Empowering women and girls in Afghanistan

By Bibi Bahrami, member of the Rotary Club of Muncie and founder of AWAKEN

Growing up as a young girl in the peaceful village of Qala-e-Malakh in Afghanistan, I was part of a loving family with ten brothers and sisters. We were happy, but little did we know that our lives would soon face devastation as the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979. I was frightened and scared for my life and for the lives of my loved ones. Every time I heard shots or explosions, I trembled at the thought of losing a family member.

In the face of war, we were forced to flee our home, leaving everything behind to head towards refugee camps in Pakistan. A long journey awaited us as we traveled through mountains without much food or water, with small children and my mother who was eight months pregnant at the time. We arrived to the camps safely where I spent the next six years of my life. My life had been turned upside down. Growing up, I always had aspirations and dreams to be educated, and hoped for the opportunity to pursue them. My six years in the camp did not give me that opportunity, but I tried to learn what I could from my brothers’ books.

In 1986, I boarded a plane to meet my fiancé, who was a medical student in the United States who I had met in the refugee camp in Pakistan. My trip brought me to Muncie, Indiana, and I was blessed with the opportunity that I had always wanted. I was finally able to pursue my education, completing a GED and continuing on to receive an art degree from Ball State University. As my life has moved on from my home in Qala-e-Malakh and the refugee camps, I never forgot about the girls I left behind who have the same dreams as I did.

My husband and I continued to travel back to the refugee camps in Pakistan every year, with medicine and other humanitarian supplies. In 2002, with the support of family and friends, we established AWAKEN (Afghan Women and Kids Education & Necessities) to provide educational opportunities, vocational training, and healthcare services to the people of Afghanistan, especially the women and children.

As part of AWAKEN, we offered a vocational training program where we traveled from village to village and rented a room conveniently located near women’s homes. We conducted a six-month course teaching women basic hygiene, reading, writing, and sewing. At the end of the course, all women received a sewing machine and kit so they could become self-sufficient.

There were also no opportunities for education in my hometown of Qala-e-Malakh. In 2004, AWAKEN established a school for children grades K-12. The school now has more than 1200 students enrolled.

Most villages in Afghanistan do not have access to any sort of healthcare. In 2008, we built the Behsood Health Clinic which provides over 500 families access to basic treatments such as vaccines, birth control, etc. The clinic sees more than 180 patients daily.

Recently, AWAKEN partnered with the Rotary Club of Muncie Sunrise (United States) and the Rotary Club of Jalalabad (Afghanistan) to establish a Saheli Center. The center will open near the current AWAKEN clinic and school providing literacy, nutrition, and reproductive health classes. The center will also provide vocational education, including but not limited to computers and tailoring expanding upon AWAKEN’s efforts.

One of my biggest dreams was to open a birthing center in the village. AWAKEN created a birthing center to provide prenatal and postnatal care. With the support of partnering Rotary clubs, we will expand our efforts by conducted Family Planning Workshops taught by medical professionals from the Rotary Club of Jalalabad and the AWAKEN clinic staff. Birth attendants will also conduct small workshops on pre-natal nutrition, birthing practices and infant nutrition, including breast feeding for those receiving pre-natal care. Small packages of infant care supplies provided by the Rotary clubs will be given to women who complete all the classes.

I was once a little girl in Afghanistan with limited opportunities, and am blessed to have the life I enjoy today. Unfortunately, people living in impoverished countries do not have access to the opportunities and resources that I do now. Together we can make a difference in the lives of many women and children in Afghanistan, so that they can awaken to a brighter future with opportunities for continuing their education and becoming self-sufficient!

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Ethical dilemma: what would you do?

As your club’s vocational service chair, you have been engaging young professionals through mentorship initiatives and career counseling projects. You would like more of your fellow club members to participate in these initiatives since many of the mentees are starting off in their careers and you want to introduce them to Rotary and all it offers. You would like to see the young professionals join your club, but have received feedback that they cannot attend your club’s meetings because of the cost and inconvenient time.

