Ethical dilemma discussion: what would you do?

According to survey results and a discussion at the start of the Rotary year, the majority of your fellow club members are very interested in partnering with local organizations that offer hands-on volunteer opportunities for club members and their families. As this years’ service chair, you have worked very hard to secure speakers who can offer flexible service opportunities throughout your community. Although club members have received each monthly speaker with great enthusiasm, very few have signed up for the volunteering opportunities. How do you encourage participation while respecting members’ time?

Growing local economies and communities

By Azka Asif, Rotary Programs staff 

To promote growth and development of local economies and communities, the United Nations (U.N.) Millennium Development Goals encourage us to focus on eradicating poverty, uplifting and empowering women, creating global partnerships for development, and ensuring environmental sustainability.

According to the 2014 U.N. progress report, extreme poverty has been reduced by half, women’s status in the labor market is improving, the debt burden on developing countries remains stable and the use of technology continues to grow with almost three billion people online and seven billion mobile-cellular subscriptions.

Throughout October, Rotary Economic and Community Development Month, we’re celebrating our progress and commitment to helping grow local economies. Here are just a few examples of club service projects helping improve communities around the world:

  • In Albania, the Rotary Clubs Gubbio and Korça worked with a local organization to provide 125 beehives to 25 families. To create a source of sustainable income, trainings on beekeeping anBeehive projectd sales of bee products were also conducted. At the end of the year, the beehives were split, creating 125 additional beehives for 25 more families.
  • The Rotary Club of Apo, Nigeria, aimed to empower widowed women in their community by providing microcredit loans for trading along with small business trainings on how to grow their businesses.
  • In India, the Rotary Club of Jamshedpur West provided vocational training for girls and women who are breadwinners of their families. The trainings focused onFinancial literacy training project developing skills in food processing, tailoring and computer proficiency allowing them to gain better employment or start their own business.
  • The Rotary Club of Kampala-Nsambya in Uganda conducted financial literacy trainings for hundreds of residents. The trainings focused on personal financial management, savings, loans, investments, insurance, and planning for retirement.
  • Working with a local organization, the Rotary Club of Makati-San Lorenzo, Philippines, provided microcredit loans to more thanRice farmers project 1500 rice farmers in their community. Club members also conducted trainings on rice mill operations for sustainable business efforts.
  • The Rotaract Club of Cairo Royal, Egypt, installed solar home systems for families in a remote village without access to electricity, changing the lives of people in the community by securing a basic need.

As the United Nations announces their new Sustainable Development Goals, we realize that although progress has been made, our work is not yet finished. We must continue to focus on promoting sustainable economic growth and achieve employment and decent work for all*.

Throughout the month of October, encourage fellow Rotary members to check back here for tips, resources, and inspirational success stories to help plan club and district economic and community development projects. Add your voice to the conversation using the blog’s commenting feature and share how your club supports economic and community development initiatives on Rotary Showcase. 

*[United Nations Sustainable Development Agenda 2015]


Find international service partners in Ecuador

By Amparo Albuja, District 4400 XI Project Fair Committee Chair


International visitors learn about local club projects at the X Ecuador Project Fair

Every year, District 4400’s local clubs showcase their service projects to Rotarian visitors at the Ecuador Project Fair. These events help foster international partnerships to collaboratively address community concerns through Rotarian-led projects.

Last year’s Fair helped us strengthen existing international relationships while building new partnership in service. The event brought attention to the rising importance of organic agriculture in Ecuador. One of our most popular projects proposed the creation of an agro-ecological demonstration farm to train local farmers on new approaches to farming. Another related project proposed the creation of an auto-sustainable community based on the production of organic fertilizers. Both projects quickly found needed support from our U.S. Rotarian visitors.

Small clubs without global grant experience also have options to obtain international support. Last year, a project providing water treatment plants to eight poor communities, each to be carried out by a different club, found support from our international visitors. Replicating this model, a similar project targeting six communities will be presented at the 2015 Fair.


A group of international visitors exploring Quito during the X Ecuador Project Fair

Project fairs offer unique opportunities to develop international service partnerships within the Rotary family. Visitors personally meet the local Rotarian project sponsors and establish international service partnerships. These partnerships often evolve into long lasting friendships. Visitors also experience our beautiful country and culture and have options to embark on affordable excursions.

This year, the XI District 4400 Ecuador Project Fair will be hosted at the Swissotel in the beautiful city of Quito from Friday, November 13 through Sunday, November 15. View the full program and register online.





