Collaborate with Rotarian experts on maternal and child health projects

By Zuhal Sharp, Rotary Service and Engagement staff

Is your club or district thinking of starting a project focused on maternal and child health? Are you looking for resources to help you get started? Rotarian Action Groups (RAGs) help clubs and districts plan and implement service projects. RAGs are organized by committed Rotarians, Rotarians’ family members, and Rotary program participants and alumni who have expertise and a passion for a particular type of service. Learn about our current  Groups with expertise in maternal and child health, and contact them directly for assistance with starting a new, or expanding an existing, initiative:

With 20,000 worldwide members, the Rotarian Action Group for Population & Development (RFPD) has the largest membership of any action group. RFPD assists with projects addressing the intersection of unsustainable development, human suffering, and overpopulation, such as access to health services. The group maintains information on population and development projects that clubs/districts can help sponsor. An example of their work:

  • The group’s signature project in northern Nigeria, funded in part by the Rotary Foundation, the German government (BMZ) and the Aventis Foundation, is a comprehensive approach aimed at a sustainable reduction of maternal and perinatal mortality. Initially piloted in ten hospitals, the program has more than doubled to 25 hospitals in six states of Nigeria. The project aims to improve the Nigerian health system through the support and implementation of the medical guidelines and quality assurance in administered services. Read more about the project.

The Rotarian Action Group for Healthy Pregnancies / Healthy Children (RAG HP/HC) encourages Rotary members to work towards achieving the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. The group is working with clubs and districts to provide education and promote awareness of prenatal care:

  • In partnership with the Rotary Club of Paramaribo Residence (Suriname) and the Rotary Club of Leiden (Netherlands), the group implemented health education programs at secondary schools, as well as provided education on a healthy pregnancy for women visiting hospitals and primary health care clinics in Paramaribo, Suriname. The program was carried out through trained midwives and other health care professionals. Contact the group to get involved on a similar project.

In addition to organizing health camps enabling access to services such as dental care, health screenings, vaccinations and more, the Health Education and Wellness Rotarian Action Group provides Rotary members with the tools and knowledge they need to advocate for cost-effective, low-technology programs for early detection and treatment of cervical cancer. Contact the group to get involved.

Are you attending the Rotary International Convention in Atlanta? Connect with Rotarian Action Groups in the House of Friendship and attend their open events and meetings.

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Take collaborative strategic action to lower maternal deaths

By Azka Asif, Rotary Service and Engagement staff

In honor of Maternal and Child Health Month, Past District Governor Dr. Himansu Basu, a Rotary Foundation Cadre of Technical Advisors for Maternal and Child Health, shares about his team’s work to save the lives of mothers and babies in partnership with Rotarians, other professional volunteers, and governments.

Azka: Dr. Basu, last year you shared an update on the success of the Calmed (Collaborative Action in Lowering of Maternity Encountered Deaths) programme. Have you had any recent developments?

Dr. Basu:
Calmed, started in 2013, is funded through Rotary Foundation grants, supported by hands-on efforts of volunteer doctors and Rotarians from the United Kingdom and India. Two global grants have supported six vocational training team (VTT) visits to Sikkim, with a target population of 0.7 million, and Gujarat with a target population of 2.5 million.

Our team of 12 Obstetricians has trained 39 master trainers who continue to train professionals (currently just over 250) in emergency care of pregnant women and babies. The team has also trained approximately 100 Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA) who raise awareness about pregnancy, child care and related issues through community women’s groups.

The programme was recognized with two international awards for excellence in 2016 — Times Sternberg award and Rotary GBI Champion of Change.

AA: Have you achieved your objectives for the programme?

HB: Maternal mortality reduction programmes take time to achieve their goal – zero preventable maternal death. We are on track for improvements in access to effective care. After three years, we see a steady fall in the number of avoidable maternal deaths in all of Sikkim, our first pilot site. We are moving towards our target of zero preventable maternal deaths.

AA: What can Rotarians do to reduce maternal and child mortality?

HB: Maternal mortality is an index of development in any community – an effective project in any of Rotary’s six areas of focus will also decrease maternal and child mortality, albeit slowly. For a more direct measurable response, a comprehensive strategy based on the Calmed template aimed at reducing the shortage of trained professionals while promoting community awareness regarding childbirth and child care issues should be implemented.

AA: What advice can you offer Rotarians planning a global grant project to reduce maternal and child mortality?

HB: Create a strategic programme with vocational training teams being a key component. It’s important to have experienced project committees supported by health professionals, and public health experts. Close collaboration with motivated Rotarians and government in the project host country is essential for impact and sustainability. The Rotary Foundation Cadre of Technical Advisors can be a valuable resource in planning, implementation and the follow-up stages. Expertise is also available from Rotarian Action Groups such as the Population and Development, Health Education and Wellness, and Preconception Care groups.