You propose to your club leadership that they should change the location, time, and introduce a reduced cost option to attract young professionals. The youth have mentioned that they like to meet with one another at a local bar, so you suggest your club starts meetings at this location instead where drinks and food are optional making it more affordable for the prospective members. Your club leadership is opposed to this idea; they believe it will drive away current members who are not comfortable in that setting. You believe these changes will help attract young professionals to join your club while helping members get more engaged with youth.

What would you do?

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If you would like to submit an ethical dilemma for discussion, email us at rotary.service@rotary.org.

Prioritizing women’s and girl’s health through Rotary and Peace Corps

By Katie Northcott, Rotary Global Grants Scholar and Returned Peace Corps Volunteer

“Je ne sais pas quoi faire”. I don’t know what to do. Six words that can define any experience with an unintended pregnancy, especially for a teenager. In this case, I was standing in front of a 16-year-old Burkinabe girl who had participated in a youth sexual health education camp I had organised just a few weeks earlier. During the camp, she learned about sexual and reproductive health issues including contraception, gender-based violence, sexually transmitted infections and HIV, and the importance of planning for the future. During the session on pregnancy, the young woman realised that perhaps the symptoms she was experiencing were more than just general illness. A pregnancy test at the health clinic the following week confirmed her fears.

My Peace Corps service in Burkina Faso, where this experience took place, guided my current career path and life focus. I wanted my work to ensure that other young people would not find themselves in similar situations. Initially motivated by the concept of economic opportunity in Sub-Saharan Africa as a conduit to support women’s rights, I had pursued Economics, African Studies, and French during my undergraduate studies.

A research project studying women’s experiences starting their businesses took me to Senegal where I met the president of a micro-finance office providing income-generating activity training as well as contraceptive and reproductive health services. Here, I directly connected a woman’s and girl’s well-being and participation in the public and economic sphere to the ability to make choices about her own health. From then on, I knew I wanted to focus on sexual and reproductive health rights, which led me to apply to Peace Corps and serve as a Community Health Development volunteer in Burkina Faso.

Working in a rural setting in a country with some of the world’s worst health outcomes, particularly for maternal, neonatal and child health, is challenging. As a volunteer, you often expect to make ground-breaking changes in your host community within a two-and-a-half-year time span. Realistically, projects and their outcomes only reach a small community, and their effects may not be seen until after the end of one’s service.

However, the focus on local, context-specific solutions – working from grassroots community level rather than a top-down approach – became a cornerstone of my career goals. I decided to apply for a Master’s degree in Population and Development at the London School of Economics, focusing on sexual and reproductive health in low-resource settings in Sub-Saharan Francophone Africa.

After much research, I applied for a Rotary Global Grants scholarship to help me pursue the graduate degree. I was awarded a scholarship focused in maternal and child health through District 7620 in the United States. Rotary’s alignment with Peace Corps’ own vision, to make a lasting impact on the world around us, made me feel proud to be a Global Grants scholar. Upon arriving in London, the Rotary community was warm and welcoming. While I have since left London, I still feel very much a part of the Rotary community.

Once I completed my degree, I began working for AmplifyChange, a multi-donor fund providing grants to civil society organisations in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Latin America who advocate for and promote better policy and action on neglected sexual and reproductive health and rights issues. As a member of the grants support team, I interact with grantees who are doing vitally important work all over the world.

Without first living in Burkina Faso with Peace Corps and working on the ground, my goal to continue supporting local efforts to advocate for sexual and reproductive health rights would not be realised. Without Rotary’s grant for my master’s degree, my pursuit of this goal would have been nearly impossible to achieve in such a short span of time. Now, I can contribute to the work of organisations around the world who envision universal access to the services and protections individuals need to fulfil their sexual and reproductive health and rights.

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Preventing cervical cancer in Kenya

By Judy Wolf, Immediate Past President of the Rotary Club of Davis, California, USA

Kenya is a land of utter beauty, stunning exotic animals, crowded road-side markets, robust farmlands, and friendly people. Astonishingly, nearly 5000 Kenyan women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year, and 50% will die from this disease.  A disease that is nearly 100% preventable.

