Rotary service project unites an entire community

By Gregg Alexander, Rotary Club of Bozeman Sunrise 

For six years now the Bozeman Sunrise Rotary Club (Montana, USA) has provided home repair assistance to local residents through the Bozeman Fix-Up Festival. Giving preference to elderly and disabled homeowners, the Fix-Up Festival strives to provide home improvements to low-income residents that either can’t afford it or are physically unable to complete the work themselves. The impact of this one-day event stretches far beyond just benefits to the homeowners. The Bozeman Fix-Up Festival touches many lives and brings the community together.

Finding Homeowners in Need

The planning is a year round effort starting in January and wrapping up in mid-November. We begin the year by developing a budget and outreach to find applicants. We partner with local non-profits that work with residents to educate and inform as many homeowners that may be in need of assistance. We do require that recipients own their home and fall below the State of Montana’s poverty level.

We publicize the project on the radio, through TV interviews, and social media marketing to drive interested people to our website, where they can fill out an application. Applications are due in April. Once all applications have been received, our committee evaluates the homes and homeowners through interviews, home visits, and income verification. Over the last five years, we have completed almost 60 homes through the Fix-Up Festival.

Funding & Volunteers

While homes are being evaluated, the Fix-Up Festival Committee seeks out businesses and organizations to adopt and sponsor each home. Sponsors must provide a level of funding along with a number of volunteers on Fix-Up Day to complete the work. Over the years we’ve found that sponsors find the Fix-Up Festival very rewarding and a great source of team building.

To make all of this happen in one day, it takes many dedicated volunteers. Each project has to be detailed out, a list of materials created and delivered, skilled laborers assigned to work with sponsor teams, meals secured, trash and debris removal planned, material runners assigned for additional materials and much more! All of this has to be done for each home, so its large undertaking made possible by lots of volunteer hours from the Rotarians that make up the Fix-Up Festival Committee.

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The Impact

After six years of planning and execution, our operations have become more efficient but it’s still amazing to see the Fix-Up Festival come together in a single day. Walking around and talking with volunteers and homeowners, you realize that the reward isn’t only for the people in need, but also for everyone involved. The day is filled with smiles, hugs, tears of joy, pride and humility and shared as a community. The day reminds us all that we are all in this together and it is our duty to place Service Above Self.



It’s World Toilet Day!

By Erica Gwynn, Water and Sanitation Area of Focus Manager

On 19 November, Mali celebrates the anniversary of yestheir liberation from President Modibo Keita’s power.  In Puerto Rico, 19 November marks the day Columbus discovered the island nation.  There is only one holiday, however, that is recognized and celebrated globally on 19 November: World Toilet Day.

Why do we need a day for toilets? It’s 2015 and 2.4 billion people still do not have adequate sanitation: 1 billion people defecate in the open.  According to the United Nations,  poor sanitation and hygiene are at the heart of the world’s leading disease and malnutrition issues. Still, the subject of sanitation continues to receive little media attention and the current level of prioritization for world leaders is still far from what is needed, given the scale and impact of the sanitation crisis.

Much like the rest of the world, Rotarians are recognizing the limited impact of projects focused on the provision of water alone. As a result, the interest in sanitation and hygiene is growing, leading to a higher volume of service and global grant projects with integrated sanitation and hygiene components.

Through the very nature of Rotary and its vast networks of influence, the sanitation crisis is gaining momentum.

  • Rotarians in India have responded to a call for action by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi to participate in the national campaign, “Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan” (Clean India Mission). Rotary clubs throughout India have aligned their efforts to participate in this campaign, committing to provide comprehensive water, sanitation and hygiene coverage in at least 10,000 government schools, every year, for at least two years.
  • The Rotary Club of Kalisizo (Uganda) and the Rotary Club of Calgary (Canada) equipped 10 primary schools in Uganda with gender-segregated ventilated pit latrines as part of a more comprehensive program providing access to safe water and capacity building for school health clubs, water user committees, teachers, health inspectors and technicians. Rotarians are committing their time to monitor the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) systems installed in each school and all trainings outcomes, in order to share this information with local authorities.

Let us continue the momentum in Rotary around sanitation by participating in World Toilet Day.  Raise your awareness of the lack of sanitation worldwide by reading It’s No Joke: The State of the World’s Toilets 2015. The rest is up to you! After all, it is the day to stand up (or sit down or squat if you prefer) and do something about it.