Rotary’s young leaders improve communities through education and literacy projects

By Jessie Dunbar-Bickmore, RI Programs staff

Young leaders around the world are dedicating their time and talents to helping fellow students improve basic education and literacy skills. Through mentorship and skills training to instilling a love for learning, Interactors are addressing some of the most pressing educational needs in their local communities and across the globe:

The Interact Club of Sekolah Sri Cempaka, Kuala Lampur, Malaysia, pioneered the iTeach iLearn iGrow campaign, an effort to assist fellow youth at the Dignity for Children Foundation. With funds raised from a walkathon, the Interactors purchased six computers and dedicated many weekend mornings to teach students at the Dignity for Children Foundation how to use the hardware and software. With access to computers and knowledge to use them, the students can now play educational games, type up homework, access the Internet to complete research, and have gained lifelong skills to help them stay competitive in school and the workforce. Here’s their story*:

*This video was submitted as part of the 2014-15 Interact Video Awards. Follow Interact on Facebook to learn more about the 2015-16 Interact Video Awards launching later this year.


Enchanting young minds with the magic of books

By PDG Carolyn Johnson, Rotary Club of Yarmouth, ME, USA; TRF Cadre of Technical Advisors for Basic Education and Literacy; and Secretary of the Literacy Rotarian Action Group

One of my earliest memories is of my grandfather reading to me.  Sitting in his big chair, with his arm around me was a special time – a time of sharing magical moments when we could travel to far away corners of the world and meet amazing characters!  Reading with a child can shape a child’s literacy growth whether it happens as a bedtime ritual in many homes and an important literacy-building activity in many classrooms.

Culture of Reading Program, Guatemala

Culture of Reading Program, Guatemala

There is considerable research reinforcing the importance of reading with children.  Bedtime stories develop critical pre-literacy skills, an early interest in books and reading, imagination and critical thinking skills.  Reading with young children also develops an ability for visual processing, creating mental visual images, improving vocabulary, and processing complex language.

But in many parts of the world, in developing countries and increasingly in developed nations, books are not part of a child’s early experiences.  For parents  who cannot read or struggle daily to care for their families, books are just not a priority.  In schools where textbooks are scarce, picture books and children’s literature , sadly, are not prioritized a necessity.   Bringing stories, story books, and literature to children and to classrooms is something Rotarians can – and should – easily do to improve access to basic education and literacy.

Culture of Reading Program, Guatemala

Culture of Reading Program, Guatemala

For eight years, the Culture of Reading Program (CORP) has offered teachers and students in rural Guatemala schools access to books and reading.  CORP schools receive a variety of appropriate, quality children’s books.  It might be assumed that teachers would intuitively know how to read picture books with their students.  But, when a teacher was never read to as a child, never heard their own teachers reading aloud, and has never read to her own children – reading aloud becomes an skill that must be purposely developed.   For the story books to have an impact, training and support in how to use them is essential.

I am always amazed when one of our CORP teachers takes out a book and tells her students it is story time.  The room quiets and every child is immediately focused on that story – the pictures, the rhythm of the words, the adventure that unfolds.  How many times have I seen an older child in a first grade classroom and expected that he will have no interest in a book that is clearly for young children – only for this child to be the most mesmerized and immersed in the story!

Rotarian Peter Johnson reading with a student in Guatemala.

Rotarian Peter Johnson reading with a student in Guatemala.

Creating a culture of reading – locally and internationally – is something every Rotary club can do.  One option is to become involved in grants to provide books and training for primary grade teachers.  Just as importantly, Rotarians can volunteer in their local schools and read with students – recreating that special story time so many of us experienced as children.  Clubs and districts can also contact the Literacy Rotarian Action Group (LitRAG) for assistance with literacy projects.  How will your Rotary club support literacy and create a culture of reading, locally and internationally?

LitRAG consists of Rotarians, Rotarian’s family members, and program participants and alumni with expertise in literacy and passion for education. Contact the group for assistance with your club or districts literacy projects.



Literacy partnership helps children chase their dreams

Rotarian Juliet Riseley and Dolly Parton at Dolly Parton's Imagination Library launch in Australia

Dolly Parton (left) and Rotarian Juliet Riseley (right) at Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library launch in Australia

By Dolly Parton, U.S. singer-songwriter and founder of The Dollywood Foundation and the Dolly Parton Imagination Library program


These are the opening lyrics to a very special song of mine called “Try.” It’s always been the theme song for my Imagination Library because it really captures exactly why I started the program twenty years ago. I want children to have the opportunity to chase their dreams –no matter who they are or where they live.

It is hard for me to believe that the Imagination Library is now 20 years old. I think of the program the same way I think of my songs –they are all like my children –each one special and all of them a source of great pride. The Imagination Library has done pretty well as it has grown from my hometown to a bunch of countries and touching 875,000 kids each and every month. This year we will give out our 75,000,000th book. Simply amazing!

