevention and peacebuilding methods in the context of a research framework.

https://www.rotary.org/en/honoring-champions-peace-rotary-un-day

Jonathan Cavendish on why he created polio movie Breathe

Movie producer Jonathan Cavendish tells the story of his parents in new movie ‘Breathe’

By Hank Sartin

For producer Jonathan Cavendish, the new film “Breathe” was not just another project. It was a chance to honor his amazing parents. 

The film tells the true story of Jonathan’s father, Robin Cavendish, who, in the 1950s, was stricken with polio at age 28 but went on to live a rich life of adventure and advocacy despite being paralyzed and requiring a respirator. 

A British film producer with some great successes to his credit (“Bridget Jones’s Diary,” “Elizabeth: The Golden Age”), Cavendish decided that the story of his parents would make a good movie. 

Jonathan Cavendish, left, Andrew Garfield, Claire Foy and Andy Serkis on the set of “Breathe.”

In 1958, after he contracted polio, Robin Cavendish was first told by doctors that, in his paralyzed state, he would live perhaps three months. Then he was told that he would spend whatever time he had in a hospital bed. Instead, he left the hospital to live at home, helped develop a wheelchair with a respirator so he could leave the house, traveled with his wife, Diana, and son, and lived for 36 more years. 

“My father’s mantra was quality of life,” explains Jonathan Cavendish. “What he sought for himself and for others was quality of life. He could have stayed in the hospital, but he didn’t think that was as good a life as he could manage. He would rather be two minutes away from death and living a full life.”

To tackle this project, Cavendish chose his collaborators wisely. He reached out to William Nicholson, who had written the screenplays for “Gladiator” and “Nell,” and the film adaptation of his play “Shadowlands.” 

He told Nicholson the story of his parents and asked if he would be interested in writing it. 

“He’s a very good writer and therefore a very expensive writer, so to pay him upfront would have required bringing in third-party financing,” recalls Cavendish. “He said, ‘I’d love to write that, but on one condition. That is that you don’t pay me until and unless the film happens,’ because he didn’t want anyone else to own or control the film other than myself and my mother.”

For the next seven years, the two met once or twice a year as their busy schedules allowed, with Nicholson revising and Cavendish giving feedback based on his experience developing scripts as well as his intimate knowledge of the subject. 

Eventually, Cavendish took the script to his friend and colleague Andy Serkis, the actor noted for his work in motion-capture performance (Gollum in the “Lord of the Rings” films, Caesar in the recent “Planet of the Apes” films), with whom Cavendish had formed the Imaginarium Studios, which specializes in motion-capture filmmaking. 

Cavendish knew that Serkis was interested in directing. And Serkis had a personal connection to disability issues; his mother worked with disabled children, and his sister has multiple sclerosis. 

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Serkis read the script and suggested that one important element of the story was being underplayed: The Cavendishes were truly pioneers. Perhaps because he had lived the story, Cavendish hadn’t realized the extent to which his parents achieved a series of breakthroughs for people with severe disability. 

“Andy pointed out to me that nobody had ever done this before; nobody had ever lived outside the hospital with that degree of disability,” recalls Cavendish. “And he pointed out the influence and legacy that my parents’ work had. They were both so modest that until we started doing the research on that aspect, we hadn’t realized the extraordinary effect that his legacy had on so many people all over England and all over Europe.”

In approaching the story of his parents, Cavendish knew there were potential traps on all sides. 

“I wanted to be very careful because, obviously, it was very important to not mess it up. Films are very difficult to get right. I didn’t want to make a hagiography. I didn’t want to overstate anything. Most disability stories are a bit depressing, and I wanted to make the film because I felt that my parents’ story wasn’t depressing, it was rather the opposite.”

 Once the film was finished, Cavendish had to face the one viewer he cared most about: his mother Diana, now in her eighties. Fortunately, she quite liked the film, and her only criticism was of a hat actress Claire Foy, who plays Diana, wears in one scene. The real Diana noted that she would not have worn a hat like that. She was otherwise very moved and touched.

The film captures the spirit of adventure that informed Robin and Diana’s marriage. Robin didn’t want to be confined to living out his life indoors, and so, working with the noted inventor/engineer Teddy Hall (most famous for debunking the Piltdown Man hoax), he developed a wheelchair with a respirator run on a battery. That meant he could get out of the house, and it wasn’t long before the family took the next step, equipping a van so they could travel with the wheelchair. In the early 1960s, this was highly unusual. 

One particularly memorable sequence in the film shows the family vacationing in Spain, where a blown fuse threatens disaster. Robin, Diana, their son, Jonathan, and Diana’s brother David have gone to Spain for a holiday in their specially outfitted van with the respirator-equipped wheelchair. 

David accidentally shorts out the electrical system of the machine and the van. The whole party is stranded on a scenic stretch of country road and must use a hand pump to keep Robin alive. 

