Philippine Rotary Day shines a light on Rotary Community Corps

By Jesse Allerton, Supervisor, Rotary Service Connections

Jesse

Being greeted by the RCC Amparo group. Thanks for the warm welcome!

One of the best aspects of my job is supporting and promoting Rotary Community Corps (RCCs). These are teams of men and women organized with the help of a sponsoring Rotary club to take action and improve their communities. RCCs empower their members to play an active and ongoing role in identifying and addressing their community’s needs. And they provide local leadership and sustainability to ensure that projects succeed.

On 22 August, I had the opportunity to attend a national Rotary Day in Manila celebrating the accomplishments of RCCs and other community service partners. The event was held at the Tuloy Foundation’s Don Bosco Streetchildren Village, an amazing nonprofit institution that has provided residential care and vocational training to more than 17,000 disadvantaged youth over the past 20 years. More than 600 Rotarians, RCC officers, and civic leaders came together for the event.

The day included a keynote speech by RI President Gary Huang, an address from the Vice President of the Philippines, Mr. Jejomar C. Binay (a Rotarian!), and inspirational remarks from Tuloy’s founder, Fr. Rocky Evangelista. Fr. Rocky shared the story of the Don Bosco Streetchildren’s Village, from its humble beginnings serving twelve children in a small room, to its present-day 4.5 hectare community, which serves up to 1,000 children at any given time. A group of the Tuloy kids put on a fun song and dance performance showing the confidence and optimism they’ve gained through this program.

The Rotary Community Corps program was first developed in the Philippines in 1986, and throughout the day, RCCs were lauded (in the words of one speaker) as “the Philippines’ legacy to humanity.” President Huang praised RCCs for “finding solutions, not excuses” for community problems. Incoming RCC officers had the rare privilege of being inducted into office on stage by RI President Huang and their country’s own vice president, Mr. Binay.

The Rotarians I met in the Philippines are truly some of the most friendly and hospitable people you could ever hope to encounter. While enjoying a Filipino lunch of lechon (crispy pork) and adobo (marinated chicken), I was introduced to several Rotarians who serve on the national RCC committee. They generously arranged to take me to visit several RCCs the following day.

The next morning, after several hours of driving through Manila’s notorious traffic, my hosts first took me to visit the RCC Amparo group, a collective of 8 RCCs whose members live in various public housing communities in Caloocan City. I was warmly greeted by the presidents of these RCCs and members of their sponsoring Rotary Club of Makati EDSA. They first took me to their meeting place, where each of the RCC presidents talked about the various projects their groups have been working on. We then visited one of the public housing communities where their members live and work on a variety of initiatives ranging from cleanup projects to building a children’s library to health awareness and medical outreach campaigns.

Our next visit took us several more hours into a rural, mountainous province to visit the RCC Calawis. RCC Calawis was sponsored just four years ago by the Rotary Club of Makati-San Lorenzo in a remote farming community. In that brief time, the RCC members have carried out a wide variety of agricultural and livelihood-building projects, which they proudly showed us. With the help of seed funding from The Rotary Foundation and the Rotary Club of Taipei Capital in Taiwan, the RCC grows crops like yams and taro for sustenance, bamboo for artisanal crafts, and fruits like papaya and rambutan for sale in local markets. After a scenic uphill hike visiting these projects, our hosts treated us to an amazing meal of rice, fish, and (of course!) adobo, cooked outdoors and served on a table of banana leaves.

All of the wonderful conversations and interactions I had with RCC members and their Rotarian partners during my time in the Philippines reinforced my admiration for this amazing program, which expands and multiplies Rotary’s community impact in ways that clubs can’t do on their own.

A special thank you to all of my kind hosts in Rotary District 3830—especially the Rotary Club of Makati EDSA, the Rotary Club of Makati-San Lorenzo, the RCC Amparo group, and RCC Calawis—for taking the time to show me around and sharing all the incredible work they do.

Visit rotary.org to learn more about Rotary Community Corps and other Rotary Days taking place around the world during 2014-15.