Our vocational training team left for Kenya in October 2016 in hopes of making a difference in the lives of these brave women. We couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride, knowing that we were a part of a team, organized by the Rotary Club of Davis (United States) through a Rotary Foundation Global Grant, sent to Kenya to provide cervical cancer screenings, treatment, and education to women in the poor and needy region of South Nyanza. Kenya has a population of almost 13 million women aged 15 years and older who are at risk of developing cervical cancer. The bedrock of economic life in Kenya revolves around women working in their prime. And when we save women, we save their children as well.

During our first team visit, we set up medical clinics at Homabay County Referral Hospital and Kendu Bay Sub-District Hospital. The medical team, consisting of a medical director, four doctors, and a native Kenyan nurse practitioner, spent the first seven days at Homabay where 163 cervical examinations were performed. These routine examinations led to four women needing cryotherapy to freeze lesions and three women receiving the lifesaving Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure (LEEP). Sadly, one of the ladies was discovered to have terminal cervical cancer. Our team was in awe of her courage and strength as she sat with her husband while the Kenyan physician explained to her the stark truth of her situation.   We will never forget this beautiful woman and her husband.

Kendu Bay Sub-District Hospital was our next life-saving visit. There, the team examined 215 women and performed five cryotherapy treatments and six LEEPs. Thankfully, most of the women were found to be disease-free.

We are proud to report that our trip was successful. The team trained Kenyan physicians and nurses on how to identify cervical lesions, and now the trained doctors and nurses are equipped to carry out the work and train other Kenyan medical professionals.

We look forward to our second team trip in June 2017 to the same region to do follow-up examinations and treatment, and offer additional training. During our final trip in November 2017, we’ll hold follow-up examinations, conduct a skills assessment of the trained medical professionals, and donate medical equipment to each of the hospitals.

We are profoundly grateful to The Rotary Foundation and the clubs that supported this life-saving global grant. We share a sense of honor and deep satisfaction to have been able to serve the women of Kenya in partnership with our Rotary community.

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Rotary members are dedicated to maternal and child health

By Azka Asif, Rotary Service and Engagement Staff 

According to the World Health Organization, nearly 830 women die every day from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. 99% of maternal deaths occur in developing countries where nearly half of all mothers and newborns do not receive care during and after birth. The leading causes of death for children under 5 are birth complications, pneumonia, birth asphyxia, diarrhea and malaria. These deaths can be prevented and treated with access to healthcare services.*

Healthcare before, during and after childbirth can save the lives of women and newborn babies. The United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages, addresses all major health priorities, including reproductive, maternal and child health; access for all to safe, effective, quality and affordable medicines and vaccines.*

Rotary members are working diligently towards this goal through projects that provide education, immunizations, birth kits, mobile health clinics, and much more. Women are taught how to prevent mother-to-infant HIV transmission, how to breast-feed, and how to protect themselves and their children from disease. Here are just a few examples of Rotary projects that are saving mothers and children:

  • Rotary clubs in the Philippines are implementing the Cradle of Hope project which provides cradle boxes for newborn babies. Each box contains postpartum care materials and newborn supplies such as grooming and healthcare kits, and clothing for babies up to 9 months of age.
  • The Rotary Club of Accra East in Ghana conducted a community-wide medical outreach program. More than 300 members of the community, including many women and children, benefited from health screenings and received necessary medical supplies.
  • The Rotary Club of Dhaka North in Bangladesh assists pregnant women who cannot afford the cost of delivery by providing no cost surgeries and other necessary medicine during emergencies.
  • After learning about high mortality rates in India, Past Rotary International Director Ken Collins organized a vocational training team consisting of two gynecologists and two midwives. The team traveled with him from Australia to Raipur, India, to train local health workers on best obstetrical practices aimed at reducing the high mortality rate of mothers and babies due to childbirth.
  • In Nigeria, the Rotary Club of Calabar South-CB partnered with the Rotaract Club of Canaan City CB to educate mothers on how to combat infant mortality, and promote the health of both mother and child during and after birth. Rotary members donated materials to help nursing mothers and babies including diapers, detergents, toilet papers, and baby soaps.