David rushes to the nearest town to call their inventor friend Hall, the only person who can repair the apparatus. 

For 36 hours, waiting for Hall to come from England, they keep a roadside vigil that turns into an impromptu party, with the locals coming to meet them. The village priest stops by to bless them, people bring food, and some musicians even bring their guitars and play. Then, a plane and a taxi ride later, the inventor shows up and gets things running again to collective cheers. It sounds like pure Hollywood hokum.

But, like much of the movie, it really happened. “In reality, we broke down on a roundabout outside Barcelona. So we’ve taken a bit of license in having a more beautiful location,” explains Cavendish. “But my poor old uncle did plug my father’s chair into the wrong socket. There was fire and smoke, and both the van and the chair ground to a halt. So we really had to sit there for 36 hours hand-pumping.” The locals really did come out to meet them, the local priest really said a blessing, and there really were guitars and pies.

“I remember it really well, because I was probably about eight or nine, and when it came to my turn, my mother said, ‘For goodness’ sake don’t fall asleep, because if you do you’ll kill your father.’ I can remember that pretty well,” he says with a laugh. “The Spanish people we met were quite frightened of my father and his machine. But he put them at ease, as he did with everyone.”

Cavendish sees the film as a love story, but he knows that it also has an important message about people with disabilities. 

“The thing that’s interesting about our modern attitude to disability, which is still confused, is that most disabled people want to be treated exactly like everyone else, but they also want the playing field to be level. They need help. They need society to get its act together in terms of access and travel and resources and all of that. Every disabled person I know wants to work, and almost every disabled person I know can work. Society hasn’t delivered yet to disabled people, but it’s better than it was. It’s really the normalization of disability that’s beginning to happen in a very good way.” 

https://www.rotary.org/en/jonathan-cavendish-why-he-created-polio-movie-breathe

Rotary praises unsung heroes on World Polio Day

Rotary and the Gates Foundation host fifth annual World Polio Day to highlight progress in the fight to eradicate the disease

By Ryan Hyland
Photos by Alyce Henson

After another year of dwindling polio cases, Rotary leaders, top health experts, and celebrities said on 24 October — World Polio Day — that the paralyzing disease has never been closer to being eradicated globally.

A special livestreamed presentation — End Polio Now: Countdown to History — featured the people who work tirelessly to end the disease and reviewed the progress that the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) has made.

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Co-hosted by Rotary and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the 45-minute program took place before a live audience at the Gates Foundation headquarters in Seattle, Washington, USA, and was streamed online to viewers worldwide. Mark Wright, news host for the local NBC television station and president of the Rotary Club of Seattle, and CNN news host Fredricka Whitfield led the event. 

Wright updated the audience on the latest figures of polio cases saying that the total number of cases caused by the wild poliovirus so far this year is 12, with seven cases in Afghanistan, five in Pakistan, and none in Nigeria. This is a 70 percent reduction from 2016 and is the lowest count of polio cases in history.

“The scale of the effort is staggering,” he said. “Every year 2.2 billion doses are delivered to 430 million children, through a sophisticated vaccine supply and logistics network.”

Sue Desmond-Hellmann, the Gates Foundation’s chief executive officer, began the event by praising Rotary members and front-line health workers for their dedication to ending the disease. 

Desmond-Hellman said, “Nothing would be possible without the efforts of thousands of volunteers across the world who, somtimes in perilous situations, deliver and adminster polio vaccines to protect children. That’s worth celebrating.”

She added, “Those unsung heroes are also in the company of Rotarians. Everywhere around the world, Rotarians show us, with their quiet but inspiring determination, how you can make it possible for 16 million children to be alive and walking.”

View Slideshow

Sue Desmond-Hellmann, the Gates Foundation’s chief executive officer, praised Rotary members for their dedication to eradicating polio.

At the Rotary Convention earlier this year, the Gates Foundation and Rotary renewed their long-standing support for ending polio: Rotary committed to raising $50 million per year over the next three years, with every dollar to be matched by two dollars from the Gates Foundation. The agreement will yield to up to $450 million for eradication efforts. 

Rotary has spent more than $1.7 billion on polio eradication since 1985. Earlier this month, Rotary gave $49.5 million in grants to support immunizations and surveillance activities led by the GPEI. 

Rotary Vice President Dean Rohrs took the stage to highlight some Rotary members who are raising funds for polio eradication in creative ways. One example was the Rotary Club of Viljoenskroon, South Africa, which is putting End Polio Now piggy banks in local businesses. Members of the Rotaract Club of Curitiba Oeste, Paraná, Brazil, put on a rock concert and donated all ticket sales to End Polio Now. 

Rohrs said that Rotarians are holding more than 2,700 events like these worldwide for World Polio Day.

