Author: adaptmarket

Fluid approach to water

How Rotary has changed to help people get clean water for longer than just a few years

By Ryan Hyland

The lack of access to clean water, sanitation facilities, and hygiene resources is one of the world’s biggest health problems — and one of the hardest to solve.

Rotary has worked for decades to provide people with clean water by digging wells, laying pipes, providing filters, and installing sinks and toilets. But the biggest challenge has come after the hardware is installed. Too often, projects succeeded at first but eventually failed.

Across all kinds of organizations, the cumulative cost of failed water systems in sub-Saharan Africa alone is estimated at $1.2 billion to $1.5 billion, according to data compiled by the consulting firm Improve International.

Rotary projects used to focus on building wells, but Rotary started to focused on hygiene education projects, which have a greater impact.

Rotary International

Rusted water pumps and dilapidated sanitation facilities are familiar sights in parts of Africa, South America, and South Asia — monuments to service projects that proved unsustainable. A 2013 review by independent contractor Aguaconsult cited these kinds of issues in projects Rotary carried out, and the review included an focus on sustainability to help plan more effective projects.

That’s one factor in why Rotary has shifted its focus over the past several years to emphasize education, collaboration, and sustainability.

With Rotary Foundation global grants, a dedicated Rotarian Action Group, and a partnership with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Rotary’s water, sanitation, and hygiene, or WASH, programs are achieving greater, longer-lasting change.

“All Rotary water and sanitation projects are full of heart and well-intentioned, but many of them didn’t always meet the actual demands of the community,” says F. Ronald Denham, a founding member and chair emeritus of the Water and Sanitation Rotarian Action Group. The group, formed in 2007, stresses a needs-based approach and sustainability in projects.

In the past, equipment and facilities were usually installed properly and received well, but the local ownership, education, and sustainability were sometimes lacking. Communities often did not receive enough support to manage the projects independently for the long term.

One obstacle to sustainability: the ongoing human involvement that’s required.

Rotary members, by their nature, are volunteers. “Like everyone else, Rotarians have priorities like work and family,” says Denham, who has worked with clubs on water, sanitation, and hygiene issues for more than 30 years and led projects in Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Kenya, and Uganda.

Speaking of the Rotary members who work to make improvements in their own communities, he says, “It’s difficult for host clubs, for instance, to manage WASH projects long-term,” especially if the projects have complex technical components. “We’re extremely dedicated, but we need help. Reaching out is essential to our success.”

Community engagement, community ownership

That success now increasingly depends on collaborations with organizations that provide complementary resources, funding, technology, contacts, knowledge of a culture, and other expertise.

Rotary members work with local experts to make sure projects fit a local need and are sustainable. Educators Mark Adu-Anning, left, and John Kwame Antwi work with engineer Jonathan Nkrumah, center, Rotary member Vera Allotey, and Atekyem Chief Nana Dorman II on a sanitation projects in in Ghana.

Photo by Awurra Adwoa Kye

“Clubs need to better engage with the community, its leaders, and professional organizations,” Denham says. “More important, we need to understand the needs of the community. We can’t assume or guess what’s in their best interest.”

The Rotary Foundation has learned over time that community engagement is crucial to making long-term change. It now requires clubs that apply for grants for some projects in other countries to show that local residents have helped develop the project plan.

The community should play a part in choosing which problems to address, thinking of the resources it has available, finding solutions, and making a long-term maintenance plan.

No project is successful, Denham says, unless the local community ultimately can run it.

In 2010, his club, the Rotary Club of Toronto Eglinton, Ontario, Canada, became the lead international partner in a water and sanitation program in the Great Rift Valley of Kenya, where clean water is scarce.

When initial groundwater tests revealed high levels of fluoride, the sponsor clubs changed their plan to dig shallow boreholes. Given what they learned, rainwater collection was a safer approach.

The Rotary Club of Nakuru, Kenya, the local host club, now provides materials and teaches families how to build their own 10,000-liter tanks. Each family is responsible for the labor and maintenance. With a $50 investment, a family can collect enough water to get through the dry season.

To date, the project has funded the construction of more than 3,000 tanks, bringing clean water to about 28,000 people. Family members no longer have to walk several miles per day to collect water, a task that often fell to women and children.

As owners of the tanks, women are empowered to reimagine how their households work. And with the help of microloans they get through the Rotary clubs, mothers are running small businesses and generating income instead of fetching water.

“With ownership comes liberation, not just for the mothers but for their children, who now have the time to attend school,” Denham explains.

Teaching WASH

It takes more than installing sanitation facilities for a WASH project to succeed in the long term. It’s also important to cultivate healthy habits. Good hygiene practices can reduce diseases such as cholera, dysentery, and pneumonia by nearly 50 percent. Washing hands with soap can save lives.

More than 4.5 billion people live without a safe toilet, the U.N. says. A lack of toilets leads to disease and also keeps some girls from going to school. In Ghana, Rotary and USAID projects at schools are leading to fewer days missed due to illness or menstruation.

Photo by Awurra Adwoa Kye

The Rotary Club of Box Hill Central, Victoria, Australia, facilitates Operation Toilets, a program that builds toilets and delivers WASH education to schools in developing countries including India and Ethiopia. The group constructs separate facilities for boys and girls to ensure privacy, and Rotary members teach students how to wash their hands with soap. Workers at each school are instructed in how to maintain the facilities.

The program works with the advocacy group We Can’t Wait, which raises awareness of WASH needs and promotes education to the community. Since the project launched in 2015, nearly 90 schools and more than 96,000 students have directly benefited from the program.

In another example of successful WASH education, the Rotary Club of Puchong Centennial, Malaysia, partners with Interact and Rotaract clubs in the Philippines to teach at several schools in Lampara, Philippines. The groups invited several speakers to instruct students about oral hygiene, hand washing, and the importance of frequent bathing. After each presentation, students were given kits that included toothbrushes, shampoo, soap, combs, and other toiletries.

10 years of sustainable WASH

This year marks the 10-year anniversary of the Rotary-USAID Partnership, which has brought communities and resources together to provide clean water, sanitation facilities, and hygiene education in developing countries. Rotary and USAID, the world’s largest governmental aid agency, bring distinct strengths to the effort. Rotary activates a global network to raise money, rally volunteers, and oversee construction, while USAID provides technical support to design and carry out the initiatives and build the capacity of local agencies to operate and maintain the systems.

Rotary-USAID education programs are teaching students in Ghana, like Philomina Okyere how to effectively wash her hands. More than 35 Rotary clubs are working in partnership on WASH projects in Ghana. Learn more about how our projects in Ghana will help 75,000 people in our interactive graphic.

Photo by Awurra Adwoa Kye

“Rotary brings a lot of energy to the program and has the ability to create a lot of buzz,” says Ryan Mahoney, a WASH and environmental health adviser for USAID and member of the Rotary-USAID steering committee. “They have been great at leveraging their relationships with community leaders to get projects off the ground.”