Continue the #WorldToiletDay celebration using #WorldToiletDay to share messages about #Rotary Water and Sanitation initiatives on Twitter and Facebook. Help inspire others by sharing club and district water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) projects on Rotary Showcase.


See related:

New Rotarian Action Groups to assist with Rotary projects

The RI Board of Directors recently recognized three new Rotarian Action Groups. Each of these RAGs has a unique area of expertise and is available to provide any support that Rotarians may seek regarding their areas of specialty:

RAG4CLUBFOOT (Rotarian Action Group)

RAG4CLUBFOOT will act as a project facilitator for Rotary clubs and districts seeking to help eliminate disability due to clubfoot. The RAG will help facilitate connections between trained healthcare professionals and local Rotary clubs to provide high quality clubfoot treatment.  The RAG will also assist with raising public awareness about clubfoot deformity to reduce the stigma associated with it.  RAG4CLUBFOOT’s founders are pediatric orthopedic surgeons that are highly experienced working directly with children with clubfoot.

Visit the group’s website for more information.

Environmental Sustainability
Environmental Sustainability Rotarian Action Group (ESRAG)

The Environmental Sustainability RAG will assist Rotary clubs, districts and multi-districts in planning, implementing and evaluating service projects, building awareness, and inspiring action. These projects will promote environmental sustainability, awareness of climate change, and actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to mitigate climate disruption. ESRAG will promote educational resources, initiate dialogue about environmental sustainability, and use best practices in models and assessments for both projects and daily choices.

Visit the group’s website for more information.

Mental Health
Rotarian Action Group on Mental Health Initiatives (RAGMHI)

The RAG on Mental Health Initiatives believes healthy citizens are the foundation of healthy communities and treating mentally ill individuals in a timely manner elevates wellness in the entire community. The RAG is committed to foster international leadership and fellowship in this service area and help the family of Rotary plan and undertake sustainable mental health programs.  The group is composed of experts who have a passion for designing solutions, creating awareness, and executing international programs to promote mental health and helping those with mental illness.

For more information or to join, contact Chair Kenneth Lefrancois

Rotarian Action Groups are autonomous, Rotarian-run groups composed of members passionate about a particular service area. RAGs help clubs and districts plan and implement high-impact projects. Membership is open to Rotarians, their family members, and all Rotary program participants and alumni.

Learn more:


Celebrate World Interact Week!

By Jessie Dunbar-Bickmore, RI Programs staff 

Every year, Interact clubs take action to make a difference in their communities through service projects. During the first week of November, World Interact Week, we’re celebrating their efforts and commitment to Service Above Self. Here are some ways Interact Clubs are making an impact and changing lives:

The Interact Club of Hugh Boyd (Canada) share their best days of service and how they
spread change through Interact.


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The Interact Club of Marghita (Romania) worked with children with disabilities to make candles and greeting cards for the holiday season. They then sold those items and used the money to buy toys and clothes to distribute to children in need.


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The Interact Club of Geethaanjali teamed up with 700 students and 150 teachers from their school and led a Clean the City campaign in an effort to raise awareness and create a cleaner India.


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*These videos were submitted as part of the 2014-15 Interact Video Awards. Interact clubs can share their  stories by recording a video for the 7th annual Interact Video Awards! Entries are due y by 1 December, 2015.

Other ways to get involved during World Interact Week:

  • Empower young people in your community to take action, become leaders, and gain a global perspective by sponsoring an Interact club.
  • Share how your club celebrates World Interact Week in partnership with your sponsored Interact clubs on our Interact Facebook page or in the comment section below.
  • Plan a joint service project with a sponsored Interact club and post it on Rotary Showcase so the world can see how you jointly create positive change.
  • Recognize your sponsored Interact club’s hard work. Complete a certificate of recognition to highlight the positive impact your Interact clubs have made.
  • Encourage your sponsored Interact Clubs to earn this year’s Presidential Citation!



The Importance of Social Business and Inclusivity

By Ingrid Schwab, Regional Grants Officer, Rotary Grants

We often receive questions about how to best engage the local community in Rotarian-led service projects. One way in which Rotarians can provide service to others is by prioritizing inclusivity in their humanitarian projects. Inclusivity gives an opportunity for all individuals and groups (especially marginalized populations) to have a voice and to actively participate in the local culture and economy.[1] Rather than making assumptions about what needs may exist within a community or the best way to address them, consider instead integrating yourself in the community and taking the time to speak with and listen to all populations. This can include not only meeting with established leadership but also visiting different families at their homes and holding a general assembly meeting open to all community members. It is important to ask about needs while also taking note of existing community strengths through asset mapping and storytelling.