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Throughout the month of April, Rotary Maternal and Child Health Month, take action to support mothers and children. Read more stories about maternal and child health to gain inspiration for club and district service projects. Post your club’s project on Rotary Showcase, find a project to support on Rotary Ideas, or join the conversation in My Rotary’s discussion groups!

*http://www.who.int
https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org

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Talk with area of focus experts in Rotary discussion groups!

By Chelsea Mertz, Rotary Service Connections staff

Rotary discussion groups offer a place for Rotarians, Rotaractors, Rotary Peace Fellows, and alumni to share their experiences and ideas with members of the Rotary family from around the world.

Experts from the Rotary Foundation Cadre of Technical Advisers, a group of volunteer Rotarians who provide technical expertise and advice to Rotarians planning and carrying out Rotary projects, are moderating the area of focus-related discussion groups from 15 January until 30 June. Whether you are looking to pursue a global grant or learn how to assess a community, our experts are here to answer your questions and guide discussions on the most pertinent topics.

Meet our moderators and click the links below to join the conversations.

Basic Education and Literacy (BEL)

Ian Geddes | Rotary Club of Tranent, Scotland | District 1020

Ian is an educator specializing in languages. He has evaluated applications for projects involving foreign language learning and has experience conducting advanced site visits in the area of curriculum development with particular emphasis on information technology.

Past Rotary International Director John Thorne | Rotary Club of North Hobart, Australia | District 9830

John is currently the Chair of the Literacy Rotarian Action Group. As a former education administrator, his areas of expertise are in teacher trainings and addressing the needs of children and adults in different environments. John believes his transferable strength is to listen and share insights and seek practical steps forward within BEL. He remains an active learner.

Disease Prevention and Treatment (DPT)

Dennis Addo | Rotary Club of Accra-Ring Road Central, Ghana | District 9102

Dennis directs the tuberculosis control program for the Ghanaian Armed Forces. He is a public health expert and a healthcare administrator.

Indumati Nair | Rotary Club of Bombay Chembur West, India | District 3141

Indumati is a pathologist focusing on health screening and preventative medicine. She serves as a health consultant for the Times of India newspaper. Her research interests include cancer screening for women, HIV screening, tuberculosis, diabetes and anemia. Her focus is on vocational training teams and capacity building.

Maternal and Child Health (MCH)

Prudence Nelson | Rotary Club of St. Joseph & Benton Harbor, USA | District 6360

Prudence is a practicing pediatrician with over 30 years of experience. She holds a Master’s of Public Health in Preventive Medicine as well as a Master’s of Infectious Disease from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. She is a frequent volunteer with Medical Teams International traveling to conflict zones and sites of recent disasters to provide emergency medical services to vulnerable populations.

Richard Randolph | Rotary Club of Shawnee, USA | District 5710

Richard is a board certified family physician, who includes obstetrics and pediatrics in his practice. He has served as the Chief of Primary Care for Fort Bragg, NC (US Army Base for 40,000 soldiers and 20,000 dependents) and sits on the Board of Directors for College Park Family Care which has over 90 physicians. He completed a graduate certificate in Public Health in the Developing World through the Institute for International Medicine.

Water and Sanitation (WAS)

Past District Governor Ronald Pickford | Rotary Club of Ballarat, Australia | District 9780

Ronald first joined Rotary in 1985 and has served in many different leadership roles. Professionally, Ronald is an architect who runs a private practice. In recent years, he has moved into teaching and currently serves in the role of Faculty Head Architectural Technologies and Design at Federation University Australia, a position he has held for ten years. As a TRF Cadre member, Ronald has undertaken several assignments in many countries.