In Ghana, which was a focal point when the alliance launched, 35 Rotary clubs across six regions will have implemented more than 200 sustainable WASH programs by 2020.

Fredrick Muyodi and Alasdair Macleod, members of The Rotary Foundation Cadre of Technical Advisers, visited 30 of them last September to assess and evaluate their successes and ongoing challenges.

Macleod, a member of the Rotary Club of Monifieth & District, Tayside, Scotland, was impressed with the education efforts he saw. Most of the schools he visited had built-in education components, including a dedicated WASH educator on staff. In one case, the WASH teacher and students made and distributed posters about the importance of hand washing.

“Long-term projects need to start with the younger generation,” says Macleod. He adds that students can be agents of change in their own homes and in their communities by teaching the proper technique.

Other site visits revealed unexpected challenges, such as security. When a school has sanitation resources that are otherwise unavailable in a community, for example, the risk of break-ins and vandalism increases. Muyodi, a member of the Rotary Club of Kampala City-Makerere, Uganda, says that projects can lessen the risk by expanding to include the surrounding community.

Distance is also sometimes a challenge, if project sites are too far away for the clubs involved to commit to regular site visits. To remedy this, Muyodi says, clubs should engage with more local residents and create better links with leaders on the community and district levels.

Denham, a member of the Rotary-USAID steering committee, attributes the alliance’s success in Ghana to better coordination and communication, from using WhatsApp to connect with partners to hiring full-time staff. As it enters its second phase, the partnership — a landmark public/private collaboration in the WASH field — has secured $4 million in commitments for projects in Ghana, Madagascar, and Uganda. Rotary clubs in each country are responsible for raising $200,000.

“Rotary is in the business of social and economic development,” says Denham. “Our work in WASH can be a testament to that.”

https://www.rotary.org/en/rotary-water-programs-shift-focus-education-and-sustainability

Putting power in hands of women

Stephanie Woollard went from Down Under to the top of the world to find out if one person can make a difference

By Diana Schoberg
Photos by Monika Lozinska

The clacking of sewing machines fills the sunlit room until word spreads that the bus has arrived. At that, a dozen women clad in pink kurtas file into the courtyard of the Seven Women Center in Kathmandu, Nepal. They smile widely as a group of Australian women led by a tall blonde enters through the iron gate. 

The Seven Women Center provides a respite from the discrimination and violence many Nepali women face in their personal lives.

Stephanie Woollard bends down to let Sandhya Khadgi, the center’s bookkeeper and literacy trainer, put a dot of red powder on her forehead and a red flower petal atop her head in a gesture of welcome. Woollard has arrived with a group of Rotary members and friends to tour the center that she founded and whose goal is to improve the lives of women in Nepal.

When Woollard, now 34 and a member of the Rotary Club of Melbourne, first met Khadgi, Woollard was a 22-year-old tour guide with a passion for social justice and a knack for connecting with people. After leading a tour group to Kathmandu in 2006, she stayed an extra week to explore the city’s winding streets and hidden passageways, as tangled as the electrical wires above them. She soon made friends with shopkeepers, who invited her to tea as she asked them about their lives. 

“I’m a very curious person,” she says. 

One day, Woollard noticed a woman with dwarfism lugging two heavy bags into a makeshift tin shed constructed of three walls and a roof. It had no door; on impulse, Woollard followed the woman inside. 

Another woman who spoke some English told Woollard that seven disabled women lived in the shed, eking out a living selling soaps and candles. In Nepal, many people consider a disability to be karmic payback for a sin committed in a past life. One of the women had fallen out of a tree as a child and had never been treated for her injuries; another had hurt her leg and, because her family didn’t have money for treatment, had to have it amputated. Khadgi — who was one of the women Woollard met that day — was born with a jaw deformity that she covered with a mask in public. 

“When Stephanie walked into the tin shed, I felt so nervous around someone from outside the Nepali community,” Khadgi says. “In the community, because of the deformity I have, I am shunned.” But she had a feeling Woollard was different. 

The women view Anita Kerr, left, as a mother.

The experience haunted Woollard. She called home and asked her mother what to do. “Can one person make a difference?” she wondered aloud. 

She decided to use her last AU$200 to find out. 

Through the connections she had made in Nepal, Woollard hired two people to teach the seven women to knit handbags, gloves, and hats. By the time she flew home, they had crafted 12 items, which she stuffed into her suitcase to sell to friends in Australia. Meanwhile, the women kept on knitting, and Woollard looked for an outlet to sell their work.

A student at La Trobe University in Melbourne at the time, Woollard joined a group focused on fighting human trafficking and asked the members to host a booth on campus to sell the Nepali women’s products. But sales didn’t go the way she expected. She began to realize that people saw only the items, not the women behind them. So she started speaking to groups around campus to drum up interest in the group she now called Seven Women; soon sales reached $800 per week. The proceeds went back to Nepal where they were invested into more training so the women could make higher quality goods. Soon they were getting orders from fair-trade outlets across Australia. 

The enterprise went through some growing pains. When products weren’t consistent in size, Woollard realized the women had to learn how to use a ruler. The need to read and fill out order sheets turned into literacy lessons. Trying to find products that would appeal to the Australian market, Woollard searched the internet for images and, on trips to Nepal, made patterns on her hotel room floor using material from a wholesale market in Kathmandu. She and the women worked together to come up with designs that would suit both their skill level and the market’s demand. She wanted it to be their business, not hers.

“All of those things that went wrong, she turned into learning experiences. She’s creative in that way,” says Bob Fels, a Rotarian from Melbourne. “She got her hands dirty. She was practical. She was driven by wanting to help people. She was prepared to put herself out.”

The Seven Women Center provides a respite from the clogged streets of Kathmandu.

In Kathmandu — which ranks fifth among the world’s most polluted cities — blaring horns and choking dust fill the air and the crowded streets. The Seven Women Center provides a respite from all that, as well as from the discrimination and violence many Nepali women face in their personal lives. “When Steph comes here to visit, we’re excited,” says Anita Kerr, president of Seven Women. “There are always new things happening. We are growing, and the women are changing. They have more confidence.”

On this July day, the visiting Rotarians’ first stop is the sewing room, where a half-dozen women sit at the machines. They are only a few of the women who work with the center; most are based at home so they can fit in their sewing or knitting between taking care of children and other household duties. The women have just completed a large order that they’ve been working on for months for a French company, a new customer. Now they’re starting on a 10,000-piece order for friendship bracelets for a local tour company.

Kerr introduces the women and briefly tells their stories. A 17-year-old girl who used to wash dishes 16 hours a day until her hands were raw now lives at the center, where she receives an education as well as a stipend that she can send home to her parents. Eventually, she wants to own a tailor shop. Another woman is a single mother who wouldn’t give up her daughter, even though girls are seen as a burden in Nepali society. A third makes a three-hour round-trip bus ride to the center every day because it’s a place where she feels safe and happy after her abusive husband left her for another woman. “I feel like it is my home,” she says. 