For Rotarians interested in grant or service projects, establishing and operating a social business is a good opportunity to put inclusivity into practice. A social business addresses a need within a community by selling local products and reinvesting the profits into the business itself. While a social business can be privately owned, its value on inclusivity should ensure that profits are used towards a public benefit and prosperity is shared among all members of the community.

Kalpeshkumar L. Gupta and Sujo Thomas provide a good example of social business and inclusivity in their 2013 case study[2] of Mirakle Couriers, a courier agency that employs low-income deaf adults in Mumbai. The founders of the for-profit company saw an opportunity to help the deaf become self-sufficient in a sustainable way through employment. They took the time to understand deaf culture in Mumbai and address their social exclusion through employment, income generation and human connection, and have seen incredible results in self-reliance and independence.

How to establish a successful social business will vary depending on the needs and dynamics of a particular community, but placing a value on inclusivity from the start can help everyone feel they benefit and have a voice. To consider supporting social business and inclusivity through a grant project, please visit Grant Activities for more information and resources.



[2] Gupta, Kalpeshkumar and Sujo Thomas. “Social Inclusion and Social Entrepreneurship Case Study of Mirakle Courier, Mumbai.” 10th Biennial Conference on Entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India, Gandhinagar. 20-22 February 2013.

Rotaract clubs build stronger communities through sustainable service projects

By Jessie Dunbar- Bickmore, RI Programs staff

Rotaract clubs around the world change lives by developing innovative solutions to community challenges both locally and globally. Here are just a few examples of how Rotaract clubs are making a lasting impact through economic and community development projects:

Lighting up homes

The Silay Rotaract Club (Philippines) led the Spark Up Dreams, Light Up Homes project to provide light and electricity to indigenous families living in remote villages. The project aimed to meet a basic need by providing light and electricity while minimizing the use of kerosene and other expensive and dangerous fossil fuels. Through solar power lighting, families live more comfortably, efficiently undertake household chores, and children are able to study after sundown.

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Addressing Hunger

Millions of people around the world don’t have access to nutritious food. The Baker College Muskegon in Michigan, USA volunteers at Kids’ Food Basket every Friday to pack approximately 600 meals. These meals go to children at three different elementary schools.

Providing financial education

In an effort to empower high school students to make informed financial decisions, the Rotaract Club of Nairobi-Muthaiga North in Kenya conducted financial literacy trainings. The program focused on introducing youth to sound money management practices and instilling confidence in making good financial decisions. The trainings also fostered an interest in investment and entrepreneurship.

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These projects were submitted for the Rotaract Outstanding Project Awards. Tell us about your club or district’s high-impact, sustainable project aligned with Rotary’s areas of focus. Share your success and get recognized for your outstanding service. Complete the nomination form by 1 February.



Rotarians taking action to empower communities

By Duncan Stanners, Rotary Club of Calgary West, Canada

To help grow and empower a local community in Honduras, the Rotary Action Group for Microfinance and Community Development (RAGM) teamed up with District 5360 Microcredit Task Force to implement the Honduras Economic and Community Development Program (HECD).

Microfinance is a key component to a successful economic community development project as it has been proven to be a significant tool in eliminating poverty. Through microfinance and other financial services, along with skill development and training, low-income individuals are able to lift themselves out of poverty over time.


A Honduran woman uses a press and oven funded through HECD to develop her tortilla business.

We worked with the Rotary Club of Real de Minas Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Opportunity International Canada (OIC) and their operating partner in Honduras, Instituto para el Desarrollo Hondureño (IDH) to provide microfinance services in the region.  Access to affordable loans allowed Hondurans to pay for their children’s school, provide food, shelter and health care. The women that are a part of this program have grown in social stature in a male-dominated society, and have assumed leadership positions in their communities. It is astounding to see the variety of businesses these entrepreneurs have taken on, from making tortillas to farming chickens and tilapia to stores and candle makers. As their businesses grow, they create jobs for their less entrepreneurial family and community members.

During our trips to Honduras, our translator Maria Elena Alvarez introduced us to her husband Arnoldo, the Honduran Director for Impact Water. Over the past 25 years, he has executed
more than 300 water projects through his perfected methodology of Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) which we incorporated into the HECD program. The sustainable pic 1methodology empowers the villages to take full project ownership establishing a water committee, securing access to a water source, providing all of the unskilled labour, naming a local water expert to be trained in water system maintenance, and collecting $1-$2 a month per family to fund future expenses required to keep the water flowing. The pool of funds collected for water maintenance is also used to provide loans to the villagers, in essence forming their own microcredit co-op.