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Volunteers educate children and save lives in the face of Ebola outbreak

By Samuel Enders, Rotary Club of Yonkers-East Yonkers, New York, USA

With students from the African Dream Academy

Sam Enders with students from the African Dream Academy

Having grown up in poverty in Liberia, West Africa, I know firsthand both the dire need for better educational opportunities in that country and the empowerment that a quality education provides. As the youngest of nine children, I experienced the death of my father when I was just two months old. Simply to survive, I routinely searched through garbage cans for food. Other necessities, such as clothing, were hard to come by. Healthcare and education were unaffordable and out of reach. In fact, by the age of 15, I had only managed to receive a third grade education. My challenges were only compounded as Liberia succumbed to a bloody civil war that ravaged the country’s economy, infrastructure and its people. Unfortunately, my early childhood experience mirrors that of so many children across Liberia — and much of Africa — even today.

Through determination and providence, today I am very fortunate to have obtained a bachelor’s degree in Organizational Leadership and a master’s degree in Divinity and Education. Currently a resident of New York City, I am pursuing an M.B.A. Now my greatest passion, and the cause to which I have dedicated my life, is to help Liberia’s youth of today escape Liberia’s iron grip of poverty through education.

I founded African Dream Academy (ADA) in 2005. From 2005 to 2011, ADA provided counseling to 6,000 Liberian children for two week periods several times a year to inspire them to reach their dreams and to educate them in the life skills they desperately need. In 2012 we opened our first fully academic school where we currently educate 140 children in classes from Nursery through the fourth grade.

My dream to educate the poor children of Liberia has been temporarily overshadowed by a greater priority: to keep them alive. The Ebola crisis in Liberia has been a tragic blow to a country already overwhelmed by poverty. Instead of worrying about my own safety and returning to the U.S. as all American volunteers have been advised to do, I organized 347 volunteers to go out into the community to educate people about prevention and to supply containers of chlorinated water to encourage hand washing. People lack knowledge about the disease and they don’t have running water. As school will not be able to open until Ebola is under control, the plan is for teachers to work with the ADA children in their neighborhoods, distributing work, correcting it and teaching the children in small groups until the government deems it safe for schools to open.

People are calling me from all over the country—they want to be educated about the disease and get the materials they need to wash their hands and stay safe. So far, we’ve reached 10,000 homes in 20 communities with materials and training for safe water and hygiene. We’ve provided emergency food and medical assistance to our ADA students, teachers, and the blind community. We also donated an ambulance to the one and only Ebola center in the country, ELWA hospital (which is about half a mile away from the school), as it did not have one and this greatly hampered the effort to fight the disease.

I took action as a Rotarian, a Liberian, and a human being to make a difference. The work is overwhelming. I am asking my fellow Rotarians and people around the world to give me and my volunteers hope and support.  You can help support this effort by contributing here. No gift is too small.

Learn more about the African Dream Academy on our website and see photos from our campaign on my Facebook page.

Lifecycle of a service project webinar lessons: Part 2

Understanding the Community

Project LifecycleBy Mary Jo Jean-Francois, Area of Focus Manager

Before implementing a project, you will want to get to know the community you will be working with.  Community assessment empowers people by giving them a voice in the process. This will ultimately lead to higher impact, longer lasting change in the community and will provide an equally satisfying experience for your club or district.

Part 2 of Lifecycle of a Service Project webinar series gave an overview of community needs assessments with real life experiences from fellow Rotarians. Watch a recording of the webinar and read these practical tips for conducting a community assessment:

1. Identify club goals. Knowing what your club finds important will help you identify projects your members will be excited to undertake. The best projects come about when club goals align with opportunities in a community. To accomplish this, panelist Tonya Gamble says her club went through a five year visioning process to determine “two things—that [we] wanted to work with youth and wanted to do something that the community really needed.”  This led them to build the first playground in their community that was 100% inclusive.

2. Remember, you are most likely an outsider. Although your club may be working on a local project, you may still be viewed as an outsider to the beneficiary community for various reasons. Keep an open mind as you approach a community and remember that you are there to learn. If you are planning to be the international partner on a global grant, work with the host Rotary club to assess the local community.

3. Get to know the community before beginning your assessment. Find out how the community likes to communicate: in small groups, through big, town hall discussions, or somewhere in between. Prepare open ended questions that allow community members to freely answer your questions. Assessments can be done formally and/or informally: decide what format your club members and members of the community are most comfortable with before you begin.