A banner hanging on the wall of the sewing room depicts the life cycle of a butterfly: It’s the metaphor the women use to describe how their lives have changed because of Seven Women. They were caterpillars when they arrived, and the center is the cocoon that shelters them while they receive training in skills that include hospitality, literacy, and finances. When they’re earning money, they’re butterflies, able to leave poverty, violence, and oppression behind. And once their metamorphosis is complete, they can share their skills with others — teaching women back in their villages how to read and write, continuing to work with Seven Women, or opening their own shops and businesses. 

Kerr has her own metamorphosis story. When she was in school in her village near the Indian border, she used to wonder what had happened to girls who stopped coming to class. Then she would see them with babies of their own. In Nepal’s poor villages, where there are many mouths to feed, children are often married off or sent to monasteries.

One day, she witnessed a girl being pulled off the schoolyard by three men for an arranged marriage. “She looked so scared,” Kerr remembers. “I felt angry, and I felt pain as well, because it’s not fair that this happens to women.”

Kerr wanted more for her life. When she was 14, she left her family a letter telling them not to look for her and then took the first bus she saw to a town she had never been to. Fortunately, she met a friendly woman shopkeeper who helped her find a safe place to stay and a job cooking at a kindergarten. Later, she managed a boutique hotel in Kathmandu, where she was the only woman employee. 

“I always felt that there was something big that I was going to do,” Kerr says.

She found that in Seven Women. By 2012, Seven Women’s manufacturing business was running smoothly. While the organization had originally focused solely on women with disabilities, many other women in desperate situations were looking for help too. Woollard scouted for a location for a new center and hired Kerr to run it. 

“Anita’s an action person, just like me,” Woollard says. 

Meanwhile, Woollard herself was at a crossroads. “The joy as an entrepreneur is at the beginning — working with those seven women to set the thing up and get through challenges together. It had been running for a while, and we’d ironed out the crises,” she says. “I had been laser focused on Nepal. Now I wanted to learn more about the world and where I could make the biggest impacts.”

What should she do next? Rotary helped show her the way.

  1. “A lot of women mention that when they get inside the gate of Seven Women they feel peaceful. I feel the same,” says Anita Kerr, left, the organization’s president. 

  2. The women are eager to update Stephanie Woollard, center, on developments at the Seven Women Center since her last visit. “At other places, when senior managers come, they are treated and respected as bosses only,” says Sandhya Khadgi. “We don’t have that feeling here. It feels like our own family.”

  3. Cooking classes give career experience to women with an interest in tourism and hospitality, as well as an opportunity to practice English.

  4. Sandhya Khadgi teaches a Nepali language class. 

  5. Women at the center gain skills in bookkeeping and other careers.

The Australian Rotarians are gathered around a large wooden table in a room festooned with prayer flags as Sandhya Khadgi neatly writes out Nepali vocabulary words on a whiteboard. “Are you ready?” she asks them. Her sweet demeanor quickly morphs into drill sergeant mode as she quizzes them on the words: “Thank you,” she prompts. “Dhanyabaad,” the Rotarians reply. Then she calls on people to respond in an increasingly rapid cadence, and they all crack up as their tongues twist over the words. 

Australian Rotarians Jenny Foster, from left, Stephanie Woollard, Sue Gammon, and Susie Cole discuss ways to help Seven Women grow. After returning, they helped Woollard hold an event that raised $AU75,000 for the new Seven Women guesthouse. 

Visitors like the Australian Rotarians come to the center for language, cooking, and craft classes taught by the women, who in return receive valuable experience in hospitality skills and an opportunity to practice their English (more than 1,100 tourists had taken a cooking class over the previous 17 months, Kerr says). After their classes, tourists visit the shop where they can buy handmade cashmere scarves, silk garments, and decorative items made of felt. The center is currently fundraising for renovations on a planned 13-room hotel. When people look up the hotel online, they’ll read about the classes. 

The various enterprises give the women opportunities to follow a career path that they find rewarding. Khadgi, who has a 10th-grade education, desired more cerebral work, so Kerr first asked her if she wanted to train as a literacy teacher and later encouraged her to try accounting. “I was very afraid, as day-to-day bookkeeping had to be done and I didn’t know anything,” Khadgi says. “I started with small tasks, and after doing it and doing it, I can handle all these things. Now I feel very proud.”

Another piece of the Seven Women ecosystem is Hands On Development, a tour company that Woollard founded in 2012 after showing some visitors around the Seven Women Center and other sites in Nepal. After hearing how the trip had affected them, Woollard had a lightbulb moment. “I thought maybe I could share Nepal with others and change their lives too,” she says. Each year, several of the tours organized by the company are geared toward Rotary members and friends. 

During a steamy cooking class at the center, the 19 people on this tour learn to make tarkari, achar, and khir (vegetable curry, tomato pickle, and rice pudding). Jenny Foster, a member of the Rotary Club of Essendon, Australia, and several other Rotarians abandon their knives and cutting boards to hold an impromptu side meeting, brainstorming amid the cacophony the ways Rotary can help Seven Women expand. Rotary buzz-words like “global grants” and “vocational training teams” fly around the room. It’s a scene repeated frequently during the tour.

Foster, who worked with her Rotary club to host a screening of a documentary about Seven Women to raise money for the organization, came on this trip with her 20-year-old daughter, Elise. “You see the work of Seven Women, but you’ve got to also see the story behind why you need to do a project such as this,” she says. “Getting into the villages, going up to see a temple, meeting the local people — you start to understand the needs of a country like Nepal and why Stephanie would want to help.”

Bimala Tamang has become a role model to people in her village, who saw her success and started sending their own children to school. “If I hadn’t studied, I would already have children,” she says. “This is all about the background; if the mothers are uneducated, they expect their children to do and become the same as them.” 

Bimala Tamang is 19 years old. She’s from Betini, a village deep in the Himalayas, a six-hour bus ride from Kathmandu followed by an eight-hour hike. Betini has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the country, and most of Tamang’s friends have several children already.

As a child, Tamang tagged along with her older brother when he walked to school — five hours round trip. In Nepal, the money a family would spend to send a girl to school is often seen as better saved for her dowry, but in response to Tamang’s pleas, her grandparents, with whom she lived after her mother died of complications from her birth, agreed to fund her schooling. 

When Seven Women brought its literacy program to the village, Tamang was the most educated female — child or adult — they could find. Though she was only 17 years old, Seven Women asked her to teach other women in her village.

Seven Women then began a microloan program in Betini, and today, the women own shops and restaurants that cater to aid workers who are helping to rebuild after a 2015 earthquake hit the area. “Bimala has had a huge role in that success,” Kerr says.

When the prospect of an arranged marriage threatened to interfere with Tamang’s dream of becoming a social worker whose focus was maternal and child health — one directly influenced by the death of her own mother — she found refuge and continued her education at the Seven Women Center in Kathmandu.