Like a good parent, I cannot take credit for my child’s success. All kinds of people and organizations have pitched in over the years to make it all so wonderfully successful. At the very top of that list of special partners sits Rotary International.  Several years ago, I stood on a stage in Montreal and sang “Try” for the thousands of Rotarians at the 2010 RI Convention. It was a very moving moment for me because I knew we were joining forces with an organization that cares as deeply for children as I do. It’s been a wonderful marriage and I look forward to our organizations continuing to help our children foster a love for reading. We have done so much but there is so much left to do.


Rotary’s service partnership with The Dollywood Foundation’s Dolly Parton Imagination Library provides opportunities to collaborate in support of basic education by fostering a lifelong love of reading and learning from an early age. Through this partnership, children receive access to age-appropriate reading materials to help establish a strong educational foundation early in life.


Stand #UpForSchool with Rotary

Every child has the right to go to school, without danger or discrimination. 59 million children around the world don’t have access to basic education. Rotarians, Rotaractors and Interactors all over the world are taking action to enhance basic education and literacy in their communities.

Stand with Rotary and millions of other youth, teachers, parents, and advocates by signing A World At School’s #UpForSchool petition, a global campaign to get all children into school and learning. Signing the petition adds pressure for global leaders to uphold their 2000 commitment to ensure all out-of-school children gain their right to education by a target date of 2015 through the Millennium Development Goals. Together we can create the biggest petition in history and show the world how Rotary can mobilize their communities to support education and literacy.


“We, the world’s youth, teachers, parents and global citizens appeal to our governments to keep their promise, made at the United Nations in 2000, to ensure all out-of-school children gain their right to education before the end of 2015.

We are standing up to bring an end to the barriers preventing girls and boys from going to school, including forced work and early marriage, conflict and attacks on schools, exploitation and discrimination. All children deserve the opportunity to learn and achieve their potential.

We are #UpForSchool.”

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Celebrate International #LiteracyDay

By Ellina Kushnir, Rotary Programs staff

BEL Project StrategiesEvery year, International Literacy Day is celebrated worldwide by bringing together governments, multi-and bi-lateral organizations, NGOs, the private sector, communities, teachers, learners and experts to recognize. Today, 8 September, International Literacy Day, we join the global community in celebrating the successful growth of literacy rates around the world.

In honor of International Literacy Day and the release of our new Basic Education and Literacy Project Guide, we asked RI staff Alison Randall, Regional Grants Officer for Africa and Europe, and Mary Jo Jean-Francois, Area of Focus Manager for Basic Education and Literacy, about our strengths within basic education and literacy and how we can continue improving our humanitarian initiatives.

What are the most important components of a basic education and literacy project?

AR: The Rotary family is very passionate about enriching students’ education. When an initial needs assessment is conducted, typically through a visit to the school, the material needs are overwhelmingly obvious. Students are sharing books, teachers don’t have computers, children are seated on a dirt floor. It is natural to want to provide physical materials to conduct class in a comfortable environment but we know merely providing equipment is not sustainable, nor does it create a quality education. After the equipment wears out and breaks down, will students continue to receive quality education? Have they been equipped with valuable knowledge to help them advance and succeed?

If the project site is a school, initial site visits and assessments are key opportunities to meet with teachers and administrators about desired teacher training and curriculum development. There are many soft costs to education beyond desks, books, paper and pencils. Many grants that come across my desk include training and equipment but struggle to integrate these components into a cohesive project. Incorporating the teaching curriculum into the project training plan enhances the project’s impact. For basic education and literacy projects, the community assessment should start with conversations with school administrators and teachers, students, students’ families, and other key members about what they would like for their schools regarding training and support, in addition to a discussion about material needs.

For example, usually the basic needs at a school in a developed nation have been met compared to a school in a developing country. These projects still tend to request material goods, usually smart boards or more sophisticated computer programs for students. In these circumstances, a need has been identified but without incorporating a corresponding teacher training, providing equipment is not sustainable. These types of mistakes can be avoided by directly asking teachers if they have training requests.  Grant sponsors are surprised to find that teachers, even in the most developed nations and advanced educational systems, have a great desire to enhance their own knowledge by learning about different teaching methodologies, cutting edge technology tools, and managing different learning styles, to name a few.

MJJF: We love hearing from international project partners interested in helping address basic education and literacy needs in a different country. Oftentimes, international partners outside of the project country have “pre-developed” a project concept that they would like to apply to a school. Sometimes this cookie cutter strategy can work but typically the project does not address core needs because the local community was not assessed before the project was designed. These projects usually end up being over budget because the international partner identifies additional needs at the school while implementing the grant and tries to alter the project scope to address these new needs. It is critically important for the host schools to identify its own needs even if they don’t align with the international partner’s original project plan. It is important to be flexible.

What types of roles can Rotary members assume to help with project implementation?

AR: There are many ways Rotarians can be involved in the implementation of a basic education and literacy project. I often see primary or secondary education projects where teachers are looking for a helping hand and students can always use a mentor. For example, if a global grant project is providing an evening adult literacy course to parents, the partnering Rotarians can offer a simultaneous mentoring sessions or homework program for the participant’s children.