“History is a tricky thing, and for many reasons, we latch onto the same narratives, the same household names over and over again,” Rohrs said. “However, beneath the surface lies complexity, and the unsung heroes — and the heroes that I know best are my fellow Rotary members.”

She added that members “bridge different cultures to reach every community. We persuade parents that two drops of vaccine are critical to each child’s health. We participate in national immunization days on a huge scale, like in Pakistan where we have protected more than 40 million children under the age of 5. And we also spread awareness and raise funds for the cause.”  

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Dan Kopf, economics reporter for the news website Quartz, talked about the economic impact that eradicating polio could have. He noted that it’s much less expensive to prevent diseases than it is to treat them. 

Immunizations are estimated to save low- and middle-income countries $20 billion each year, he said. 

According to Kopf, the benefits of polio eradication spending will outweigh the costs by nearly $50 billion between 1985 and 2035. And in that time, 8 million lives will have been saved. 

In a question-and-answer session, Jeffery Kluger, science editor at Time magazine, and Jay Wenger, an epidemiologist and director of the Gates Foundation’s polio eradication efforts, talked about the latest developments in the polio eradication fight. Wenger noted that strong surveillance and mass vaccination campaigns “have gotten us to a place where we’ve seen fewer areas of circulation of the virus than ever before.”

“The bottom line here is we have to reach every kid with the vaccine. That’s our target,” Wenger said. 

Polio partners have agreed that they won’t say the world is polio-free until traces of the virus are no longer detected in the environment, even if cases of polio-related paralysis disappear before then.  

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The event included a showing of the trailer for “Breathe,” a feature film that tells the story of British polio survivor Robin Cavendish, who contracted the disease in Kenya in 1958. Paralyzed from the neck down, Cavendish and his wife, Diana, spent the rest of his life advocating for people with disabilities. 

The film’s stars, Andrew Garfield and Claire Foy, and its director, Andy Serkis, encouraged the audience by video to keep up the fight to end the disease. 

Other celebrities who participated in the event included WWE Superstar John Cena, Nigerian pop star Tiwa Savage, and Paralympian and polio survivor Ade Adepitan.  

In his video address to the audience, Adepitan said the day the world is declared polio-free could be “the greatest day of the human race so far.” 

Entertainment included a video that featured celebrity adventurer Bear Grylls, who explained the cold chain needed for polio vaccinations. The audience also watched a video that showed how surveillance is playing a crucial role in finding where poliovirus is circulating. The event closed with a video of Rotary members saying what polio eradication means to them. 

Claudete Sulzbacher, a member of the Rotary Club of Santa Cruz do Sul, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, who has organized more than 1,600 fundraising events, said “We don’t have barriers, we don’t have borders, we can promote peace, and we can change the lives of so many people.”

https://www.rotary.org/en/unsung-heroes-honored-world-polio-day-2017

Critical Care

Linked through sister cities, Rotarians save newborns in Brazil

By Vanessa Glavinskas
Photographs by Robert Gill

A mother is in labor, and she’s frightened. Her baby isn’t due for three months. The closest hospital is 30 miles away, and although she makes it there in time, the baby is born weighing barely 2 pounds. 

And there’s another problem. 

The hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit has only seven incubators, and all are in use, so the baby must be transferred to another hospital to receive the critical care he needs. If he survives the transfer, his parents will need to find a way to make trips to that hospital for months.

Many new mothers were facing similar situations at Dr. Leopoldo Bevilacqua Regional Hospital, a state-run facility in Brazil’s Ribeira Valley. Lack of equipment meant some of the hospital’s most vulnerable newborns had to be transferred, which was a factor in São Paulo state’s high infant mortality rate. 

  1. By adding five incubators to the NICU, the hospital nearly doubled the number of babies its nurses and doctors can care for.

  2. Rotarians funded incubators, ventilators, heated cribs, vital-sign monitors, and other equipment for a state-run hospital outside São Paulo.

  3. “There are two realities here: people who can pay for a private hospital and those who can’t,” says Lina Shimizu, who spearheaded the project for the Rotary Club of Registro-Ouro, Brazil.

“There are two realities here: people who can pay for a private hospital and those who can’t,” says Lina Shimizu, who spearheaded the project for the Rotary Club of Registro-Ouro, Brazil. Those who can’t, she says, often have to travel long distances to get to a state-run hospital such as Leopoldo Bevilacqua, which serves 24 towns. 

The Rotary Club of Registro-Ouro and the Rotary Club of Registro partnered on a Rotary Foundation global grant with two clubs in Nakatsugawa, Japan.

Through the partnership, Brazilian Rotarians raised $172,500. They funded equipment including five incubators for the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), which nearly doubled the hospital’s capacity to care for fragile newborns. In 2013, 129 babies were admitted to the NICU; since the completion of the project, the hospital has been able to care for about 220 babies per year.  