Woollard, Kerr, and the Australian Rotarians are gathered around the large wooden table in the classroom eating lunch when Tamang enters the room, beaming. She has passed her year 12 exam, which means she’s graduating from secondary school and on her way to college. The Rotarians erupt in applause and a cheer.

 “I used to doubt a girl could amount to anything,” she says. “Now my grandparents tell me, ‘You don’t need to get married. You have to do good things and show them to the villagers.’ I have already become a role model. They are so happy to see this.”

• Read more stories from The Rotarian

https://www.rotary.org/en/rotary-member-opens-door-out-poverty-women-nepal

Rotary Foundation Trustee Örsçelik Balkan dies

Rotary Foundation Trustee Örsçelik Balkan, a member of the Rotary Club of Istanbul-Karaköy, Turkey, died unexpectedly on 6 March. 

Rotary Foundation Trustee Örsçelik Balkan was a member of the Rotary Club of Istanbul-Karaköy, Turkey.

Balkan, a Rotary member since 1973, was the executive senior board director of the EAE Elektrik Company, a manufacturer of electrical products in Turkey and Russia. He was a developer in the field of renewable energy. He also taught strategic planning, effective communication, and project planning for an MBA program at Istanbul Kültür University.

“Örsçelik was a Rotarian’s Rotarian,” says Rotary Foundation Chair Ron D. Burton. “He knew and loved Rotary and exemplified Rotary principles in everything he did. He always put others before himself. His Rotary work worldwide is a true testament to his commitment.”

He served Rotary as a district trainer, district governor, and RI director. He also served on numerous committees, including as chair of several.

In 1999, he led disaster relief services in Turkey after a devastating earthquake. He also helped bring Rotary services to Bosnia-Herzegovina and initiated a heart surgery project for Iraqi children. He convened Rotary Presidential Peace Forums in Sofia, Bulgaria; Istanbul, Turkey; and Nairobi, Kenya.

Balkan was recognized with the Service Above Self Award and the Rotary Foundation Citation for Meritorious Service. He and his spouse, Yasar Afet, were Major Donors and Benefactors of The Rotary Foundation.

He is survived by his spouse, Yasar Afet, sons Aydin and Gökçe, and grandchildren Aylin and Ozan. Memorial services will be held in Istanbul and Aydin, Turkey, on 8-9 March. 

https://www.rotary.org/en/rotary-foundation-trustee-orscelik-balkan-dies

From peace fellow to international advocate

Rotary peace fellow creates Red Dot Foundation to fight street harassment and violence against women

By Anne Ford

ElsaMarie D’Silva of Mumbai began her career as a flight attendant, eventually rising to become vice president of network planning for one of India’s largest airlines. Learning about the fatal 2012 gang rape of a young woman in Delhi, an unusually heinous crime that led to public outrage, led D’Silva to make a dramatic career switch. 

D’Silva is the founder and CEO of the Red Dot Foundation, which works with nongovernmental organizations in India, Nepal, and Kenya to address street harassment and violence against women. In addition to community workshops, the foundation empowers women to document catcalling, groping, and other incidents through an online crowdmapping platform called Safecity. D’Silva was also a Rotary Peace Fellow at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok.

[embedded content]

Q: Why did you choose to work in this area?

A: Sexual violence is a global pandemic. One in three women experiences it at least once, yet 80 percent of us choose not to make an official complaint. In India, there’s a rape every 20 minutes. We have very strong legislation, but what is legislation if you’re not going to use it? There’s still fear of the police, of bringing shame to oneself and one’s family.

Q: Was this kind of harassment something you witnessed yourself while growing up in India?

A: Yes, I’ve been groped on a bus, on the street, on a train. When I started this work, a friend of mine said, “Now I understand why you don’t take the train in Mumbai.” It was a connection I had not made myself. We don’t know how much these incidents restrict our lives.

Q: Tell us about some ways that the Red Dot Foundation has empowered women.

A: We realized by looking at the Safecity app that there was a hot spot [of harassment] around a tea stall, which is a male-only space in India. Because it was on a busy road, where women passed by, men intimidated them with staring and commenting. When we asked the women what they wanted to change, they said, “We would like the staring to stop.” In our culture, you don’t confront a man directly. So we organized an art workshop for the women, and they painted a nearby wall to say, “Look with your heart, not with your eyes.” And the staring stopped. It educated the community that this behavior was not appropriate.

Illustration by Monica Garwood

Q: Do you think your efforts have led to any reduction in street harassment?

A: I don’t think the harassment has decreased. What I can say is that the conversations have increased and that people are becoming more aware of their rights and are more willing to report. I would even say that you will hear more sad stories because people are talking about it more.

Q: What did you learn from your time as a Rotary Peace Fellow?

A: I learned that the work we are doing that we used to call “pre-emptive” is actually peacebuilding. We’re trying to help people understand gender stereotypes that reinforce toxic masculinity on a daily basis, give them a safe space to discuss this and understand each other’s point of view, and help them navigate these complex issues and be agents of change.

• Read more stories from The Rotarian

https://www.rotary.org/en/rotary-peace-fellow-fights-street-harassment-and-violence

Clubs in Brazil help vaccinate 11 million children

Rotary clubs blanket Brazil with polio and measles vaccinations

 Members help reverse trend of plummeting immunizations by reaching 11 million children

By Luiz Renato Dantas

Rotary clubs in Brazil mobilized to help stave off a potential polio outbreak after dangerously low vaccination rates were reported by health officials last year. More than 11 million Brazilian children were inoculated during a massive two-month vaccination campaign, reversing a trend of plummeting immunization coverage. 

Brazil Rotary clubs held End Polio Now vaccination festivals, which included food, entertainment, local celebrities, games.

The government said more than 300 cities in the country had low rates of vaccination against diseases such as influenza, measles, and polio. The Ministry of Health called the situation “extremely serious.” 

Measles were spreading in an outbreak that eventually sickened more than 1,500 people in Brazil. Health officials worried that poliovirus could also re-emerge. Brazil’s massive national immunization campaign from 6 August to 28 September aimed to vaccinate at least 95 percent of children ages one to five. 

The measles cases were concentrated in the northern states where thousands of Venezuelan refugees have crossed the border to escape economic and political hardships. Many haven’t been immunized, because Venezuela’s health system is in crisis. 

Rotary leaders in Brazil found the possibility that poliovirus could resurge frightening, said Marcelo Haick, a regional coordinator for Rotary’s End Polio Now initiative. They knew they had to help health workers reach the millions of children who might be vulnerable to the paralyzing disease.

“The campaign was a success,” says Haick, a member of the Rotary Club of Santos-Praia in São Paulo state. “To our great surprise, clubs throughout the country responded in a way unlike anything we have ever seen.”

More than 11 million children were vaccinated during the initiative, reaching the government’s goal of 95 percent coverage, the target recommended by the World Health Organization. 

Rotary members went to events and high-risk communities to announce the vaccination campaign. 

According to Haick, every Rotary club in the country participated in the campaign in some way. 

