Serving Haiti in times of need

Serving Haiti in times of need

By Jack Guy Lafontant, President Rotary Club of Petion-Ville, Haiti                                     

One week before we saw monstrous Hurricane Mathew, approaching our country  Haiti, members of the Rotary Club of Petion-Ville started to make survival kits. After an emergency committee meeting, our club decided to send a delegation composed of myself and our club Foundation chair, Jean-Herve Landrin, to the regions struck by disaster.

On Saturday, 8 October, three days after the hurricane hit, Jean-Herve and I took the road to Les Cayes as soon as there was an opening on the River of Petit-Goave, which had been blocked by a collapsed bridge. We left the capital of Port-au-Prince with trucks filled with survival kits. Since there were rumors of armed gangs, attacking trucks going into Les Cayes with relief supplies in the area of Petit-Goave, we decided to stop in Léogâne, 21 miles from Port-au-Prince. There we contacted local authorities and the General Inspector of the National Police, Ralph Brice, guaranteed us safe passage for our trucks.

When we arrived in Les Cayes, our first stop was visiting District Governor-elect Robert Leger. We visited a hotel that had survived the hurricane, and later met a Rotarian brother and his adopted child to deliver food supplies.

The next morning, we delivered the survival kits and a check of 100,000 Haitian Gourdes (equivalent to USD $1,500) to the President of the Rotary Club of Les Cayes, Claude Pubien, and the club disaster relief chair, Yvon.

Afterwards, we visited our friends in Les Cayes and distributed more supplies. We saw a lot of roofs were destroyed and decided to continue our exploration to the coastal cities which liked it had been hit by an atomic bomb. The trees, the plantations and town infrastructure had completely disappeared.

The last part of our visit was chaotic as we took the road to the city of Jeremie by passing through Camp-Perin. Camp-Perin was Haiti’s last cities lined with many trees but now almost all the trees and houses had been destroyed.

In the rural areas of Camp-Perin, people were drinking from streams, unaware of catching cholera by drinking contaminated water. Cholera killed nearly 10,000 people after the 2010 earthquake that hit Haiti, spreading quickly from toilet waste being emptied into the Meille River, a major water source. Now the country faces the same problem once again.

After Camp-Perin, we stopped at an orphanage of a past guest-speaker of our club and a very good friend of Jean-Herve, Father Pascal. We walked over 30 minutes to the mountains to reach the building. All infrastructure had been destroyed, including clinics and school. More than orphans had survived by hiding in the bathroom while the concrete building shook, resulting in psychological trauma for these kids.

That evening we took the road back home to Port-au-Prince. Rotary gave us the opportunity to serve our community and we hope to continue to take action during this difficult time.

Click here for more information about working with Rotarians and Rotary-affiliated groups and partners to help the relief efforts in Haiti


Sustainable Development Goal in action: New Economic and Community Development Trend with Rotarians

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

Over the past 25 years, the number of workers living in extreme poverty has declined dramatically despite the lasting impact of the 2008 economic crisis and global recession. In developing countries, the middle class now makes up more than 34 percent of total employment – a number that has almost tripled between 1991 and 2015.  However, as the global economy continues to recover, we are seeing slower growth, widening inequalities, and not enough jobs to keep up with a growing labor force.[1]

wcms_396387The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a universal call to action to end poverty, encourage growth, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity.[2] These 17 Goals, which built on the successes of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), encourage us to focus our efforts on promoting inclusive and sustainable economic growth and achieving full and productive employment and decent work for all. This eighth SDG goal is actively being realized by The Rotary Foundation’s support of Rotarian-led projects to create measurable and enduring economic improvement in lives and communities; for example, Rotarians are helping bring vocational and entrepreneurship trainings to their communities to build capacity for local economic advancement.

Recently, Rotarians around the world have increased global grant applications focused on creating more local work opportunities.  In South Korea, the Rotary Club of Youngilman, District 3630, worked with Rotarians from District 3470, Taiwan, to create a mushroom farm and training center for mushroom growers to supporting 20 people with disabilities in the city of Pohang-si. In the same country, the Rotary Club of Cheonan Sky Club collaborated with District 3830, Philippines, to design a program empowering 30 migrant women in the city of Cheonan.