Other equipment provided through the grant included five ventilators, a bilirubin meter, three heated cribs, five vital-sign monitors, and a super LED microprocessed phototherapy unit to treat babies with jaundice. The grant also funded the cost of publicity to inform residents about prenatal care workshops conducted by area health workers. The publicity campaign aimed to reach mothers in remote areas who may not know what services are available to them or about the importance of prenatal care and breast-feeding. 

The Rotary clubs also used the grant to launch a publicity campaign on importance of prenatal care and breast-feeding. 

This global grant marked a turning point for Rotarians in Nakatsugawa, who had stopped contributing to international projects after experiencing difficulties on a past grant. The difference this time was in the relationship between the cities of Registro and Nakatsugawa, which established a “sister city” affiliation in 1980. 

Rotarians from both cities meet regularly to foster their friendships, alternating between Brazil and Japan, and because of their close relationship, the Japanese Rotarians felt confident that their financial contributions to the project would be managed well. In addition, Shimizu, who is of Japanese descent and speaks fluent Japanese, helped build trust and effective communication. 

A group of Japanese Rotarians visited the NICU after the project was completed. “After 37 years,” says Mitsuo Hara, a member of the Rotary Club of Nakatsugawa, “there’s a friendship and bond between Rotary members of both countries.” 

• Read more stories from The Rotarian

https://www.rotary.org/en/rotarians-save-newborns-brazil

Join us online for World Polio Day 2017

Livestream makes event available to all

By Rotary International

You don’t have to buy a plane ticket to participate in this year’s World Polio Day festivities at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s facility in downtown Seattle, Washington, USA. You can watch the event live on 24 October at 14:30 Seattle time (UTC-7) for an update on our global campaign to eradicate polio. A recording of the livestream will be available later.

Livestream details

Go to endpolio.org/world-polio-day to watch the livestream in English.   

This year, Rotary will also livestream the event in Portuguese, French, Korean, Italian, German, Spanish and Japanese. The livestream is only viewable using Chrome on your desktop. If you do not have Chrome, you can download it here for free.

  1. Go to interprefy.interpret.world
  2. Enter the code “endpolio”
  3. Select your language
  4. Watch the livestream

Sue Desmond-Hellmann, the Gates Foundation’s chief executive, will discuss this year’s progress with attendees, including Rotary members, Gates Foundation staff, and supporters, as well as the audience watching worldwide via livestream. Only 11 new cases of wild poliovirus have been reported so far in 2017, all in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Other speakers will include Jay Wenger, director of the Gates Foundation’s polio eradication efforts; Dean Rohrs, vice president of Rotary International; wrestler John Cena and singer-songwriter Tiwa Savage, Rotary polio ambassadors; Ade Adepitan, a Paralympian and polio survivor; and Jeffrey Kluger, senior editor at Time magazine overseeing science and health reporting. 

Claire Foy and Andrew Garfield, stars of the upcoming movie “Breathe,” and director Andy Serkis will also speak. “Breathe” is based on the true story of a polio survivor who became an advocate for others.

Rotary clubs across the globe have registered more than 2,000 events in their communities. Tell us how your club will mark the occasion. 

https://www.rotary.org/en/join-us-online-world-polio-day-2017

On the tracks of the Beast

In Mexico’s migrant shelters, a Rotary scholar puts his education into action

Story and photos by Levi Vonk

There are two inescapable elements of southern Mexico. 

The first is dust – desert rock ground to a powder that finds its way into your every crevice: the backs of your knees, the folds of your eyelids. You cough it up as you drift to sleep and discover its brume settled across your bedsheets in the morning.

The second element is violence.

I found both on the gritty tracks of the Beast.

Among those apprehended at the U.S.-Mexican border between October 2015 and January 2016 were 24,616 families – the vast majority of them from Central America. 

Over the past half-century, millions of Central Americans have crossed Mexico from south to north, fleeing poverty, decades-long civil wars, and, most recently, brutal gangs. To escape, migrants used to ride atop the cars of the train line known as the Beast.

In July 2014, Mexican immigration officials announced a plan called the Southern Border Program; part of it entailed closing the Beast to migrants. Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto said the plan would create new economic zones and safeguard migrants’ human rights by securing the country’s historically volatile southern border. Instead, the number of migrants beaten, kidnapped, and murdered has skyrocketed. Some have even been victims of the black-market trade in organs.

In early 2015 I had just completed my studies as a Rotary global grant scholar, earning a master’s degree in the anthropology of development. I had studied how trade and development initiatives in Mexico could make people’s lives more perilous, not less. To learn about what was going wrong, I went to southern Mexico to use the skills I had gained through my global grant studies.

Southern Mexico is poor and rural, made up of small pueblos and subsistence agriculture. In some ways, I felt at home. I grew up in rural Georgia, and I became interested in immigration after teaching English to farmworkers harvesting cabbage, berries, and Christmas trees in the foothills of North Carolina. Many of the men I worked with were from southern Mexico. Their descriptions of the violence brought by drug and human trafficking led to my interest in the region.