Having access to clean sustainable water has impacted the community tremendously. Women no longer have to walk miles every day to get water and carry it back to their homes. The women can now focus on earning money for their families and growing crops to feed them. Schools are no longer closed due to lack of water and children are able to focus on their education.

Economic and community development is not just about access to funds. It must encompass all the areas of focus. It happens in a peaceful environment, free of disease, with access to clean water, education and healthy mothers and children. Rotarians can make a huge impact by empowering local communities to be self-sustainable through economic and community development projects. 

The Rotarian Action Group for Microfinance and Community Development (RAGM) is a group of Rotarians whose purpose is to provide global leadership to assist clubs and districts in effective Microfinance and Community Development programs. Contact the group for assistance with your economic and community development projects.



Newly adopted Sustainable Development Goals recommit focus on economic and community development

By Bonaventure Fandohan, Economic and Community Development Area of Focus Manager

SDGThe United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), adopted in 2000, set a historic precedent of global mobilization to achieve a set of important social priorities worldwide. The MDGs expressed widespread public concern about poverty, hunger, disease, unmet schooling, gender inequality, and environmental degradation. By packaging these priorities into an easily understandable set of eight goals, and by setting measurable and time bound objectives, the MDGs helped promote global awareness, political accountability, improved metrics, social feedback, and public pressures between 2000 and 2015.[1]

The post-2015 unanimously adopted development agenda known as Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) pick up where the MDGs left off. While we have made great progress to address world poverty, we still have much to do to eradicate poverty and hunger and promote sustained economic growth, helping people everywhere to thrive.

Many of the SDGs address concerns within the economic and community development area of focus:

Goal 1:
End poverty in all its forms everywhere
Goal 2:
End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture
Goal 5:
Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
Goal 8
: Promote sustained, inclusive, and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
Goal 11:
Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable

A new approach for better outcomes

The Sustainable Development Goals position all countries, regardless of their development status, to address existing concerns either nationally or internationally. The SDGs promote a universal approach to development, growth models that decrease inequality, scaled up interventions, and cross-sector coordination and collaboration.

While the 17 SDGs can be seen as a broad agenda, we can leverage our Rotary network to devise targeted sub-goals for community-led projects. By working in partnership with marginalized communities in both developed and emerging markets, we empower underserved communities by implementing more sustainable economic and community development projects.

We learned key lessons from the Millennium Development Goals in relation to addressing economic and community development projects. We see a critical need to increase agricultural productivity and access to markets for farmers in Africa. We also see a need for more private sector jobs, especially among micro, small, and medium-sized businesses, globally. Every community can benefit from creating access to local investment, entrepreneurial training, and business networking for better and more inclusive jobs for youth and women.

For the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) to be reached, everyone needs to do their part: governments, the private sector, and civil society. We can leverage our largest asset, our vast Rotary network, by bringing together all community stakeholders to make Sustainable Development Goals a reality for a better world.

See related:

[1] Sachs, J. (2012, June). From Millennium Development Goals to Sustainable Development Goals. The Lancet. Vol 379: 2206–11.


World Food Day 2015: Partnering to fight hunger and food waste

By: Craig A. Nemitz, Ph.D. (h.c.) Director of Field Services, The Global FoodBanking Network;  Charter Member of the Channahon/Minooka Rotary Club, Illinois, USA

16 October, World Food Day, is a time for people and organizations to come together to find ways to alleviate world hunger. I am fortunate to be involved with two wonderful organizations—Rotary International and The Global FoodBanking Network (GFN)—that understand the value of collaboration and are fully committed to making the world a better place.

As service partners, Rotary and GFN work together around the world  to support local food banks. A food bank is a sustainable community asset that addresses two of the world’s most pressing problems:  hunger and food waste.

Global Hunger

Even though enough food is produced to feed the entire globe, there are approximately 800 million hungry people in the world. One third of the world’s food that is produced for humans is lost or wasted. Much of this food winds up in landfills, never reaching a hungry person.

Food banks rescue perfectly edible, safe and nutritious food and redistribute it to hungry people through a variety of social service organizations such as shelters, orphanages, soup kitchens and after school programs, to name a few.