Clubs and districts promoted the vaccinations. A majority of clubs, says Haick, produced leaflets and distributed them at schools and at busy street crossings. 

Some used other methods to draw attention to the cause: 

  • The International Fellowship of Motorcycling Rotarians rode through the city of Jundiaí, São Paulo, with End Polio Now banners attached to their motorcycles. 
  • Dozens of clubs held End Polio Now vaccination festivals, which included food, entertainment, local celebrities, games — and oral polio vaccine drops. Health officials vaccinated the children who attended. 
  • Clubs installed lighted signs along major highways. 
  • At a major football game, club members in District 4670 took the field during intermission to display a huge End Polio Now banner. Clubs across the country used other sporting events, including bicycle races and marathons, to promote the vaccinations. 
  • Haick and other End Polio Now coordinators encouraged clubs to adopt vaccination centers. Clubs were also encouraged to contact local politicians and health officials at these centers. 
  • Clubs used Facebook and other social media platforms to post informational ads. 
  • Districts and clubs used trucks to announce information about the vaccination campaign at major social and cultural events and in high-risk communities.  

 Pedro Durão, another End Polio Now coordinator, says Rotary’s awareness campaign was widespread. “It was a mass adoption,” he says. “It was gratifying to see the work done by the clubs and districts throughout Brazil. I’ve been in Rotary since 1991 and have never seen such great enthusiasm.” 

Rotary leaders in Brazil hope the success of this effort can inspire clubs and districts, not only in their country but also in others that are at risk of a resurgence of polio, to continue to raise awareness of the importance of polio immunization and other potentially lifesaving vaccinations.

• This story was adapted from Revista Rotary Brasil.

Rotary members, including those in District 4670, used sporting events to promote polio vaccinations.

https://www.rotary.org/en/rotary-clubs-brazil-vaccinate-11-million-children

Polio first responder 

Female surveillance officer for WHO pushes through gender-related obstacles to help eradicate polio from Pakistan 

Dr. Ujala Nayyar dreams, both figuratively and literally, about a world that is free from polio. Nayar, the World Health Organization in Pakistan’s Punjab province, says she often imagines the outcome of her work in her sleep.

In her waking life, she leads a team of health workers who crisscross Punjab to hunt down every potential incidence of poliovirus, testing sewage and investigating any reports of paralysis that might be polio. Pakistan is one of just two countries that continue to report cases of polio caused by the wild virus. 

Dr. Nayyar

Dr. Ujala Nayyar, surveillance officer for WHO, talks about polio eradication efforts in Pakistan. 

In addition to the challenges of polio surveillance, Nayyor faces substantial gender-related barriers that, at times, hinder her team’s ability to count cases and take environmental samples. From households to security checkpoints, she encounters resistance from men. But her tactic is to push past the barriers with a balance of sensitivity and assertiveness.  

“I’m not very polite,” Nayyar said with a chuckle during an interview at Rotary’s World Poio Day event. “We don’t have time to be stopped. Ending polio is urgent and time-sensitive.”

Women are critical in the fight against polio, Nayyar says. About 56 percent of frontline workers in Pakistan are women. More than 70 percent of mothers in Pakistan prefer to have women vaccinate their children. 

That hasn’t stopped families from slamming doors in health wokers’ faces, though. When polio is detected in a community, teams have to make repeated visits to each home to ensure that every child is protected by the vaccine. Multiple vaccinations add to the skepticism and anger that some parents express. It’s an attitude that Nayyar and other health workers deal with daily. 

“You can’t react negatively in those situations. It’s important to listen. Our female workers are the best at that,” says Nayyar. 

With polio on the verge of eradication, surveillance activities, which, Nayyar calls the “back of polio eradication”, have never been more important. 

  • 56.00%

    of front-line workers in Pakistan are female

  • 90.00%

    of front-line workers in Nigeria are female

Q: What exactly does polio surveillance involve?

A: There are two types of surveillance systems. One is surveillance of cases of acute flaccid paralysis (AFP), and the second is environmental surveillance. The surveillance process continues after eradication. 

Q: How are you made aware of potential polio cases?

A: There’s a network of reporting sites. They include all the medical facilities, the government, and the hospitals, plus informal health care providers and community leaders. The level of awareness is so high, and our community education has worked so well, that sometimes the parents call us directly.

Q: What happens if evidence of poliovirus is found?

Dr. Ujala Nayyar, the surveillance officer for the World Health Organization in Punjab, Pakistan, navigates through barriers to hunt down cases of polio. 

Monika Lozinska/Rotary International

A: In response to cases in humans as well as cases detected in the environment, we implement three rounds of supplementary immunization campaigns. The scope of our response depends on the epidemiology and our risk assessment. We look at the drainage systems. Some systems are filtered, but there are also areas that have open drains. We have maps of the sewer systems. We either cover the specific drainage areas or we do an expanded response in a larger area.

Q: What are the special challenges in Pakistan?

A: We have mobile populations that are at high risk, and we have special health camps for these populations. Routine vaccination is every child’s right, but because of poverty and lack of education, many of these people are not accessing these services. 

Q: How do you convince people who are skeptical about the polio vaccine?

A: We have community mobilizers who tell people about the benefits of the vaccine. We have made it this far in the program only because of these frontline workers. One issue we are facing right now is that people are tired of vaccination. If a positive environmental sample has been found in the vicinity, then we have to go back three times within a very short time period. Every month you go to their doorstep, you knock on the door. There are times when people throw garbage. It has happened to me. But we do not react. We have to tolerate their anger; we have to listen.

Q: What role does Rotary play in what you do?

A: Whenever I need anything, I call on Rotary. Unbrellas for the teams? Call Rotary. Train tickets? Call Rotary. It’s the longest-running eradication program in the history of public health, but still the support of Rotary is there. 

https://www.rotary.org/en/polio-surveillance-officer-virus-pakistan

Rotary clubs come together to fight opioid epidemic

Rotary club harnesses international connections to tackle U.S. opioid crisis

Clubs in Mexico, India, and Canada help Rotary members in New York launch project

By Ryan Hyland

New York Rotary members used support from international partners to help them fight a major U.S. problem: opioid addiction. 

After attending a wrenching funeral for a young man who died from an opioid overdose, Lana K. Rouff, a member of the Rotary Club of Binghamton, New York, USA, knew she had to do something. 

“It was awful,” says Rouff. “I was so shaken by the shock and sadness at the funeral. The experience really stuck with me but also sparked me to do something.”

Rouff immediately talked with her fellow members, as well as other local clubs, about how they could alleviate the crisis in their communities in central and southern New York. 

After months of doing research and consulting with health officials, substance abuse experts, educators, and media professionals, they had a plan: a Rotary Foundation global grant project, totaling more than $107,000. 

The project’s initiatives would support those directly affected by the epidemic, educate communities about preventing and treating opioid addiction, and prevent drug abuse among local young people by training them in leadership skills and healthy decision making. 