Shelters house migrants including children traveling with family members as well as young people on their own.

To understand how the Southern Border Program was affecting people’s lives, I stayed in migrant shelters, which are not unlike homeless shelters or temporary refugee camps. They are often without reliable running water or electricity, but they do provide migrants with a warm meal and a place to rest before they continue north. 

At first, shelter life was a shock to me. Sick or injured people arrived nearly each day. Severe dehydration was a big problem, and some people had literally walked the skin off the bottoms of their feet. I was there when a gang member entered the shelter to kidnap someone, but shelter directors stopped him.

By the time I arrived, shelters along the tracks of the Beast had seen the number of migrants dwindle from 400 a night to fewer than 100. Shelter directors explained that the number of Central Americans fleeing into Mexico each year – around 400,000 – had not fallen, but because immigration agents were now apprehending anyone near the Beast, people were afraid to approach the shelters. These safe havens had been transformed into no-go zones. “This is a humanitarian crisis on the scale of Syria,” one director said to me, “but no one is talking about it.”

In the shelters, I chopped firewood, cooked dinners, and scrubbed kitchen floors. I changed bandages and helped people file for asylum. And I lived and traveled with migrants headed north, recording their stories – about why they left, where they hoped to go, and what they had faced on their journeys.

In 2015, shortly after finishing his studies as a Rotary Foundation global grant scholar, Levi Vonk went to Mexico to work with migrants. He has written about what he saw, and about the experiences of migrants themselves, for Rolling Stone, The Atlantic, and National Public Radio. For Rotary Foundation Month, we asked him to describe what he has done and learned. Vonk studied at the University of Sussex, England, sponsored by the Rotary clubs of Shoreham & Southwick, England, and Charleston Breakfast, S.C. His master’s degree in the anthropology of development and social transformation led to his becoming a 2014-15 Fulbright fellow to Mexico. He is now a doctoral candidate in medical anthropology at the University of California at Berkeley.

Mildred, a single mother of three, was fleeing gang members who threatened to kill her family if she didn’t pay them a protection fee. Ivan, the oldest brother of six, singlehandedly resettled his entire family in Mexico – including his elderly mother and his two toddler nephews – after hit men tried to kill them in their home in Honduras. Milton had lived in New York City for years – and had sheltered ash-covered pedestrians in his apartment during the 11 September 2001 terror attacks – before being deported. 

The things I learned were terrifying. Instead of shoring up Mexico’s borders, the plan had splintered traditional migrant routes. Those routes had been dangerous, but they were also ordered and visible. Migrants knew approximately which areas of the train passage were plagued by gangs. They were prepared to pay protection fees – generally between $5 and $20. They traveled in groups for safety. And they were often close to aid – a shelter, a Red Cross clinic, even a police station.

The Southern Border Program changed that. Hunted by immigration officers, migrants traveled deep into the jungle, walking for days. Gangs, which had previously extorted money from migrants, now followed them into these isolated areas to rob, kidnap, or simply kill them. 

The Southern Border Program has failed as a development initiative. Not only has cracking down on immigration made southern Mexico less safe, but the increased violence has deterred business investment that the region so desperately needs. 

During my time as a Rotary scholar, I learned to look at development differently. We often think of international aid in terms of poverty reduction, and we often see poverty reduction in terms of dollars spent and earned. The anthropology of development aims to analyze global aid in another way. We pay particular attention to how initiatives play out on the ground to determine just what local communities’ needs are and how those needs might be met sustainably and, eventually, autonomously. 

Axel Hernandez, whose parents brought him from Guatemala to the United States as an infant, has been deported twice; he now lives in Mexico. 

When I was living in migrant shelters, we often received huge, unsolicited shipments of clothing from well-intentioned organizations. Had they asked us, we would have told them that their efforts, and money, were wasted. In fact, directors had to pay for hundreds of pounds of clothing to be taken to the dump when space ran out at the shelter. 

Among the things shelters actually needed, I learned, were clean water, better plumbing, and medical care. But shelter directors did not just want these items shipped over in bulk; they needed infrastructure – water purification, functioning toilets, and access to a hospital, along with the skills and knowledge to maintain these systems themselves. 

Of course, as one shelter director told me, “Our ultimate goal is to not be needed at all – to solve this migration crisis and violence and go home.”

Rotary’s six areas of focus mesh neatly with these goals. Such measures require money, but more than that, they require in-tense cultural collaboration to make them sustainable. Who better than Rotary, with its worldwide network of business and community leaders, to understand the challenges and respond effectively? 