Rotarians can also help by putting on their networking hats. Our members are business leaders within their communities and can facilitate introductions. For example, some basic education and literacy projects may require cooperating with the Ministry of Education to ensure the project is complying with national education standards, a seemingly daunting effort. Rotarians may be able to help facilitate introductions, partnerships, and agreements.

How do you think the new Basic Education and Literacy Project Guide will help clubs and districts with their projects?

AR: I am very excited about this new project guide! It is a very concise document that provides great global grant examples of how to address problems that occur in real Rotary projects. These are not hypothetical scenarios. The beginning of the document identifies BEL opportunities that occur in almost every county, including developed nations!

MJJF: This guide is a great tool for all Rotary clubs, regardless of their experience with basic education and literacy projects.  I hope that Rotary clubs who are doing smaller projects in their communities can utilize this tool to make their projects stronger.  The best projects are those where Rotarians have long-term involvement with schools in their communities.  This guide can help Rotarians and Rotaractors scale up their projects so that more students can benefit from their great work!


Committing to universal education during Rotary Basic Education and Literacy Month

Basic education and literacy are essential for reducing poverty, improving health, encouraging community and economic development, and promoting peace. Over the years, we’ve helped make significant progress towards helping achieve the United Nationals Millennium Development Goals, especially within the basic education and literacy area of focus. According to a 2014 progress report, literacy rates among adults and youth continue to rise and the gender gap in literacy is narrowing.

This September, Rotary Basic Education and Literacy Month, we’re celebrating our progress and reaffirming our commitment to help attain universal education! Here are just a few examples of club service projects helping improve education around the world:

  • PhilippinesIn partnership with local government, community, and international clubs, the Rotary Club of Tagum North, Davao City, Philippines, reconstructed classrooms at the Imelda Daycare Center damaged by Typhoon Pablo.
  • The Rotary Club of Latur Mid-Town, Maharashtra, India, hosted teacher training workshops for educators who work in small rural government-operated schools. 213 teachers received six hours of coursework on new educational technologies and applications available to the teachers.
  • BoliviaThe Rotary Club of Grigota, Bolivia, undertook an advocacy initiative to inform families on the importance of children, especially girls, receiving a basic level of education before beginning to work.
  • The Rotaract Club of Baker College Muskegon, MI, USA, participated in a literacy board game tournament to raise funds for its reading program. Proceeds from the fundraiser supported READ Muskegon, a volunteer one-on-one tutoring program for adults who want to improve their literacy skills.
  • IndonesiaWorking with local Rotary and Rotaract clubs and the Ministry of Education, the Rotary Club of Solo Kartini, Indonesia, organized a Literacy Day event where hundreds of high school students read and reviewed a preselected book. The event celebrated literacy and honored the 20 best literary reviews.
  • Working with the local municipality, partnering Interact club, and sponsoring Rotary club, the Rotaract Club of Izmir-Alsancak, Turkey, created mobile libraries to provide books in three low-income communities in Turkey.

While we’re making progress, there’s still much work left to be done. Pressing global concerns still remain: 58 million children worldwide are out of school while 781 million adults are illiterate[i]. Imagine: if all students in low-income countries left school with basic reading skills, 171 million people could be lifted out of poverty equaling a 12% reduction in global poverty[ii].

Throughout the month of September, encourage fellow Rotary members to check back here for tips, resources, and inspirational success stories to help plan club and district literacy projects. Add your voice to the conversation using the blog’s commenting feature and share how your club supports basic education and literacy initiatives on Rotary Showcase.

[i] The Millennium Development Goals Report 2014
[ii] UNESCO Global Monitoring Report 2013/14

2016 Presidential Conferences to highlight Rotary’s areas of focus

By Rotary Programs staff

Rotary has become a global leader in helping address some of the world’s most critical and widespread humanitarian needs. To highlight Rotary’s work in the areas of focus, RI President K.R. Ravindran and The Rotary Foundation Trustee Chair Ray Klinginsmith are jointly convening a series of presidential conferences during the 2015-16 Rotary year. Between January and March 2016, five conferences will be held around the world:

15-16 January | Ontario, California, USA | Peace and Conflict Prevention/Resolution
19-20 February | Cannes, France | Disease Prevention & Treatment
27 February | Cape Town, South Africa | Economic Development
12-13 March | Kolkata, India | Literacy and Water, Sanitation, Hygiene (WASH) in Schools
18-19 March | Pasay City, Manila, Philippines | WASH in Schools

All of the conferences, led by local Rotary districts, are open to Rotary members and non-members. The conferences will feature engaging speakers, informative plenary sessions, and hands-on workshops. Don’t miss this unique opportunity to network with fellow leaders and take away new ideas and strategies to put into action.