New Rotarian Action Group takes on hepatitis eradication

By Humberto Silva, Chair of the Hepatitis Eradication Rotarian Action Group and member of Rotary Club of São Paulo-Jardim das Bandeiras in Brazil

Humberto SilvaAccording to the World Health Organization, viral hepatitis is the seventh leading cause of death worldwide. Together, Hepatitis B and C kills close to 1.4 million people every year. Around the world, 400 million people living with chronic Hepatitis B and C, the most serious forms of viral hepatitis, don’t know they are infected. Untreated cases cause serious damage to the liver and result in death.

I was once one of those 400 million people in good health and without a single symptom while my liver was being taken by cirrhosis. In 2010, before a trip to the South Africa FIFA World Cup, I visited the doctor to ensure my vaccines were up-to-date. Apart from the vaccines, the doctor also tested for Hepatitis B and C and there it was: hepatitis C.

I received treatment and a second chance at life. I knew I had to do something to help the millions of other people who were still suffering. I started to research the disease and found that 3 million in my country of Brazil shared my same problem. They showed no signs of a damaged liver, but were living with the terrible disease. I became president of the Brazilian Association of People with Hepatitis (ABPH) which established five free clinics in Brazil with a the sixth one soon opening in Mexico focused on prevention and treatment.

Using point of care blood testing, we started offering screenings all over the country. We performed half a million tests and identified 5,000 people like me living with the disease with no symptoms of infection. We helped those testing positive for hepatitis connect with treatment options.

My Rotarian friends accepting my invitation to join the mission. We engaged Rotary clubs throughout Brazil, and have now spread to all of Latin America. Over 1,000 clubs are working with us, performing low-cost and convenient tests to detect the disease. Lives are being saved and each infected person now has a chance to get treatment and be cured. Today, treatment is easy and effective in almost 100% of cases. The biggest challenge is finding those who are infected with the disease.

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The Hepatitis Eradication Rotarian Action Group was formed to help clubs and districts with hepatitis screening and testing campaigns. Join our group and volunteer to help us form a committee in your country to conduct testing. The group is open to Rotary members, their families, program participants, and alumni with expertise or a passion for a particular service area.

Contact me for more information and to join our efforts!

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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What makes a Rotaract project outstanding?

By Molly Friend, Rotary Programs for Young Leaders Staff

Rotaract clubs bring together people ages 18-30 to exchange ideas with leaders in the community, develop leadership and professional skills, and have fun through service. In communities worldwide, Rotary and Rotaract members work side by side to take action through service.

Every year, Rotaract clubs around the world develop innovative solutions to community challenges. Rotary annually recognizes these high-impact, sustainable projects with the Rotaract Outstand
ing Project Awards
.

So what makes a Rotaract project outstanding?

1) Change

1Last year’s Outstanding Project Awardee, the Rotaract Club of Bugolobi in Uganda, aimed to support a rural community with the highest impact possible. Working alongside local doctors and schools, they provided everything from school supplies to comprehensive medical screenings, dental exams, and HIV screenings and prevention education. Since access to clean drinking water is one of the primary reasons children miss school, the club also dug a borehole to bring clean water to the rural community.

2) A Cause

2Rotary is dedicated to six causes that build a better world. Outstanding projects work towards one or more of these six areas of focus. For example, the Turkish Rotaract Club of Istanbul-Dolmabahçe’s outstanding project focused on Saving Mothers and Children. Their project, “Still Child”, took a stand against young women and girls who are forced into underage marriage. The Rotaract club organized conferences in rural areas where the practice is still common to break the silence on the issue and bring awareness to resulting consequences.

3) Creativity

3Look at old problems with new, unique ideas. By imagining possibilities and trying new things, great solutions emerge. The Rotaract Club of the Caduceus in India upgraded outdated disease-tracking systems by harnessing new mobile technologies. This innovative approach improved disease surveillance to study epidemiological trends in the region.

4) Collaboration

4Rotary is about bringing people together to create change; we love to see Rotaractors and Rotarians working together in service. 12 Rotaract clubs from five districts across Turkey and Russia worked with the Down Syndrome Association to organize a communication and skills training for children and adults with Down Syndrome.

5) Commitment

5Dedicated Rotaractors are fundamental to creating outstanding projects. As part of the “Ready to Succeed” project, designed by the Rotaract Club of Brimingham, USA, high school juniors and seniors were paired with Rotaract mentors in aims of better preparing the students for college. The Rotaract mentors developed these relationships over a number of years, demonstrating their commitment to helping youth enroll in college.

Do you know of a Rotaract Outstanding Project? Submit a Outstanding Project Awards nomination by 1 February . To learn more about the projects referenced in this blog read about last year’s awardees.

Rotary’s commitment to creating a healthier world

By Rotary Service and Engagement Staff 

Rotary members are committed to fighting and preventing diseases. In fact, 15 of our 26 Rotarian Action Groups (RAGs) are focused on disease prevention and treatment. Rotarian Action Groups help Rotary clubs and districts plan and carry out community development and humanitarian service projects. Here are a few examples of RAGs whose members are committed to applying their expertise to fighting disease:

  • The Alzheimer’s / Dementia Rotarian Action Group (ADRAG) aims to help those who face the challenge of dealing with family members and citizens that are afflicted with Alzheimer’s and/or dementia. ADRAG is involved in various projects and initiatives; they are currently working with 21 districts. Read about their work.
  • Rotarians for Family Health and AIDS Prevention (RFHA) helps clubs and districts plan and implement large scale projects that improve lives and provide access to health-related education, preventative health care, and resources for treatment. Their signature Rotary Family Health Days program promotes disease prevention and treatment by implementing a massive, annual campaign across hundreds of sites in four countries in Africa and in India that provides free health care services to thousands of people in underprivileged communities.
  • Food Plant Solutions Rotarian Action Group focuses on addressing malnutrition, hunger and food security through the use of readily available local food plants. This self-sustaining solution empowers people to understand local food plant resources and allows them to feed themselves and their families. Learn more about their work.
  • Rotarian Action Group for Diabetes assists clubs and districts on projects that provide a strong commitment to education, identification, and treatment of diabetes, especially among children in developing countries, while raising awareness of this devastating disease throughout the Rotary world. Read more.