One way Rotary is responding is by funding graduate-level studies in one of the six areas of focus. After his global grant studies in anthropology of development at the University of Sussex, my friend Justin Hendrix spent several years working in a Romanian orphanage, helping to provide the children there with the best education possible. Another friend, Emily Williams, received a global grant to get her master’s degree at the Bartolome de las Casas Institute of Human Rights at Madrid’s Universidad Carlos III and now works with unaccompanied Central American minors and victims of trafficking in the United States. My partner, Atlee Webber, received a global grant to study migration and development at SOAS University of London (School of Oriental and African Studies); she now works as a program officer with the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants.

Rotarians understand that to have the most impact, we need to learn from other cultures. As global grant scholars, that’s what we aim to do – during our studies, and afterward.

• Read more stories in The Rotarian

https://www.rotary.org/en/rotary-global-scholar-helps-migrant-workers-shelters

Scholar measuring and stopping public corruption

Global grant scholarship recipient Lusiné Mehrabyan is working toward solving one of the most difficult and pervasive world ills: government corruption.

Mehrabyan, a native of Armenia who was raised in Ithaca, N.Y., recognized the plague of corruption in her home country but also in the U.S. public sector. 

“I think it’s common in every country, and it’s something that should be addressed,” she says. “It’s very difficult, because it’s hard to measure.” Mehrabyan hopes to establish better ways to do that. 

She recently earned a master’s degree from the London School of Economics (LSE) and further developed her interest in fighting corruption while working with the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in Paris in the summer of 2016.

Q: How did fighting corruption become an important focus for you?

A: For a policy project for LSE, I looked at corruption in Estonia – specifically, how anti-corruption legislation would affect corruption levels. The patterns did not make sense to me. One of the ways to measure corruption is to do a survey, and that is a very flawed way of trying to measure corruption because people can lie on surveys. That’s why I approached the OECD. 

Lusiné Mehrabyan 

Illustration by Monica Garwood

Q: What was the focus of your internship with the OECD?

A: I worked in the division called Public Sector Integrity. Because of the quantitative skills I obtained at LSE, my task was to help with the empirical evidence in their research. I worked with my supervisor to show what happens to productivity levels in a country if there’s corruption in the public sector. I also created an index to measure conflict of interest and different trends, such as whether there’s more conflict of interest or less if you are very punitive as a country. 

Q: What did you learn?

A: I realized we need to look at different methods and different approaches to measure corruption. I’m doing research to see whether corruption is intuitive or deliberate. This is a question that has not been explored, and it is a critical question. If corrupt behavior is intuitive, you can change the environment in small ways. But if you learn that corrupt behavior is actually deliberate, then you have to do more of the traditional policy approach, which is sanctioning and punishing people who do corrupt work.

Q: What would you like to do next?

A: Since I moved here, Brexit happened, and I realized that a lot of people felt alienated from the discipline of economics. I’m trying to bring economics to the public sphere,  A: Since I moved here, Brexit happened, and I realized that a lot of people felt alienated from the discipline of economics. I’m trying to bring economics to the public sphere, using a touch of mysteriousness and a touch of spontaneity and fun to make it interesting to people. The idea is to use a guerrilla-style lecture format – I guess you could call it “pop-up economics.” The location is secret, the topic is secret, the occasional guest speakers are secret. In a very engaging, immersive way, people are going to be introduced to different economic concepts. The main aim is to get people to be more engaged citizens and to hold our politicians more accountable.

–Nikki Kallio

• Read more stories from The Rotarian

https://www.rotary.org/en/scholar-measuring-and-stopping-public-corruption

The power of a garden

Rotary members in Harvard, Illinois, USA, have teamed up with community groups to help alleviate hunger and bring the community together.

By Arnold R. Grahl
Photos by Monika Lozinska
Videos by Andrew Chudzinski 

On a sunny morning in July, two dozen preschool children from Brown Bear Daycare inspect a bed of milkweed plants for monarch butterfly eggs, holding magnifying glasses to the underside of leaves in search of the tiny, off-white objects.

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Preschool children from Brown Bear Daycare plant a young tomato plant. The class visits the garden every Monday morning spring to fall.

Curiosity stoked, the five-year-olds and their teachers move to the shade of a large tree to listen to a master gardener explain the role these butterflies play in gardens. The preschool class visits the community garden in Harvard, Illinois, USA, every Monday from spring to fall to learn about garden-related topics and even help out. 

“They get to taste the vegetables, some that they have never even seen. They get to experience what it is like to plant a garden from the planting to the picking to the eating,” says Sheila Henson, executive director of the day care center and a member of the Rotary Club of Harvard. “At the end of the summer, we have a parent night where the parents come and get to see the different things their children have been involved with.”

With the goals of alleviating hunger and educating the community, master gardeners from University of Illinois Extension planted the garden in 2001 on a half-acre parcel donated by the city and adjacent to the public library. Over the years, the master gardeners have enlisted the support of many businesses, organizations, and clubs, including the Rotary Club of Harvard, making the project a community-wide effort. 