In Brazil, Rotarians from the Rotary Club of Rio de Janeiro partnered with Rotarians from District 1820, Germany, on a grant promoting inclusion of socially vulnerable women. That project, called Mulher Empreendedora, was designed to provide vocational training to 120 women in five communities on topics including fostering entrepreneurship, economic, social and cultural development, citizenship, health and welfare in Rio de Janeiro.

In Texas, USA, the Rotary Club of Sugar Land, District 5890, and the Rotary Club of Torreón, District 4110, Mexico, assisted 210 inmates from the Darrington Correctional Facility by sponsoring innovative educational opportunities through the development of vocational skills before their release into their communities. The Rotarians partnered with Alvin Community College to develop a market-based training that would help inmates in the program get hands-on experience in business, networking, and leadership.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the club Lubumbashi-Etoile, District 9150, and the Rotary Club of Heerleen, District 1550, Netherlands, partnered to sponsor a vocational training program for 450 underprivileged youth to become craftsmen in building and construction, car and equipment maintenance, and other technical areas. This program, designed in partnership with Cite des Jeunes, a local organization, gives at risk youth an opportunity to get or create new jobs in Lubumbashi or neighboring areas.

These examples, amongst many others, show that sustained economic development is not possible without improved employment opportunities. As our efforts continue around the world, we encourage Rotarians to prioritize sustainability and community ownership in projects by involving stakeholders from the onset during the community assessment stage and continuously throughout every aspect of project planning and implementation.





Make connections at the Colombia Project Fair

By Past District Governor Sonia Uribe, District 4271; Chair of the Colombia Project Fair

We are very pleased to invite you to the Colombia Project Fair on 3 -5 February 2017. Our event will be hosted in Cartagena de Indias, the most beautiful city in the Caribbean. Clubs from Districts 4271 and 4281 will be exhibiting service projects seeking international support. Come experience magical Cartagena, learn about our service efforts, and build lifelong friendships within the Rotary family.

Event information and registration is available on our website, you can find additional information on our Facebook page. We assure you that not only will you enjoy the warm weather and the kind people of Colombia, but you will fall in love with this country. We hope you join us!

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Project fairs are regional events hosted by Rotary districts to encourage international friendship and collaboration. Fairs give Rotary clubs a chance to showcase their service efforts to potential global partners, and they give international visitors the chance to find a project that meets their club’s goals. Find information on all upcoming fairs,  including dates, location, program, and registration.

Ethical Dilemma Discussion: what would you do?

Your club is formalizing a partnership with a local organization. Since the organization’s work aligns well the work of your club and Rotary, the partnership is highly beneficial. A member of your club with experience working with the organization is very passionate about the partnership. As you spearhead the relationship, the club member is constantly monitoring partnership progress. Although you are doing as much as you can, the club member expects you to do a lot more and is not satisfied with how things are moving along. The member has even made calls to the organization to check on the progress, and your partnership liaisons from the organization have complained that the member is being pushy. As this is a very important partnership, you want to maintain your club’s image and ensure the partnership develops into a successful one.

While you appreciate your fellow member’s passion, what would you do?

Strengthening clubs through local partnerships

By Quentin Wodon, Author of the Rotarian Economist Blog, President of the Rotary Club of Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., and Lead Economist at the World Bank

Most Rotarians are professionals with deep skills in their area of expertise, yet many club service projects do not make systematic use of their members’ expertise. We see exceptions when Rotarians who are passionate and knowledgeable about a particular topic implement global grants. But in terms of the service work, my impression is that the great initiatives we undertake are limited in impact simply because they may not be truly strategic or may not make full use of Rotarians’ areas of expertise.