  • 130.00+

    people die every day from opioid-related drug overdoses in the U.S.

  • 11.00 mil

    people have abused prescription opioids in 2016

  • 47000.00 +

    people died from overdosing on opioids in 2017 

  • 9000.00 +

    people died in Canada between 2016-18 from opioid-related deaths

But they still needed one more thing to meet The Rotary Foundation’s requirements and secure the funding — international partners.

Rouff again turned to Rotary’s 1.2 million members in 35,000 clubs around the world. She found the support they needed. 

A Rotary club in Mexico was the first to volunteer, and then Rotary clubs in Canada and India agreed to help, too. 

Harnessing international support

Finding people outside of the U.S. to help with a predominantly American problem wasn’t easy, says Rouff.

“It wasn’t out of indifference to a problem in the U.S.,” says Rouff. “There just isn’t a strong understanding outside the country of how bad the opioid crisis really is.”

It took six months of searching before Rouff’s club connected with the Rotary Club of Tijuana Oeste, Baja California, Mexico. Sofia Sotomayor Magana rallied her fellow members to be the project’s international sponsor because she believed it was important to show support for their northern neighbors. 

Some in the Mexican club were hesitant, telling Sotomayor Magana that their resources and money should be allocated to local issues such as poverty and poor health care. But Sotomayor Magana persuaded them that it’s sometimes better to give than to receive. 

“We have an opportunity to help clubs in the U.S. make an impact on this horrible epidemic,” she says. “We know that this crisis can happen anywhere and can devastate any community. We see how bad it’s gotten. I’m proud we were able to get this important project off the ground.” 

The Rotary Club of Mississauga-Meadowvale, Ontario, Canada, also contributed funds and support to the project. Member Claudine LaRochelle says that the opioid crisis isn’t confined to the U.S.; provinces in Canada are also affected. Opioid-related overdoses killed 9,000 Canadians from 2016 to 2018. These overdoses are now the leading cause of death among Canadians ages 30-39. 

“When thinking of international assistance, we often think of countries far away from us, but help is also well-used when the crisis hits close to home,” says LaRochelle. 

Providing information and tools

Today’s opioid crisis is the deadliest drug epidemic in U.S. history. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that each day more than 130 people die from opioid-related drug overdoses, and millions more struggle with addiction. Since 2011, drug deaths in the U.S. have outpaced those caused by firearms, motor vehicle crashes, suicide, or homicide. In New York, it’s the leading cause of accidental deaths. 

Children and teens are not exempt from the crisis — nearly a quarter of U.S. high school seniors have had some exposure to prescription opioids — but they are the best targets for education and prevention, Rouff says. 

Over the past year and a half, the global grant funded a series of weekend seminars that brought together nearly 50 high school students from 11 schools. They gathered at the Heart of New York Teen Institute in Syracuse, New York, to gain the knowledge and confidence that will help them lead drug-free lives and the leadership skills to educate their peers about the dangers of drugs and alcohol. 

“We want to help produce the next generation of role models,” says Rouff. “We exceeded our expectations on this front.”

Jo Ann Wickman, a project lead and member of the Rotary Club of Cortland, New York, USA, has worked in social work and education for more than 25 years and was a grant coordinator for the project. She was impressed with the students’ experience at the teen institute. “It was really incredible how much they learned and what they said they wanted to accomplish,” she says. “It was a powerful program.”

Participating clubs led a broad public-awareness campaign with critical information, such as the signs and symptoms of abuse, and resources like 2-1-1, the local hotline for prescription drop boxes. Rotary members designed, produced, and distributed more than 60,000 informational flyers, brochures, and postcards in their communities. 

“We put them up everywhere we could,” Wickman says, which included schools, municipal buildings, medical and legal offices, churches, and Rotary meeting locations. Teachers even enclosed the materials with students’ report cards and other mailings to parents.

The project grant also funded online ads, social media campaigns, and local TV and radio spots that listed ways community residents can help mitigate the opioid crisis and its devastating consequences. Club members created a Facebook page and YouTube ads as well.

The clubs also directed funds to the Addiction Center of Broome County to help pay for medical and administrative supplies, transportation vouchers to get patients to the clinic, and three drop boxes for safe disposal of prescription drugs. Each month, the police department collects and incinerates the unused drugs. 

https://www.rotary.org/en/rotary-clubs-come-together-fight-opioid-epidemic

After the storm

A year after Hurricane Maria tore through Puerto Rico, local Rotary members continue to rebuild homes and lives

By Vanessa Glavinskas
Photos by Alyce Henson

Eladio Montalvo faced a stark choice: risk drowning in his one-story home or climb through a window into the house next door. It was under construction but had a second floor where he could escape the rising floodwaters. He boosted his dog through and scrambled in after him. The two huddled inside an upstairs bathroom for 22 hours while Hurricane Maria raged over Puerto Rico. With 155 mph winds and torrential rains, Maria was the strongest hurricane to hit the island in more than 80 years.  

After the storm, Montalvo went out to see what was left of the home he had lived in since 1958. The walls were standing, but the water inside had risen chest-high. Everything was destroyed. Without any family nearby, he had nowhere to go. He moved into his car. 

“But after the storm came the calm,” he says. “Good people came.”

Rivera greets Eladio Montalvo, who was forced to live in his car before the Mayagüez club helped him rebuild his home.

Faustino Rivera pats Montalvo affectionately on the shoulder. It’s September 2018, a year since Hurricane Maria, and Rivera and several other members of the Rotary Club of Mayagüez have stopped by to visit. Montalvo lives in a fishing town called El Maní outside the city of Mayagüez on the island’s west coast. He invites his guests inside to see the progress he has made adding a shower to his bathroom. There’s a pile of tiles that he plans to lay soon, and he has started painting the walls a light shade of blue. The home is neatly but sparsely furnished: a bed, a TV, and a few plastic bins, including one labeled camisas that has shirts and shorts tucked inside.

“He’s become my friend,” says Rotarian Orlando Carlo, who checks in on Montalvo almost every week.

The Mayagüez club paid $4,200 for the materials Montalvo used to add a second story to his home. Made of concrete, outfitted with hurricane shutters, and built high enough off the ground to avoid flooding, the new addition contains a small kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom. Montalvo did much of the work himself, calling on friends and neighbors skilled in construction when he needed help. 

To find people like Montalvo who needed help but didn’t qualify for reconstruction aid from the U.S. government’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Mayagüez club members worked with community leaders and screened each family. “We are trying to help those who really need help,” Carlo explains. “Those who can’t get it from anyone else.”

By the time Carlo met him, Montalvo had been living in his car for nearly six months. A local church leader introduced the two, hoping Rotarians could help Montalvo find permanent housing. “I could tell immediately that he was severely dehydrated from staying out in the sun and sleeping in his car,” Carlo says. “He seemed stunned and needed guidance on how to start rebuilding. We assured him we were there to help him.”