4. Ask and listen. Ask the community you are working in about their goals, strengths, needs and assets. Make sure to listen to their answers and avoid making any promises. Encourage the community when they answer your questions by telling them how informative and insightful their responses are. Identify some community members who can help to lead the project. Ready to talk to the community but don’t know where to start?  Check out Rotary’s Community Assessment Tools publication for ideas.

5. Give all members of the community an equal voice. When going into a community, consider all of the stakeholders you will come in contact with and how you can work with them. Some members of the community may be illiterate. In some communities, women do not feel comfortable sharing their opinions in front of fellow male members. Children are often the most open, honest and reliable sources for information! Take time to speak with all community members and continually reiterate to them that their voice is important.

6. Focus on building capacity. Be careful not to fall into a trap of asking only, “What do you need?” Often times this will result in a list of materials. See if your club can assist in building the capacity of a community through skill building, professional training, or by creating new programming.

7. Don’t forget about existing community strengths. While every community has needs, communities also have assets and strengths. Identify a community’s assets, resources that can be used to improve the quality of community life, and strengths to emphasize what the community does have. Then determine whether these assets and strengths can be used to meet the community’s needs. Remember, assets can be people, locations, goods, organizations, networks, and more! Communities are often able to meet their own needs; all it takes is facilitating a discussion or bringing together different stakeholders.

8. Identify potential partners. When talking with the community, ask to see if any other trusted organizations are already working in the area. If the community feels these groups are doing good work, consider connecting with them to see if there are areas where you can partner to avoid duplicating efforts.

9. Think about sustainability (it’s not too early!) Although you are just in the planning stages of your project, it’s important to start thinking about how your project will impact the community in the long-term. Panelist Andre Brandmueller stresses obtaining the community’s buy-in as the first step to ensure sustainability. For example, Andre spoke with teachers in local schools to hear their needs and goals for their students to create a lot more excitement around the project before it even began!

10. Make plans for measurement and evaluation now! When setting your objectives for a project, make sure there are some concrete things that you can measure. Don’t make your objectives so broad that you won’t be able to identify success. If this is your first time measuring a project, keep your measurements simple by limiting them to things that can be counted. Begin thinking about how you will use the information collected from your project to assist you in making even better projects for the future. What worked? What didn’t work? How can this help us in the future?

Visit My Rotary for additional project lifecycle resources.

Monrovia club spearheads Ebola relief campaigns in Liberia

Ebola1

Photo courtesy of Rotarian Wilson Idahor, Rotary Club of Monrovia

By Monique Cooper-Liverpool, Rotary Club of Monrovia, Liberia

Today is 2 September, we are just past the fifth month anniversary of Liberia’s first encounter with the Ebola virus.  We are now 41 days into a declared national health emergency, 28 days into a national state of emergency and on the 16th day of an imposed national curfew, the first since our civil conflict ended in 2003. Nine international airlines have cancelled or suspended service to Liberia, with only two international carriers continuing to operate, overbooked and overpriced.

As of two weeks ago, 613 lives have been lost to the Ebola virus, a total of confirmed, probable or suspected cases.  Countless others have also died because the frail remnants of the decimated hospitals, clinics and health centers simply cannot cope or health care workers are too afraid to treat more common illnesses or conduct routine procedures.

The Ebola virus has hit us at a vulnerable time: we are already on our third successive year of budget short-falls, low global prices in our export commodities and subsequently, high inflation and a soaring exchange rate.

Ebola2

Photo courtesy of Rotarian Wilson Idahor, Rotary Club of Monrovia

Obviously, this has been more than a clarion call for us as the Rotary Club of Monrovia and our Ebola support campaign began at our leadership induction on 4 July.  During her speech, Rotarian  Vicki Cooper-Enchia, our club president, committed the club to raise US$1,000 to purchase gloves for health care workers responding to Ebola patients.  We reached the target that same day and donated 10,000 gloves to the Ministry of Health on 7 July.

Since then, the number of recorded cases has nearly tripled and we’ve also stepped up our resource mobilization and response.  Through our club members who work in the Ministry of Health and Liberia’s largest teaching hospital, the John F. Kennedy Medical Center, we established contact with national response leaders to get accurate information on priority needs.