One solution to increase the impact of our service work is the concept of Pro Bono Rotarian Teams. On 1 July, my club launched partnerships with a half dozen local nonprofits in our community as part of a pro bono initiative. These partnerships bring four benefits: better service opportunities for members and greater impact in the community; more visibility for our partners and our club; attracting new members; and strengthening teams. Let me briefly explain these four benefits in case they may inspire other clubs to adopt a similar model:

Better service opportunities and larger impact: Rotarians in our club, as elsewhere, are professionals and/or business leaders. We are building on these skills by organizing pro bono strategic advising with small teams of 4-5 individuals (both Rotarians and non-Rotarians) that support local nonprofits in solving issues they face. This makes our club more interesting for our members in terms of the service opportunities we provide, and it also increases the impact that we have in the community because our engagement becomes more strategic.

More visibility for our partners and our club: Higher visibility is achieved in several ways. First, we are sharing our work on social media using the main community blog, The Hill is Home. We publish posts not directly about our club, but about the great work of our nonprofit partners and the fact that we are working with them. We also started writing short articles about our partner nonprofits in the main monthly community magazine.

New members: Our club has been losing members for several years, but since 1 July, we increased our membership by 50% from 18 to 27. Our pro bono initiative and our partnerships with local nonprofits is helping us recruit new members.

Stronger service teams: Our pro bono teams work for a period of three months with local nonprofits, and they include both Rotarians and non-Rotarians. We hope that some of the non-Rotarians working with the pro bono teams will become Rotarians, but this is not the main goal of combining members and others in our teams. The main goal is to build strong teams and benefit from the expertise of friends and colleagues who are ready to help, but may not be interested in Rotary. Think of this as our own model for a Rotary Community Corps, whereby we all work together to support and strengthen great local nonprofits.

There are multiple ways for Rotary clubs to partner with local nonprofits in a strategic way, and some clubs have a long history in doing so. Our new model emphasizing pro bono consulting teams working closely with local nonprofits may not be the right model for all clubs, but it does appear to be working for us, and it ties in nicely with our efforts at improving our public image and recruiting new members. If you would like to know more about our new model, please do not hesitate to post send me an email through the contact me page of my blog at The Rotarian Economist.



Serving with ShelterBox in times of disaster

By Ellina Kushnir, Service and Engagement Supervisor

When disaster strikes, Rotary’s project partner ShelterBox often works closely with Rotarians to evaluate local needs and devise a plan for immediate response. The Rotary family provides vital assistance to ShelterBox by assisting response teams with disaster assessments, housing response team volunteers, helping coordinate relief logistics, and sponsoring aid. Over the past fourteen years, Rotarians, Rotaractors, and Interactors have partnered with ShelterBox to help communities in dire need of assistance immediately following a disaster. Here are just a few recent examples of how Rotary members and ShelterBox have been working together:

  • Immediately following Ecuador’s devastating earthquake in April 2016, Rotarians from District 4400 met the ShelterBox Response Team at the airport and jointly attended response coordination meetings. ShelterBox supplied ShelterKits and water filters to the most vulnerable families. Over the past months, repeated after-shocks have continued to destroy more homes in the impact region. Having identified further families in need of temporary housing, ShelterBox is sending more ShelterKits, water filters and mosquito nets to Ecuador. ShelterBox response team volunteer, Liz Odell, past president of the Rotary Club of Nailsworth in England, headed to Ecuador in early October as part of the team overseeing the distribution.
  • Following the May 2016 devastating flooding and landslides in Sri Lanka, ShelterBox and Rotarians responded as families were stripped of their homes, livelihoods, and loved ones. Members of the Rotary Club of Capital City spent five days using boats and kayaks to rescue people marooned by flooding. The teamwork, trust and cooperation between the club and the ShelterBox response teams led to the provision of temporary camps for individuals who had lost everything.
  • Alongside ongoing relief responses in Syria, Cameroon and Niger due to conflict, ShelterBox has been working with families in Iraq who have been displaced (some on multiple occasions) fleeing for safety from conflict in Syria and Iraq.  ShelterBox is now preparing to respond to the anticipated retaking of Mosul from so-called Islamic State control, which is predicted to be one of the worst humanitarian crises in years and may result in an additional one million displaced people. Through the project partnership with ShelterBox, the Rotary family is able to reach families living in some of the most treacherous conditions. An update from ShelterBox response team volunteer Rachel Harvey, former foreign correspondent at the BBC, is available online. More information about assisting this initiative is available on
  • ShelterBox currently has an assessment team evaluating the impact of Hurricane Matthew in Haiti. Hurricane Matthew, the most powerful Caribbean hurricane in nearly a decade, hit Haiti on 4 October, bringing 145mph winds, heavy rain and dangerous storm surges.  Marie Alta Jean-Baptiste, director of the country’s Civil Protection Agency, has said: “It’s much too early to know how bad things are but we do know there are a lot of houses that have been destroyed or damaged in the south.” Up-to-date information about ShelterBox’s response to Hurricane Matthew is available at