After the hurricane, Carlo was also living alone. His wife had gone to stay in Florida while he remained behind to run his construction business. But the lack of electricity and reliable communication meant his work projects were stalled, so he mostly spent his days volunteering. “It gave me a lot of time to help,” he says. His home survived the storm, but the shortage of gasoline meant he had to plan his trips carefully. He rationed bottled water and food, eating what he calls a “hurricane diet” of canned pasta or sausage and rice.

“We didn’t have power back until the end of October,” says Christa von Hillebrandt-Andrade, president of the Mayagüez club. “We could use one bucket of water per day. My teenage daughter learned that water is the No. 1 thing you need. She could live without electricity and even without her cellphone, but not without water.”

Antonio Morales spreads a message of hope and resilience to at-risk youth through theater. His project, Teatro Por Amor, is now supported by a Rotary global grant.  “I like coming here because it’s an escape from my life,” says 16-year-old Annie, above left. Student Kelvin Tirado, right, sits next to actress Anoushka Medina, who runs the Santurce Teatro Por Amor group.

Mayagüez is home to 75,000 people and to the island’s second-oldest Rotary club after San Juan. In the past, the club carried out smaller projects, but the massive devastation caused by Maria motivated members to do more to help their neighbors, especially the very poor.

“I’ve been a Rotarian for 40 years, and I’ve never seen so much help come from other Rotary clubs,” Carlo says. After Hurricane Maria, clubs across the United States wired the Rotary Club of Mayagüez about $50,000 directly; more than half of that money came from the Rotary Club of La Jolla Golden Triangle in California and a group of clubs in New York. As club treasurer, Rivera keeps track of every receipt and sends updates back to the donor clubs. A year after Maria, the club had helped 22 families repair their homes, mostly replacing roofs that were blown off by the hurricane.

Scanning the horizon from a hillside neighborhood nicknamed Felices Días — “Happy Days” — Carlo points out a less-than-happy sight: the many blue FEMA tarps that still stand in for permanent roofs. “There is still a lot of need here. This is not over,” he says. “But we are willing to continue to help as long as it takes.”

And for Montalvo’s part, he has remained optimistic in spite of all he went through. “Hurricane Maria gave me more than she took,” he says.

When Ken McGrath became president of the Rotary Club of San Juan in July 2017, he thought his most arduous task would be planning the celebration of the club’s centennial in 2018. Three months after he took office, Hurricane Maria hit. 

“While Maria was a major disaster,” McGrath says, “it had the beneficial effect of invigorating our club to show those in need the real meaning of Rotary.”

By the time he was able to get an internet connection and check his email, McGrath had received 200 messages from clubs around the world offering to help. Rotarians in Puerto Rico started distributing food and water every Saturday. Working with other clubs, they coordinated the distribution of 300,000 pouches of baby food. They even put dog food out for animals that had been left behind.

Once the immediate needs were under control, they started to think about long-term relief.

San Juan club members distribute mattresses in Villa Santo.

Photo by Gerry Cumpiano

“So much of the damage isn’t only to the infrastructure; it’s to the spirit,” says John Richardson, a member of the San Juan club and a past district governor. To address mental health after the hurricane, fellow member Bob Bolte suggested the club do something unconventional: apply for a grant to support youth theater.

Bolte had met Antonio Morales in 1995 when the San Juan club installed a library in the housing project where Morales grew up. He was impressed to see that Morales, who was just 14 at the time, was running a theater group for other kids living in his tough neighborhood.

“Theater saved my life,” says Morales, now a 37-year-old actor and director. “My father was a drug lord. My mother was a victim of domestic violence.”

Even though his father had forbidden him to pursue acting, Morales persuaded his mother to secretly take him to an audition at the public performing arts school. “Everything I learned at school, I brought back to the projects,” he says.

Eventually his theater group became an unlikely alternative to gangs in his neighborhood. “When boys reach a certain age, it’s very easy for them to join the drug gangs,” Morales says. “We told them, ‘Come join our club, not them.’ Even the leaders of the gangs supported me. They didn’t want their little brothers to follow in their footsteps.”

After the hurricane, Morales, who now runs the San Juan Drama Company and stars in a TV series called No Me Compares, started visiting housing projects with other actors to spread a message of hope and resilience to young people. “People were desperate. They were bored. They were depressed,” he says. “We decided to go into these communities to give love. We didn’t have aid kits, food, or water to give — but we had our theater experience. So we said, ‘Let’s go and make these people happy.’” With schools closed and the power out, teens turned out in droves.

When Bolte learned what Morales was doing, he suggested Rotary could help. “These theater groups provide almost a second family to a lot of the kids,” Bolte says. “I wanted to help him do this on a wider scale, across multiple neighborhoods.” A $99,700 global grant has allowed Morales to expand the project to four theater groups so far and to pay a stipend to the facilitators of each group. Funding for the grant came from Bob Murray, a former San Juan club member who now lives in Arizona, where he’s a member of the Rotary Club of Scottsdale. In December 2017, Murray gave $1 million to The Rotary Foundation for the recovery effort.

Morales calls the project Teatro Por Amor, or Theater for Love.

Every Wednesday, the Santurce Teatro Por Amor group meets on the second floor of Federico Asenjo school. The sounds of laughter and cheering can be heard from down the hall as students, ranging in age from 11 to mid-20s, perform an improv exercise. Five members of the group squat down in the front of the room, and when the director yells “arriba,” whoever stands up has to improvise a routine together. One boy stands up alone, so he takes off his shoe to pretend it’s a phone. He tells off the friend who “called,” and the room erupts in laughter and applause.

“You come here and you’re not in the streets,” says 18-year-old Nandyshaliz Alejandro, who lives in the same housing project where Morales grew up. This is her first theater experience. “This is one of the few things I actually look forward to.”

  1. Yolimar Feliciano and her younger brother walk along the only road in Rubias to fill containers with free, clean water at the local community center. 

  2. The Rotary Club of Yauco supplied the town with a solar-powered water filter.

  3. Maritza Osorio rests on a new mattress furnished by the San Juan club after her home flooded.

  4. Orlando Carlo shows what the house behind him looked like before the Rotary Club of Mayagüez supplied the family with a new roof. 

  5. Faustino Rivera reviews what the club has provided homeowner Sandra Acevedo.

Felix Juan Osorio lifts the corner of his mattress. The underside is rippled with brown water stains, and it smells of mold. One year after Hurricane Maria flooded the family’s home, the mattress is still wet, but they can’t afford a new one.

“I never thought mattresses would be the No. 1 request,” says Armand Piqué, a member of the Rotary Club of San Juan.

Piqué has been working in Loíza, a town not far from San Juan where the Osorio family lives, since he learned people in the area weren’t getting the help they needed.

“There are certain areas where it is difficult to get in if you don’t know someone,” Piqué explains, adding that drug trafficking can make it dangerous for strangers to enter certain parts of Loíza. The Villa Santo neighborhood is one of those areas. So Piqué worked with a community leader, Ángel Coriano, to find out what families needed. Coriano, who grew up in the area and now works for the Puerto Rico Department of Health, is the type of person who knows everyone.