Over the past six weeks, our club has raised US$21,000 from organizations, companies and individuals to support our Ebola response campaign.  This tremendous generosity has allowed us to provide urgently needed items to hospitals, Ebola holding facilities and the Ministry of Health.  As we continue to donate, the needs also continue increasing in efforts to contain this deadly virus.

Our donations to the government have included 10,000 examination gloves, 3,000 pairs of sterile surgical gloves, 1200 pairs of gynecological gloves, 100 plastic buckets with spouts for hand-washing, 80 PVC covered mattresses for patients in holding & treatment facilities, 120 pairs of rubber rain boots for health care workers, fuel coupons for Ebola response vehicles, soap, bed sheets and mattress covers, tarpaulin for reconditioning a temporary hospital waiting area and assorted medicines and food items for patients undergoing treatment.

We hope to continue to support the national fight against this disease with a US$100,000 fundraising target to make our impact felt. Our demonstration of Service Above Self, through this Ebola response campaign has gained the respect of the Ministry of Health, the businesses we have engaged for supplies and the attention of the press.  We are committed to doing more and are hoping to harness the goodwill of Rotarians around the world.

Donate to our Ebola campaign here!

Donate to our Ebola campaign here!

The Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) causes hemorrhagic fever and currently has no cure.  Infected patients receive supportive care and fatality rates are between 60-90%.  The virus is spread through direct contact with bodily fluids of an infected person once they are demonstrating symptoms – high fever, sweating, diarrhea, vomiting, bleeding and internal organ failure.

For more information about the current situation in Liberia, visit Liberia’s Ministry of Health & Social Welfare website and receive updates from the World Health Organization

Lifecycle of a service project webinar lessons: Part 1

10 tips for conducting a successful service project

ProjectLifecycleBy Sheena Lilly, Rotary Membership staff

During 2013-14, with the help of more than 35 Rotarian presenters, we hosted a Lifecycle of a Service Project webinar series to help you make lasting improvements in communities around the world. Thank you to the more than 2,400 folks who joined us for these webinars to learn from fellow members and share their own best practices for success.

Part 1 of the series gave an introduction to the project lifecycle concept. Watch a recording of the webinar and read these practical tips for conducting a successful project:

1. Remember the four key stages to creating a service project:

  • PLAN – Work with your community to identify a need
  • ACQUIRE RESOURCES – Gather volunteers, subject matter experts, in-kind contributions and funding
  • IMPLEMENT – Now that you have a plan and resources; get to it! Promote your project in local media and on social media.
  • EVALUATE – Once the project is complete, take time to reflect on its impact, its successes, its challenges, and lessons learned.

2. Appoint experienced leaders. Webinar panelist Marion Spence says one of the primary lessons she has learned is to ensure “your Rotary leadership skills are [being used constructively]. Leadership is only as good as the Captain. Choose a good Captain.”

3. Do your research. Participants in the introductory webinar agreed that the Areas of Focus Guide is the most useful publication to consult when planning a service project. Find it, and other great resources, on the Lifecycle of a Project web page.

4. Plan for the long term. Sustainability is crucial for long-term success, and must be part of your plans from day one. Sustainability means providing lasting solutions that the benefiting community is motivated to—and capable of—maintaining after Rotary’s direct involvement ends. You can help ensure sustainability by empowering community members to take on responsibility for the project through training and capacity building.

5. Set goals and report achievements. Remember to update your service project goals in Rotary Club Central then see how close your estimate matches the actual resources and funding you used. Use this information to plan even better projects in the future. Share best practices with your groups!

6. Work with partners. Collaborate with Rotary’s partners or develop your own partnerships with organizations and government entities in your community.

7. Crowdsource for support. Are you looking for funding? A district or global grant from Rotary may be available. Or use Rotary Ideas, Rotary’s crowdsourcing tool, to find resources for your project.

8. Prepare contracts when purchasing goods or services. Rotarian John D. reminds us to “make sure to get [all agreements] in writing – on both sides of the project.”