For information about the RI-ShelterBox project partnership on the RI-ShelterBox Fact Sheet. Contact for information about getting involved or write to Rotary staff with questions about the partnership.

Rotary and ShelterBox are project partners for international disaster response. ShelterBox is a Charity independent of Rotary International and The Rotary Foundation.



Inspire the next generation through vocational service

By Daniel Seddiqui, Founder of Living the Map

I first became acquainted with Rotary International while living in Evanston to coach the Women’s Cross Country team at Northwestern University.  In 2008, I embarked on an ambitious journey to work 50 Jobs in 50 States in 50 weeks. Throughout my venture, I’ve had the great privilege of speaking at Rotary clubs across the country about my Living the Map program. Now, after settling in Denver, I plan to finally become a Rotary member.

Living the Map offers a national education program to redefine the traditional college internship.  We provide a college credited opportunity for students to experience a rapid prototyping of work and culture related to their career and geographic interests. We aim to empower college students to make informed decisions about their future career paths and gain cultural awareness by exposing them to a variety of authentic work experiences in diverse environments during an on-the-job summer program.

College students work their choice of five jobs in five different states over the course of five weeks. The program also offers a cultural component, as the student lives with a different host family in each location they work. During the work experience, a qualified mentor on the jobsite supervises each student to give advice, field questions, and support the student’s learning objectives for that week.

Rotary plays an enormous role in our program. Rotarians have offered us unmatched support as host families for the program. We have worked exclusively with clubs across the country to help host students in their homes, providing them room and board. The host families often make the biggest impression on our students. Hosts provide students with intangible support and offer them comfort away from home. The kindness and hospitality students experience from their hosts has been transformative, and have offered our students a unique display of Service Above Self. Often our host families also learn something from the students. Rotary members have asked to continue hosting in the years to follow.

We collaborate with our partner employers to craft a meaningful work experience for students. Our employers offer students exposure, mentorship, and career direction, and also provide work assignments to help translate their classroom learning into real world experience. We are eager to continue working with Rotary members in this capacity.

As part of Rotary’s guiding principles and the Avenues of Service, Vocational Service calls on Rotarians to empower others through training and skill development. Rotarians have shown interest in expanding their participation in the program and joining us as partner employers. Rotary’s involvement is a great asset as Rotary members offer comprehensive experience in countless desired professional fields. Rotarians help upcoming young professions discover new vocational opportunities and interests. By working together, we inspire others to act with integrity by following Rotary’s guiding principles and empowering youth with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in their careers.

We invite you to have a role in Living the Map, as an employer or host family. Learn more on our website.


Read more posts about vocational service 

Reducing poverty through economic and community development

By Azka Asif, Rotary Service and Engagement Staff

Globally, 836 million people still live in extreme poverty today. About one in five persons in developing regions lives on less than $1.25 USD per day. Global unemployment has increased from 170 million in 2007 to nearly 202 million in 2012, of which about 75 million are young women and men.*

How can we change that?

By supporting projects that focus on generating income and creating productive employment opportunities, we can reduce poverty. Providing income security and empowering women, people with disabilities, youth, and the extremely poor is essential to economic and community development.

Rotarians worldwide are committed to reducing poverty through projects that provide people with equipment, vocational trainings, and work to strengthen local entrepreneurs and community leaders, particularly women, in impoverished communities. Below are a few examples of Rotarians taking action.

Growing local economies

The Constantia Rotary Club helped set up a community garden and farm training center for young residents in Khayelitsha, the largest township in Cape Town, South Africa. The club is working with Abalimi Bezekhaya, a local organization that helps create income-producing gardening opportunities, and partnered with Rotary clubs in the United Kingdom, the United States, and Germany.