GFN is the founder and leader of a thriving network of food banks around the world. We help create food banks in communities where they do not exist and we support and strengthen food banks already in operations.

As a member of GFN’s Network Development Team, I have the privilege of working directly with food bankers around the world to help them fight hunger every single day. We provide these social entrepreneurs with education, training, in-field assistance – everything needed to help them find the most efficient ways to get more food to more hungry people.

Rotarians Make a Difference

Many of you already support the GFN mission of alleviating hunger and reducing food waste. Rotarians, Rotaractors, Interactors, and entire clubs have made a real difference by helping GFN food banks around the world. Here are just a few examples:

  • Rotary LebanonLebanon: Four local Rotary clubs pooled their collective energies and resources and helped the Lebanese Food Bank secure a new vehicle that enables the food bank to continue distributing food to its partner agencies throughout the region. And as all Rotarians know:  together we can do more!
  • Hong Kong: Working with Feeding Hong Kong, Rotaractors from The Chinese University of Hong Kong helped assemble 192 family packs of nutritious food products for people in need.
  • India: The Rotary Club of Kolkata Mahanagar partners with the India Food Banking Network (IFBN) to collect food products that would otherwise be wasted. IFBN trained the club on how to conduct food drives and other operational aspects of running a food bank.

On World Food Day 2015, we at GFN and I as a fellow Rotarian, encourage all of you to Be a gift to the world by supporting food banking.  Your support can be of time, talents or treasure.  Food banks in the GFN family can use your help in their daily fight to eliminate hunger and curb food waste; visit for more information and tools to get involved.


In honor of World Food Day, share pictures of how your club and district is addressing hunger in your communities on Instagram and Twitter accompanied by the hashtag #RotaryStopHunger. You can also Join Rotary First Harvest (@RFHarvest) and the Rotarian Action Group for the Alleviation of Hunger and Malnutrition in a Twitter chat by signing on to Twitter from 12:00 PM to 1:00 PM Chicago time (UTC-5) and adding your voice to the #RotaryStopHunger conversation.

Rotary BetterTogether Conference: Rotarians strive to end hunger

By: Tom Branum, Jr., District 6560 – Central Indiana, Past District Governor

I’m now an Immediate Past District Governor, but mostly I’m back to being a “regular” Rotarian. A few years ago, I started my journey to become District Governor. A common question among my friends was “Why?” and “What do you want to do as District Governor?” These were big questions for me. I wanted to “make it count”, as all leaders do. I also felt that as Rotarians, we have a special opportunity to be leaders of our communities. I wanted to inspire and encourage clubs in our district to address pressing needs in their communities.

In the United States, hunger is a problem that is both invisible and obvious in every community. It has probably been experienced by friends, family, or club members at some point in our lives, but rarely ever talked about. Although it is a huge problem, we can help lead the world towards a solution.

Our district decided to tackle this issue through The BetterTogether Conference.  Bundled with our annual district conference, we asked leaders in the local and international fight against hunger, Rotarian or not, to come together. Our result: 20 speakers in a TED Talk style format helping us raise Rotary’s flag over this issue.

One of our collaborating partners designed an interactive workshop, an integral part of the conference.  Each club was asked to work as a team (or teams for larger clubs) to develop a plan to implement a project against hunger in their own communities. Each team presented their plan to a panel of judges. The winning team took home a US $1000 prize to use on their project when they returned home. It was an amazing experience.  The teams pulled inspiration from the speakers and all they had learned to work together and find solutions they were excited to implement.

Reflecting Back

Looking back, even we didn’t know our potential impact. The conference can be recreated by Rotary districts and clubs everywhere in the world. Each Rotarian can use their best talents, gifts, and resources to help: connections to influential people, marketing and management skills, social and community networks, youth and community outreach engagement. Working with your communities, you’ll develop a shared vision and take it places you may never have suspected were accessible.

I encourage all of you to get out there and be leaders in your communities. We need to come together and collaborate to fight issues like hunger.


World Food Day is 16 October. Share pictures of how your club and district is addressing hunger in your communities on Instagram and Twitter accompanied by the hashtag #RotaryStopsHunger. On World Food Day join Rotary First Harvest along with the Rotarian Action Group for the Alleviation of Hunger and Malnutrition, Alliance to End Hunger, Stop Hunger Now and The Global FoodBanking Network in a Twitter Chat. Sign on to Twitter from 12:00 PM to 1:00 PM Chicago time (UTC-5) and add your voice to the #RotaryStopsHunger conversation.

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