A planning visit to the project area by the international partner is very important and should focus on identifying local assets and needs, partnership opportunities with local government and professionals.

AA: What advice can you offer for organising a vocational training team aimed at reducing maternal and child mortality?

Himansu: A vocational training team for improving maternal and child health should be structured to meet the needs of the community. Here are examples of scaling a project:

Scenario 1 targets several smaller hospitals or one large hospital. Two to four experienced doctors train a group of 10 to 20 doctors and nurses on emergency care of pregnant women and new-borns.

Scenario 2 targets several larger hospitals or many smaller hospitals. 5-7 experienced doctors train 20 to 25 motivated trainers who then qualify as master trainers. These master trainers go on to train others (30-40 at a time). Two return team visits should be conducted for evaluation and further training.

Scenario 3 targets a community of one million or more. This is a most effective method, but requires close collaboration with local government. A team of 7 to 10 experienced doctors undertake:

  • training cascade as in Scenario 2 (above)
  • training 15 to 20 ASHA trainers to raise community health awareness. The ASHAs then train women’s groups in towns and villages throughout the target area
  • analysing all maternal deaths in the target area to identify preventable causes and facilitate corrective measures in partnership with local government

AA: Which scenario is most effective in your opinion?

HB: Clearly Scenario 3, but it is also the one requiring more time and resources.

AA: Thank you for sharing your knowledge and expertise! What is your vision for the future?

HB: We cannot rest on our laurels. We need to facilitate and provide support for Rotarians in many low resource countries to introduce more strategic programmes for the entire community based on the Calmed VTT template. Please contact me for further information and suggestions. Also, visit the Calmed programme website for more information.

We are in discussion to establish maternal and child health academies in partnership with governments and NGOs to provide academic support, carry out the work of vocational training teams and advocate to develop future programmes and future leaders achieve our goal of zero preventable maternal death.

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Peace is possible

By Past TRF Trustee Carolyn E. Jones, Chair of the Rotarian Action Group for Peace

It seems there are a whole bunch of Rotary members who aren’t content in merely being just members and want to make a greater impact. These members have decided to organize, specialize and focus their efforts on one specific area like water and sanitation, microcredit, or health. By the time they come up with a name, it is so long that they simply call themselves Rotarian Action Groups (RAGs). One day, I went online and stumbled across the Rotarian Action Group for Peace’s website and knew I wanted to join right away.

Peace RAG is a group of Rotarians, their family members, program participants, and alumni working together for the purpose of advancing peace throughout the world. The RAG formed in 2012 as a group focused on providing a network of resources to further the peace and conflict resolution work of Rotary members around the globe.

When it comes to matters of literacy, health, water or hunger, the needs and solutions easily come to mind: books, medicine, water wells, food, etc.  When it comes to furthering peace and preventing conflict, most Rotarians can’t immediately think of a project to implement.

Peace RAG connects clubs and districts to peace projects looking for support, as well as provides education and information about the many ways we can support peace. Here are a few ways the RAG is assisting the Rotary family:

  • Upon request, the RAG looks for funding for peace projects. Most recently, we helped secure a Global Grant for a project in District 4185, Mexico. The grant will finance a project that provides training for Rotarians, Rotaractors, youth and other local peace builders on the positive peace model and will offer practical instructions on how to build peace within their community. Working with local media outlets, the project aims to produce news that highlights positive and constructive opportunities for Mexico to grow more peaceful in the years ahead.
  • The RAG identifies speakers for high profile Rotary events such as conventions, district conferences, club programs, and presidential peace initiatives.
  • The group encourages collaborations between Rotary Peace Fellows and clubs by helping clubs identify local Peace Fellows and alumni and facilitating introduction.

Creating a virtual network of peace

Rotarian Action Group for Peace’s signature piece of work is the Rotary Peace Map, a virtual platform connecting Peace RAG members with other Rotary affiliated groups, projects, educational institutions and peace organizations. You can easily navigate the map by entity, region, or area of specialization. It is an exciting resource and here is all you need to know about it:

  • The worldwide map covers Rotary’s global network and the regional filter allows you to explore specific regions of interest;
  • The map highlights areas of specializations, connecting you with groups that share your interest;
  • You can easily find your Rotary club, organization, educational institute or peace project by using the search tool.  You can even find my name way up in Alaska, USA!

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As I write this, Peace RAG is collaborating with the 21st Century Peace Literacy Foundation to spread the message of peace via a unique Peace Hub Tour in western United States.  This mobile space is facilitating conversations about peacebuilding through community visits and meeting with local Rotary clubs. The hub is a huge eye catcher, as you can see from the photos above, and many clubs have already contacted Jerry Leggett, the lead on this initiative, to schedule a visit. If you can’t connect with Jerry on the west coast tour, be sure to meet him and the hub at the Rotary International Convention in Atlanta.