Past District Governor Jan Leentvaar | Rotary Club of Lelystad, Netherlands | District 1590

Jan was a managing director for the Netherlands Ministry of Water Management and has considerable experience in change management in government institutions. He completed foreign assignments, some with the United Nations. He is considered an expert in integrated water resources management, water pollution and water quality control, wastewater treatment, and institutional collaboration on water issues.

Economic and Community Development (ECD)

Tristam Johnson | Rotary Club of Brattleboro Sunrise, USA | District 7870

Tristam has over 18 years of experience in Latin America working on community development projects that focus on local governance, education, health, economic development, micro enterprise, and project design. His areas of expertise include microenterprise, community assessment, and project design.

Lynne Duckham | Rotary Club of Canberra Sunrise, Australia | District 9710

Lynne has worked in economic and community development for over 30 years in developed, developing and troubled nations. During this time, she has had the unique perspective of representing a government donor, an international NGO, and a beneficiary government. She has worked with people from remote communities to the heads of state across a variety of sectors (including education, health, nutrition, fisheries, agriculture, microcredit, infrastructure and livelihood development, capacity building, and community development during conflict.)

Peace and Conflict Prevention/Resolution (PCPR)

Simona Pinton | Rotary Club of Pagova Euganea, Italy | District 2060

Simona is a lawyer and former Rotary Peace Scholar. Her professional experience lays in teaching and researching on issues dealing with international and internal conflicts, peace and conflict prevention/solution tools, as well as conceptual defining, thinking, designing and assessing of local and transnational projects on the same issues.

M.D. Kinoti | Rotary Club of Westminster 7:10, USA | District 5450

M.D. has over 25 years’ experience in International Nongovernmental Organizations (INGOs) and university level teaching and leadership. He currently teaches Nonprofit/Nongovernmental Organizations’ (NP/GOs’) Management within the Master of Nonprofit Management (MNM) degree program at Regis University. His research interests include the role of NP/NGOs in facilitating sustainable and transformational community development and peacebuilding. He also has interests in social entrepreneurship and innovation as part of sustainable development.

All discussion groups can be found in My Rotary (must be signed in to access).

Rotary Community Corps empowers people living with Alzheimer’s and Dementia

By Past District Governor Barry Clayman, District 7950, President of Rotary Community Corps of Adult Day Health Programs, Inc.

In 2001, the program director of Adult Day Health Care (ADHC) at the New England Sinai Hospital in Stoughton, Massachusetts, USA, reached out to the Rotary Club of Brockton for financial assistance. This outpatient program offers each participant individualized professional and nursing health care based on their needs. The intent of the request was to financially assist families that could not afford the program. Those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s/Dementia, and other medical issues, could be well served if able to participate.

An estimated 120,000 people, in Massachusetts, live with Alzheimer’s/Dementia and that number is expected to grow. The club president reached out to me in my capacity as District Governor at the time and we decided to form a Rotary Community Corps (RCC). RCCs, composed of members from the local community, help plan and carry out projects based on their community’s needs. With the support of the District, the Club established the Rotary Community Corps of Adult Day Health Programs, Inc. (RCCADHP) to support the clients needing the outpatient Adult Day Health Care services.

The RCCADHP is a 501(c)(3) non-profit tax exempt entity with the goal of providing funding for clients that meet care and financial qualifications. At the time of this writing, the RCC has provided 9,100 ADHC outpatient days, at the Hospital, with a value of $542,600 USD.

The beneficiaries are able to avoid nursing homes by continuing to live in the comfort of their own homes while receiving needed daily outpatient services and care at the hospital. Their family members are at peace knowing their loved ones are in a nurturing environment, receive two meals each day, and participating in stimulating activities with opportunities for socialization. This allows families respite to work and maintain other responsibilities.

The Rotary Community Corps of Adult Day Health Programs, Inc. is led by twelve members of a Board of Directors and is an entirely volunteer organization with no paid employees.  Funding for the RCC is generated from grants, Rotarians and fundraising.  The most recent grant is from the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America. In the spring, we will host our Annual Stepping-Up Walkathon to raise money and awareness.