As many as 250 needy families benefit from the 10,000 pounds of vegetables that are grown and donated every year to the local food pantry. The fresh produce serves as a safety net for many families. 

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Roughly a quarter of the community’s 9,200 residents live below the federal poverty line, a result of the limited employment opportunities in small farm towns across Illinois. The already fragile economy was further affected by the closing of a Motorola  plant here in 2003 after only seven years of operation.

“In this community, the only way we can get by is by helping each other,” says Dave Decker, site director for the Harvard Community Food Pantry. “Everybody needs a little help now and then.”

The Rotary Club of Harvard took on the project seven years ago, looking for a way to address hunger and help the community. With only seven members, the club has had an impact far beyond its size, amplifying its efforts by working with the master gardeners and other groups.

“Harvard is definitely a better place because of the members of this club, and that is what keeps us going,” says Mike Morris, the club’s president. “It’s the expertise of the master gardeners, individuals in the community, farmers who help, and the education provided through the day care that makes this an amazing team effort.” 

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The Rotary club has provided $400 to buy seeds and starter plants from a local nursery every year since 2011. It also purchased plastic drip irrigation tubing and fertilizer valves after a drought threatened the garden in 2012. This year, it provided a letter of support needed by the master gardeners to secure a $5,000 grant from the McHenry County Community Foundation for an organic compost mix that will add nutrients back to the soil and help keep weeds at bay.

Morris has made the garden his special focus and enlisted every member of the club to help with planting, weeding, and harvesting. Henson also recruited day care employees to volunteer. 

The garden needs everyone for planting, says Dale Nelmes, one of the master gardeners who volunteer every week.

“Many of us master gardeners are up there in years and can’t get down on our hands and knees like we used to,” he says. “I was so impressed with Rotary and Sheila, who brought all these young volunteers in. It was incredible how much we accomplished.”

The Harvard Rotarians also used a Rotary grant to buy a new freezer, which allows the food pantry to store vegetables longer. 

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Last winter, Morris secured another Rotary grant  for $2,000, which, when combined with $5,000 from club funds, funded seven weeks of food deliveries from the Northern Illinois Food Bank. A mobile unit from the food bank set up at Brown Bear Daycare once a month from October to April, each time distributing 9,000 pounds of meat, vegetables, boxed goods, breads, and fruits.

Morris says growing up on a farm in northwestern Illinois played a big part in his interest in fighting hunger. 

“I know we can produce more than enough food to feed everybody in the country,” he says. “It’s just a matter of the logistics of getting it from the farm to their table.”

On a July morning, about 20 people – Rotarians, master gardeners, and community volunteers – are scattered among the 14 rows, each 125 feet long, pulling weeds and picking vegetables. The garden is behind schedule this year because of heavy rains, and today’s harvest is smaller than normal. At the food pantry, Nelmes weighs each crate: 9 pounds of broccoli, 6 pounds of kohlrabi, 8 pounds of peppers, and 22 pounds of zucchini. Later in the season, many more hands will be needed to harvest.

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Reina Montes began volunteering at the garden after a back injury forced her to stop working temporarily and she had to go to the pantry to supplement her groceries. When she learned about the garden, she persuaded her daughter, Elizabeth Sanchez, to join her on Mondays to help plant, pick, and weed.

Montes moved to Harvard from Mexico City more than 20 years ago and fell in love with the smaller town. Her daughter now has two college-age daughters of her own, whom she hopes to teach the value of community service. 

“Thanks to the garden, we can feed people who can’t afford to buy fresh food at the supermarket,” says Sanchez. “I believe it is everybody’s responsibility to help the community. If our children see that there is unity, love, and support, they are going to do the same thing. We are leaving them a legacy.” 

https://www.rotary.org/en/rotary-and-garden-support-community

New partners build on Rotary's strengths

Habitat for Humanity and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness join with Rotary to improve lives 

By Sallyann Price

Rotary has added two service partners that offer clubs new ways to collaborate with other organizations and strengthen their projects: Habitat for Humanity and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB).

  1. Habitat for Humanity, one of Rotary’s newest service partners, builds homes for families in need, and provides opportunities for hands-on community service.

    Photo by Alyce Henson

  2. Rotary members assemble in an Atlanta suburb to receive their work assignments for a home building project with Habitat for Humanity, one of Rotary’s newest service partners.

    Photo by Alyce Henson

  3. Randy Schiltz (right) helps put up siding during a Habitat for Humanity home building project. Schiltz owns a construction firm and is a member of the Rotary Club of Alpharetta, Georgia, USA.

    Photo by Alyce Henson

  4. Alpharetta Rotarian Glennette Haynes (middle) works alongside a friend of the new homeowner.

    Photo by Alyce Henson

  5. Local secondary school students join Rotary members, including Katie Rocco from the Alpharetta club (center), and other volunteers to lend a hand.