There are so many avenues to peacebuilding – many that I had not even considered. Peace is possible! Learn more about Rotarian Action Group for Peace and let’s advance world peace together.

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Work with district international service chairs

By Kiki Melonides, Rotary Service and Engagement Staff

To help clubs plan impactful service projects and sustainable global grants, district international service chairs now have exciting new responsibilities. Appointed by district governors for a suggested three-year term, district international service chairs will work collaboratively with club and district leaders to identify and promote resources and strategies for enhancing projects and grants.

International service chairs will build a district resource network of Rotarians, program participants, and alumni with expertise in Rotary’s areas of focus and community project planning. In collaboration with fellow district leaders and members, Rotarian Action Groups, The Rotary Foundation Cadre of Technical Advisers, and others, international service chairs will connect projects in need of guidance with local technical experts from the Rotary family and promote other resources for improving service projects and grants.

Service chairs will be looking for experts with experience in the areas of focus and the lifecycle of a project including familiarity with global grants, project planning and implementation, community assessment, and measurement and evaluation. Are you an expert in any of these areas? Be sure to identify yourself to your district international service chair so that they can include you in your district’s resource network.

By including local Rotarian expertise early in project planning and design, this effort aims to increase the impact and sustainability of projects and global grants. This initiative will provide further vocational service opportunities in sectors that correspond with Rotary’s areas of focus. The effort also aims to increase friendship and cooperation among Rotarians and strengthen connections between Rotarians and Rotary alumni, such as peace fellows.

Write to the Rotary Service team with any questions.

Lifecycle of a service project webinar lessons: Part 3

10 tips for securing resources for a successful service project

serviceproject_webinargraphic_EN-03By Ellina Kushnir, Rotary Programs staff

Imagine this scenario: your club has conducted a community assessment and identified which needs should be targeted through a service project, you have put together a project plan, and now you’re ready to roll up your sleeves and get started. Where and how do you begin to fundraise? How do you find a global grants partner? How do you best recruit volunteers? Where do you find knowledgeable subject matter experts that can lend a hand and guide you along the way?

Part 3 of the Lifecycle of a Service Project webinar series focused on helping the Rotary family acquire project resources to carry out impactful and sustainable initiatives. Watch a recording of the webinar and read these practical tips to help find project support:

  1. Start locally. Webinar panelist PDG Ron Denham urges clubs and districts to first look for resources within the local community. Whether searching for funding, skilled volunteers, in-kind donations, or partnerships, there is a chance that the local community has the resources that are needed to help implement the project. And when the local community invests resources in a project, it is also more likely to remain involved for many years after the project has been implemented to ensure long-term success.
  2. Explore Rotary Grant options. Rotary Grants may be available to help fund Rotary clubs’ and districts’ service projects.
  3. Crowdsource for support. Rotary’s crowdsourcing platform, Rotary Ideas, makes it easy for Rotary clubs to request small contributions from a wide network. Clubs post their project in need of assistance and then share the listing with their digital networks through social media, blogs, emails, and websites. Contributors can support projects directly through the tool and need not be part of the Rotary family.
  4. Organize a Rotary Community Corpsa group of local people in the community who are not members of Rotary but work closely with their sponsoring Rotary club to assist with projects. These groups help mobilize a community, ensure local culture and customs are captured in activities, and help ensure that local needs are met.
  5. Consult a Rotarian Action Groups. These groups consist of members of the Rotary family and provide technical expertise on service projects within a particular area of focus. Currently 18 Rotarian Action Groups exist to help clubs and districts conduct needs assessments, incorporate monitoring and evaluation components, and even secure funding.
  6. Build partnerships. “Partnerships provide expertise, local knowledge, insights into the local culture and values, and they provide a means of accessing local resources to provide training and know-how” PDG Denham says. Take the time to build meaningful partnerships, particularly at the local level, for assistance with resources, sustainability, technical expertise, and project longevity.
  7. Consult a district leader. Every year, district governors appoint district leaders to lead service committees and assist club and district level humanitarian initiatives.
  8. Network at Rotary events. Many partnerships begin with a face-to-face meeting at a Rotary event: the annual Rotary International Convention, International Assembly, regional project fair, zone or district event, or while traveling and meeting with Rotary clubs. Don’t let these opportunities pass you by!
  9. Engage young professionals. Rotarian Thuso G. also reminds us that “involving [youth and young professionals] brings energy and chances of continuity.” Young professionals also have innovative ideas to securing project needs and implementing projects.
  10. Remain transparent. Open, consistent communication is key to building relationships and acquiring needed resources. Rotarian Jannine B. urges project coordinators to “keep everyone involved in the loop so avoid duplication of effort and things don’t slip through the crack”.

Visit My Rotary for additional project lifecycle resources.