The garden yields many vegetables and herbs that supply Abalimi’s Harvest of Hope venture, which sells boxes of produce to middle-class Capetonians for a monthly fee. As the garden grew, a training facility was built for young, unemployed people, who could benefit from the knowledge of the older farmers. The training offers both practical instruction and theory, covering topics such as soil preparation, seedling production, cross-pollination, organic growing, and climate change.

Read more about the story in the October 2016 issue of The Rotarian or online here.

Providing vocational trainings  

The Rotary Club of Panaji in India conducted a vocational training program focused on training 12 women in stitching and tailoring. The workshop was conducted over a period of ten days for four hours a day to help women gain skills to be able to earn their own living and be financially independent. After the trainings, the women were each given sewing machines that they could use to start their own tailoring business.

Strengthening local entrepreneurs

Based on a community needs assessment, the Rotary Club of Ikeja in Nigeria concluded that traders or other local entrepreneurs interested in  growing their business did not have access to funding through local financial institutions. The club provided an interest free micro-credit loan to 20 beneficiaries to be used to enhance their businesses. After three months, those beneficiaries passed along the money to another set of 20 people. Over time, the revolving fund has assisted carpenters, tailors, barbers, hair dressers, various food sellers.

During October, Rotary Economic and Community Development Month, we’ll be sharing tips and resources to help with club and district economic and community development projects. Read previous posts below focused on growing local economies and check back here for more inspirational stories!


Creating stronger Basic Education and Literacy projects

By Mary Jo Jean-Francois, Area of Focus Manager for Basic Education and Literacy

Each and every day, I am amazed at the work Rotary clubs and districts do in education. From simple book drives to complex reading assessments in classrooms, hundreds—possibly thousands—of Rotary projects are being done each year to help better education for children and adults throughout the world.

As 1.2 million Rotarians, we know we have the ability to significantly impact the lives of children and adults by bringing opportunities to access education. But this alone may not be enough. The education learners receive must also be of high quality. This is done by ensuring teachers are properly trained and have access to additional training opportunities. It is accomplished through working with school directors, teachers, students and parents to understand the challenges their schools face and how we can help them achieve their goals beyond providing equipment. And finally, when possible, it is achieved through working with local government officials to garner their support for our projects and receive their commitment to continuing to work with schools once our projects are completed.

We are proud of the work that Rotarians do and it is my goal, as the Basic Education and Literacy Manager, to assist in project development and implementation. We are continually trying to produce opportunities to help Rotarians start a new project or to scale up existing ones. We have created the Basic Education & Literacy Project Strategies Guide, a document filled with education statistics, considerations before planning a project, project strategies, and tips to ensure extra sustainability. It also includes information about Rotarian-led projects from around the world- great examples to help get creative juices flowing!

We hope you find this guide helpful and we are always excited to hear about your projects.  Highlight your projects on Rotary Showcase. Any Rotarian and Rotaractor can upload their project to Showcase to inspire other clubs and districts and to connect with fellow Rotarians and Rotaractors undertaking similar work.

As we wrap up Basic Education & Literacy month, I would like to extend a big thank you for your tireless work to bring higher quality education and education opportunities to those who otherwise may not have them. I look forward to learning about your impact over the coming year!


Read more posts about basic education and literacy

Young Rotary leaders take action to empower their community through education

By Med Yassine Boukhari, Officer of the Interact Club of Tunis Inner City, District 9010, Tunisia

During September, Rotary Basic Education and Literacy Month, the Interact Club of Tunis Inner City visited the Elderly House of Mannouba. Volunteer teachers accompanied us, and during our visit, we talked with the seniors and reminded them that they have no limits, that it isn’t too late, and that learning has no age. We taught them letters and step by step, they started to understand until some were able to write their own names. At the end of the day, our joy was great when we saw that the majority of them were enthusiastic and determined to study and learn more.

How are you celebrating Rotary Basic Education and Literacy Month? Leave a comment below sharing what your club is doing or add your project to Rotary Showcase! Read more posts on Basic Education and Literacy.