    Photo by Alyce Henson

Habitat for Humanity has a long history of working with Rotarians and Rotaractors to build the types of low-cost shelters that now qualify for global grant funding, under a recent Board decision. It’s also a natural fit for Rotary’s approach to vocational service, which encourages members to use their professional skills to help others.

When the Rotary Club of Alpharetta, Georgia, USA, participated in a Habitat home building project in the Atlanta area earlier this year, members showed up ready to work and lend their professional expertise. Randy Schiltz, who owns a construction firm, helped the new homeowners pre-drill holes to prepare for installing siding. Interior decorator Glennette Haynes, who works with people in transitional housing, was there to offer advice on furnishing and decorating their homes.

Habitat for Humanity International Chief Executive Officer Jonathan Reckford is a member of the Rotary Club of Atlanta. During the 2017 Rotary International Convention there, volunteers gathered on-site to help construct the wood framing for a home.

Our values are so closely aligned, and the desire to help others runs deep in both organizations.

Jonathan Reckford

Habitat for Humanity International Chief Executive Officer and Rotary Club of Atlanta member

“Often when I speak to Rotary groups and ask how many people have worked on a Habitat project, it’s not uncommon for more than three-quarters of the audience to raise their hands,” Reckford says. “Our values are so closely aligned, and the desire to help others runs deep in both organizations.”

Rotary’s values are also closely aligned with IAPB, a membership organization that brings together government and nongovernmental agencies, academics, and private providers to plan and implement sustainable eye care programs. 

“We seek to encourage both organizations [Rotary and IAPB] to promote greater awareness of the need for eye clinics and blindness prevention activities, to develop projects together, to consult, and to work together with their constituents,” says Peter Kyle, a member of the Rotary Club of Capitol Hill (Washington, D.C.), and Rotary’s Joint Committee on Partnerships.

Rotary is a global organization with members in nearly every community around the world, and the cause of eye health is just as universal. 

Victoria Sheffield

President and CEO of the International Eye Foundation and vice president of the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness

A global grant project in India, one of three pilot projects with IAPB, aims to improve access to eye care in Karol Bagh, a neighborhood in New Delhi, where private eye doctors and facilities are available but unaffordable for many.

Local Rotary clubs worked with the International Eye Foundation, an IAPB member, to raise funds and supply medical equipment for vision screenings and treatment at an eye hospital’s new facility. They also worked to design a social enterprise to sustain the hospital’s charitable outreach programs.

“There is a wonderful opportunity for our networks,” says Victoria Sheffield, president and CEO of the International Eye Foundation and vice president of IAPB. “Rotary is a global organization with members in nearly every community around the world, and the cause of eye health is just as universal. Everyone is affected by eye conditions at some point, whether it’s needing glasses or cataract surgery, or addressing a congenital issue or complications from diabetes. Everyone has two eyes.”

https://www.rotary.org/en/new-service-partners-build-rotarys-strengths

Rotary helps wildfire victims

Rotary helps wildfire victims

The Rotary Foundation has set up a special fund to help in the wake of deadly wildfires in California.

More than 220,000 acres have been scorched and more than 40 people have been confirmed dead.

“The magnitude of the devastation that is occurring in the North Bay and wine county is vast and far reaching. The recovery and rebuild is going to be a long process but we are confident that we can lead the way in bringing these communities back. Rotarians know how to get things done and won’t stop until we reach the finish line,” said Bob Rogers, Rotary 5130 District Governor.  

How to contribute

Check

Payable to: The Rotary Foundation DAF
In the Memo line: The Northern California Fire
Recovery Fund #615
Mail to: Rotary DAF
c/o NRS
12 Gill Street, Suite 2600
Woburn, MA 01801
US dollars only

Credit card

Contribute online at https://www.your-fundaccount.com/rotary/HowToContribute.asp.
You will be asked to enter the account name (The Northern California Fire Recovery Fund and #615) and provide your address.

Wire instructions

In addition to authorizing the wire, you must fax a copy of the wire authorization to (781) 658-2497 to complete the transfer of US dollars only.
Please wire funds to: Boston Private Bank & Trust Company
ABA Number: 011002343
For credit to: The Rotary Foundation
Account number: 943423732
For Further Credit: TRF DAF
Account Name: The Northern California Fire Recovery Fund #615
You can contribute to the Donor Advised Fund by following the instructions below.

Stock instructions

In addition to authorizing the trade, you must fax a copy of the trade instructions to (781) 658-2497 to complete the transfer.
DTC Shares to: SEI Private Trust Company
DTC Participant ID: 2039
Agent Bank ID: 94952
Credit to: Rotary Clearing/Liquidation Account
Account Number: 755Z0007
Agent Internal STC Account Number: 11110-C

If you have questions about how you can help, contact relief@rotary.org.

• Rotary raises money for hurricane, earthquake victims. Read the story.

https://www.rotary.org/en/rotary-helps-wildfire-victims

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