While the RCC addresses the need of clients with existing Alzheimer’s/Dementia and other medical issues, we understand the need for scientific research to work towards an ultimate goal of determining the cause of these illnesses. Studies project an exponential increase in the number of Alzheimer’s/Dementia cases in the years ahead.  To that concern, Rotary is stepping forward in supporting much needed research. Our RCC aims to continue to support those in our local community suffering from Alzheimer’s/Dementia while raising awareness of these illnesses.

Contact us to learn more or start a similar program in your area.

Making a splash on World Water Day!

By the Water and & Sanitation Rotarian Action Group (Wasrag)

Today, World Water Day, is a wonderful opportunity to take a look back at the goals Rotary members have achieved in the Wash, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector. Founded in 2007, the Water & Sanitation Rotarian Action Group (Wasrag) strived to reach the Millennium Development Goal’s target of reducing the number of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation by 50% by the year 2015.  Rotary members around the world played a significant role in meeting that ambition goal, five years ahead of schedule.

But, nearly 663,000 million people lack access to safe water.* There is still much work to be done. The new Sustainable Development Goal 6 is calling for action to ensure everyone has access to water and sanitation by 2030.

Join WASH-minded Rotarians in meeting the water challenge, providing sanitation and most importantly – adopting proper hygiene practices. Rotary is leading the charge in many areas, including:

  • Rotary’s WASH in Schools Target Challenge: a pilot program to develop sustainable WASH and education projects in Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, India and Kenya.
  • Partnering with the U.S Agency for International Development (USAID) to implement sustainable, long-term projects to improve water supply, sanitation, and hygiene in the Dominican Republic, Ghana, and the Philippines.
  • Providing clean, safe water to every public school in Lebanon, so students can be healthier and be able to focus on their education.
  • A major program in Mali, one of the world’s poorest countries, to rehabilitate old water points and build new ones. The project also includes construction of a number of public latrines in schools, markets and health centers.

These are just a few examples of the many Rotary projects focused on WASH! Make this World Water Day the day you commit to joining Rotary’s water team by taking action. Contact us at info@wasrag.org or learn more at www.wasrag.org.

Join the global celebration by using #WorldWaterDay to share messages about Rotary Water and Sanitation initiatives on social media.

* Source:  www.water.org

World Water Summit

Are you attending the 2017 Rotary International Convention? Come early and join us for Wasrag’s Annual World Water Summit! The 2017 summit will focus on WASH and Women – A Brighter Future.

Hear first-hand the stories of women in the developing world and how access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene has transformed their lives. Learn about the challenges they faced and how Rotary helped along the way.

Stay for the afternoon workshops which will be focused on global grants, behavior change strategies, choosing the best technology for your project, engaging with communities, gender issues, and approaches to menstrual hygiene management.

Date: Friday, 9 June, 2017
Location: Georgia World Congress Center
Time: 8:30 – 12:30
Register today!

Planning successful water and sanitation projects

By Carolyn Crowley Meub, former member of the Water and Sanitation Rotarian Action Group (Wasrag) Board and Executive Director of Pure Water for the World, an organization started by the Brattleboro, Vermont Rotary Club

Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing Erica Gwynn, Rotary’s Area of Focus Manager for Water and Sanitation Hygiene (WASH) about the components of a successful global grant. During our interview, we didn’t just discuss global grants. We spoke during the holiday season, when food is part of many conversations. It was for this reason that Erica and I first started discussing cooking and favorite recipes.

As we moved onto the real purpose of the conversation, we discussed how recipes and global grants are similar. Both require time, the proper tools, and need to have all the key ingredients before you begin. When one cooks or bakes, we envision the end result. When designing a water and sanitation project, there are necessary steps to be taken and key programmatic elements are needed.  We must start with the end in mind.

Carolyn: What is the unique perspective Rotary members bring to global WASH projects?

Erica: Rotarians bring a unique perspective to the project that non-government organizations cannot. Rotarians have relationships with local leaders, and they know the needs and capacity of the community. Understanding the local culture, water sources and availability, and community resources are critical to the success of the project. Rotarians are key to the design, planning and forecasting.  The more we see local Rotarians’ involvement, the greater chance for the grant being approved.