“I was listening to what all these people were asking,” Piqué says. “And I thought, our club cannot provide everything that’s on this list. I need to find the thing that is most pressing, something that they really need.” Again and again, people brought up mattresses. Unlike other furniture, mattresses, once wet, don’t dry out. So far, Rotarians have distributed hundreds of mattresses across the island.

Before receiving her new mattress, Felix Juan Osorio’s neighbor, Maritza Osorio, had been sleeping on a damaged mattress, the springs poking her ribs. She suffers from pulmonary hypertension, and the lack of rest took a toll on her already fragile health. “I could hardly sleep,” she says. “Now I’m comfortable. I’m able to sleep, and I’m feeling better.”

It’s a bright, sunny morning in Rubias, a picturesque farming village in the mountains about 35 miles east of Mayagüez. In a few hours, that sun will begin to power a new water filter, providing the 100 families who live here with access to clean drinking water for the first time.

https://www.rotary.org/en/rotary-members-rebuild-after-hurricane-maria

Connecting the world

2019-20 RI president announces his presidential theme

By Arnold R. Grahl
Photos by Alyce Henson

Rotary International President-elect Mark Daniel Maloney explained his vision for building a stronger Rotary, calling on leaders to expand connections to their communities and to embrace innovative membership models.

RI President-elect Mark Maloney announces the 2019-20 presidential theme, Rotary Connects the World, to incoming district governors in San Diego, California, USA.

Maloney, a member of the Rotary Club of Decatur, Alabama, USA, unveiled the 2019-20 presidential theme, Rotary Connects the World, to incoming district governors at Rotary’s annual training event, the International Assembly, in San Diego, California, USA, on Monday.

“The first emphasis is to grow Rotary — to grow our service; to grow the impact of our projects; but, most importantly, to grow our membership so that we can achieve more,” Maloney said.

Maloney believes that connection is at the heart of the Rotary experience.

“(Rotary) allows us to connect with each other, in deep and meaningful ways, across our differences,” Maloney said. “It connects us to people we would never otherwise have met, who are more like us than we ever could have known. It connects us to our communities, to professional opportunities, and to the people who need our help.”

Maloney also called on every Rotary and Rotaract club to identify segments of their community not represented in their club by creating a membership committee with diverse members.  

“Through Rotary, we connect to the incredible diversity of humanity on a truly unique footing, forging deep and lasting ties in pursuit of a common goal,” he added. “In this ever more divided world, Rotary connects us all.”

Maloney urged leaders to offer alternative meeting experiences and service opportunities to make it easier for busy professionals and people with many family obligations to serve in leadership roles.

“We need to foster a culture where Rotary does not compete with the family, but rather complements it,” Maloney said. “That means taking real, practical steps to change the existing culture: being realistic in our expectations, considerate in our scheduling, and welcoming of children at Rotary events on every level.”

Maloney said many of the barriers that prevent people from serving as leaders in Rotary are based on expectations that are no longer relevant.

“It is time to adapt, to change our culture, and to convey the message that you can be a great district governor without visiting every club individually, and a great president without doing everything yourself.”

Relationship with the United Nations

During 2019-20, Rotary will host a series of presidential conferences around the world, focusing on Rotary’s relationship with the United Nations and the UN’s sustainable development goals that many Rotary service projects support. More information will be available in July.

In 2020, the United Nations will celebrate the 75th anniversary of its charter and its mission of promoting peace. Rotary was one of 42 organizations the United States invited to serve as consultants to its delegation at the 1945 San Francisco conference, which led to the UN’s charter. For decades, Rotary has worked alongside the United Nations to address humanitarian issues around the world. Today, Rotary holds the highest consultative status that the UN offers to nongovernmental organizations.

“Rotary shares the United Nations’ enduring commitment to a healthier, more peaceful, and more sustainable world,” Maloney said. “And Rotary offers something no other organization can match: an existing infrastructure that allows people from all over the world to connect in a spirit of service and peace and take meaningful action toward that goal.” 

https://www.rotary.org/en/rotary-international-president-maloney-theme-2019

Rotary peace fellow helps refugees fleeing Myanmar

Resources for refugees

Rotary peace fellow helps refugees fleeing Myanmar

Since August 2017, nearly a million Rohingya Muslim refugees have crowded into the Cox’s Bazar region of Bangladesh, fleeing violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state. Women and children face particularly difficult challenges in the massive refugee camps, including lack of adequate shelter, health care, and educational resources, and an increased risk of sexual violence.

Sakun Gajurel worked in Italy and in her native Nepal with United Nations agencies before studying international development policy at the Rotary Peace Center at Duke University and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. As a part of her Rotary Peace Fellowship, Gajurel spent the summer of 2018 working in Cox’s Bazar with an organization called UN Women that provides direct aid to women in the refugee camps.

Illustration by Viktor Miller Gausa

Q: What are the greatest challenges in getting aid to Cox’s Bazar?

A: Close to 900,000 refugees crossed the borders in less than a year’s time. In monsoon season, things got worse. Tents built with a bamboo frame and tarpaulin cannot resist heavy rain or minor landslides. A few thousand shelters were destroyed every week in the aftermath of heavy rains. 

For humanitarian agencies, reaching everyone is another challenge due to poor road conditions. The sheer number of refugees makes effective support problematic.

Q: What problems do women and girls in particular face? 

A: Women and girls are more vulnerable to violence. In some crisis settings, more than 70 percent of women have experienced gender-based violence. Women often report challenges accessing sanitation and hygiene facilities at night or when they are menstruating. They face heightened risks as well as increased care-related tasks such as providing food and water for their families and caring for the sick.

Q: How do tradition and culture affect the ways assistance is provided?

A: Gender segregation is generally common among the Muslim Rohingya population. It is closely connected to the practice of purdah, or preventing women from being seen by men other than their husbands. Women and girls are expected to stay in the home and be close to their family, whereas men and boys are more present in the public sphere. 

Through multipurpose women’s centers, UN Women engages and empowers women. Women and girls can come to a center like the one in Cox’s Bazar and get information about the services and opportunities in the camps. About 20 women serve in the center in Cox’s Bazar as outreach workers. These are Rohingya women who talk to other women and bring their issues and challenges to the center as well as to meetings with camp officials.

Q: What kind of assistance is most needed?

A: Education is one of the greatest needs. The education partners in Cox’s Bazar have set up learning centers that provide three shifts of two-hour lessons. However, it is not enough. Men and women often express a desire to learn new skills. 

The UN has already announced that the Rohingya refugee crisis will be a protracted issue. History shows that once a refugee crisis becomes protracted, refugees often spend decades in the settlement camps. A long-term solution is necessary to ensure that a whole generation does not end up without education or opportunities to better their lives.

— Nikki Kallio

https://www.rotary.org/en/rotary-peace-fellow-helps-refugees-fleeing-myanmar

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