9. Connect with your project partners. Rotarian William M., suggests “if at all possible, have someone from your club visit the host club, meet the members involved in the project, and visit the project at various stages.”

10. Tell your project story to gain support. Rotarian Sherri M. suggests “fundraising for a purpose helps ensure success of fundraiser — telling the story of how the funds raise will change the lives of the beneficiaries helps volunteers focus energy on the fundraiser and helps donors become willing partners in donating funds.”

Visit My Rotary for additional project lifecycle resources.

Preserving the Magic of our Natural Habitat

By: Karen Kendrick-Hands, Co-Chair of the Going Green Fellowship Group, Rotary Club of Madison, WI, USA

Karen post_pic_1Wishing on a shooting star, prodding a caterpillar to unzip its feet, picking ripe berries without getting scratched, throwing pine needles on the campfire and watching them spark, and catching (and releasing) slippery bass: all this magic I share with my grandson at our cabin by the lake. I want him to be able to share the same magic with his grandchildren, sixty years from now. I am grateful to be a part of my club’s “Going Green Fellowship Group” where we create opportunities for service and education around solutions to the global warming humanitarian crisis. Rotary’s vow to eradicate polio demonstrates exactly the tenacity that solving climate change requires. For me, addressing global warming is consistent with Rotary’s ethic of Service Above Self.

I am excited that our club has two programs that will be webcast live for worldwide viewing and feature speakers underscoring the importance of Rotarians engaging to help solve Global Warming. We invite you to join us:

Following the webcasts, recordings of both presentations will be available online: http://ics.webcast.uwex.edu/Mediasite6/Catalog/Full/d6e8fe556f304712941050a8bb6bf98721.

Note: Before the event, make sure your computer can open Mediasite, which requires a PC or Mac, an Internet connection, and the Silverlight plugin. Test your media player with this link: Why Webcast?; download the latest version of Silverlight Media Player.

Promoting literacy by recognizing young authors

By Diana White, past district governor and member of Rotary E-Club of the Caribbean, District 7020

Lapel Pin for WinnersIt all started when my friend Past District Governor Donna Wallbank opened my eyes to the very successful nationwide youth programs run by Rotary across the UK. I was amazed and inspired by these competition-based programs, particularly “Young Writer”. That gave me the idea of suggesting a contest as a project for our E-Club, the Rotary E-Club of the Caribbean.  The original plan was simply to run a story writing competition, but a brainstorming session with club members led to “we need to share these children’s stories online”.  As ideas were put forward, the Butterfly StoryBook emerged!

Young authors pose with their certificates of recognition for their contributions to the Butterfly Storybook

Young authors pose with their certificates of recognition for their contributions to the Butterfly Storybook

We couldn’t realize this dream without the support of the other clubs in District 7020. Clubs were invited to initiate their own local story writing contest and send the top three stories to us. These winning stories, focusing on Rotary ideals, came to life in the Butterfly StoryBook.  Feedback from students and teachers alike has been positive. They praise the Rotary club for focusing primary school children on important values such as truth, fairness, friendship and helping others.

After designing the book and posting it online in a magazine style, the next question was “how can we get this wonderful book published for all to read, and to do it for free?”!  Our assistant governor told us about CreateSpace, a self -publishing subsidiary of Amazon. All we had to do was provide the creativity and upload the book — free!

A student poses with his copy of the Butterfly Storybook, distributed by the Jamaican Reading Association

A student poses with his copy of the Butterfly Storybook, distributed by the Jamaican Reading Association

After the Butterfly StoryBook was published and placed on Amazon worldwide,  the Jamaica Reading Association (JRA) discovered it.  They needed to find an age appropriate book for children for Jamaica Reading Week and contacted our e-club directly. Their partnership has been incredible! They made copies of selected stories and their members and volunteers from First Heritage helped distribute the stories to 30 Jamaican primary schools.

We are grateful to JRA and proud to receive the Pearson Foundation Literacy Award. The grant will enable us to increase the number of Butterfly StoryBooks we can send to underprivileged students and to provide the JRA with hard copies of the books next year.

The Rotary-International Reading Association Literacy Award, made possible by the Pearson Foundation, recognized two literacy projects undertaken jointly by a Rotary club and International Reading Associate affiliated council.