Carolyn: What are the key ingredients in successful and sustainable WASH projects?

Erica:

  1. Engagement with the community from the beginning to end – from the needs assessment phase, to post-completion monitoring and evaluation phase.
  2. Engage with other organizations and local or regional governments. There needs to be integration with other existing programs. Rotary-funded programs are part of the greater whole, and there should a collaborative effort made with other entities. Rotarians need to be at the table with other organizations to address the WASH needs and the solutions.

Rotarians cannot work in isolation. We know that the “Rotary Bubble” is not sustainable.  We need to expand upon the other work that has been done in the area as to not be a “one-off” project.

Carolyn: How else can Rotary members get involved within the WASH sector?

Erica: I believe the strength of Rotary is the advocacy role they offer, that can influence decision-makers with making real systemic changes in the role of governments. Rotarians are in a unique position, as they have great and extensive networks. Rotarians have changed national agendas.

Read the complete interview on the Wasrag blog.

Wasrag is an international group of Rotarians, their family members, program participants and alumni with expertise and passion in water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH). Wasrag advises on club and district WASH projects while offering a wealth of resources for enhancing initiatives. Visit www.wasrag.org to access resources, become a member, or request assistance.

Related: 

  • Read more stories about water and sanitation projects to gain inspiration for club and district service projects.

From “over there” to “over here” – access to toilets changes lives

 By Clem van den Bersselaar, member of Rotary Club of Ormoc Bay (Philippines)

If you ask a Filipino living in a rural area of the Philippines where they go to the toilet, they will turn their head towards a non-specific direction and say “over there.” This means that they use any location that gives them some sort of privacy to do their needs. Women generally have to go longer distances to avoid prying eyes and avoid assaults. In fact, when one talks to local community health workers about the risks of open defecation, they tell you about parasitic and bacterial infections while also emphasizing the high percentage of women being molested or harassed.

In November 2013, part of the Leyte province in the Philippines was hit by the devastating typhoon Haiyan, the country’s worst typhoon affecting 25 million people and claiming nearly 6000 lives while leaving tremendous damage throughout the island.

Immediately after the typhoon, Rotary clubs from various countries came to the rescue. Local clubs responded with food supplies and worked with NGOs to begin rebuilding homes. Once immediate relief was provided, the focus shifted to meet sanitary requirements in restoring water supply and the construction of toilet facilities.

The Rotary Club of Ormoc Bay identified the WAND Foundation (Water, Agro-forestry, Nutrition and Development) as having the expertise to construct 20,000 latrines together with various NGO’s immediately after the typhoon in the province of Samar in the Philippines. WAND Foundation’s previous contacts with the Malmö (Sweden) International Rotary Club, provided a natural connection to propose this project at the 8th Multi Club Workshop (MCW) held in Ischia, Italy.  The project was accepted by the MCW and the partners applied for a global grant, which was approved in February 2016.  Seven Rotary clubs and three districts from Italy, the Philippines and Sweden contributed to the US $52,000 project.

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The project included constructing 222 toilets in various barangays, six rainwater collectors, seven communal handwashing stations, 20 biosand filters, and community-led training seminars for the beneficiary communities. As a result, this project has provided nearly 1100 people with access to proper toilet facilities and almost 600 people now have a regular supply of clean water. The community-led training seminar included a series of group discussions and a workshop to demonstrate which practices can prevent water contamination and to recognize the interconnection of water, sanitation and hygiene. We also discussed the medical costs related to open defecation in order to help the community understand how much money is spent on treating illnesses resulting from poor sanitation and hygiene.

We are happy to report the beneficiary communities have not had a single case of parasitic or diarrheal infections since the project was completed. Now when asked where they go to the toilet, the proud community members say “over here”!

Looking for international projects to support? Attend the 2017 Multi-Club Workshop in London, England. The 11th annual event will take place 6-10 September. Learn more about the workshop and visit their website for more information! 

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