In observance of Rotary Disease Prevention and Treatment Month in December, we encourage you to collaborate with an action group on a club or district health care project.  Download a list of all disease prevention and treatment focused action groups and make your next project more impactful.

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Taking action against Alzheimer’s and dementia

By The Alzheimer’s/Dementia Rotarian Action Group

Nearly 45 million worldwide live with Alzheimer’s. The Alzheimer’s/Dementia Rotarian Action Group (ADRAG) is a collection of Rotarians and Rotaractors dedicated to supporting the Rotary family and our communities. We aim to help those who face the challenge of dealing with family members and citizens that are afflicted with Alzheimer’s and/or dementia.

This challenge is very real.  Some call it the silver tsunami—the wave of men and women living longer than previous generations.  Yet our communities and nations are not ready to face the rising tide of those suffering from these diseases.  Today, one in eight older Americans has Alzheimer’s, and the risk of developing the disease doubles every five years after the age of 65. We started the Alzheimer’s / Dementia Rotarian Action Group (ADRAG) to help address this challenge.

ADRAG is involved in various projects and initiatives; we are currently working with 21 districts on related projects. We encourage you to get in touch with us to learn more and take action. Below are some examples of our work:

Supporting research

Two thirds of those impacted with Alzheimer’s / dementia are women. A woman at the age of 65 faces almost twice the risk of developing Alzheimer’s in her lifetime as a man of the same age. Yet, very little is known or understood about why women are at a higher risk.

Dr. Rudy Tanzi, a leading researching from Harvard and the Massachusetts General Hospital is working to find a cure for Alzheimer’s. In collaboration with the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund, Dr. Tanzi has agreed to help determine why women are at a higher risk.  ADRAG advised on this project and helped connect the Rotary Club of Martha’s Vineyard in the United States with the Rotary Club of Toronto in Canada to partner on a global grant for the research project.

Organizing a fun meeting space

ADRAG advised on the Memory Café project providing social support for people with dementia. The café offers a meeting place to gather for refreshments, conversation, music, movies, and entertainment. The Massachusetts Council on Aging provided a grant and the town provided a site with volunteers from the community. Since the project began in July 2016, we’ve had three meetings with 25 participants per meeting!

Creating friendlier communities

The initiative to create dementia-friendly communities was first created by Rotarians Tony Parker and Geri Parlby of RIBI’s Rotarians Easing Problems of Dementia (REPoD). By creating dementia-friendly communities, we increase awareness and understanding of the disease in the business, social and physical environments in which we all live.

The initiative first started in the town of Tavistock in England where social isolation was one of the biggest concern facing those with dementia. Research showed that people living with dementia and their care givers had three priorities: to feel safe and not embarrassed, to continue enjoying things they had always done, and to feel like they still belonged to the local community. Initiatives such as creating community sensory gardens, briefing social organisations such as churches and golf clubs on dementia, and encouraging dementia-friendly outdoor activities such as walking and photography were launched. More than 500 people in the town have received ‘dementia-friendly’ training and over 30 businesses and social groups are recognised as being dementia-friendly.

ADRAG hopes to expand this project to the USA. An estimated 120,000 people in Massachusetts alone lives with Alzheimer’s, and the number is expected to grow as the population grows older. We hope to reach as many people as we can in collaboration with Rotary clubs in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

ADRAG aim to leverage members’ experience, resources and the Rotary network to support and promote Alzheimer’s and dementia-related projects of all sizes at the local club, district, and international level by providing a global platform for collaboration, education, and support. Visit www.adrag.org  to access resources, become a member, or request assistance.

Promote the importance of global sanitation and hygiene on World Toilet Day

By the Water and Sanitation Rotarian Action Group (Wasrag)

Sanitation has been a focus for Rotary since it’s early years. In fact, the very first Rotary service project, implemented in 1907 in Chicago, was the construction of public toilets (often referred to as comfort stations during that time)! In the early years of the Water and Sanitation Rotarian Action Group, our focus was on just water. Today, we know sanitation and hygiene education is just as important, maybe even more so.

Everyone visits the toilet several times a day. It’s a basic human need, but 2.4 billion people don’t have access to a toilet. The impact of inadequate or no sanitation is devastating, especially on women. One in three women worldwide risk shame, disease, harassment and even attack because they have nowhere safe to go to the toilet. Nearly 526 million women have no choice but to go to the toilet in the open. Women and girls living without toilets spend approximately 97 billion hours each year finding a place to go.

Today, World Toilet Day, take action and help us spread the word. Encourage your club and district to get involved by supporting a sanitation project:

  • Find a project on Wasrag’s website or Rotary Ideas
  • Share about projects you have already implemented on Rotary Showcase
  • Read the Guide to WASH in Schools to learn about creating healthier communities while improving school enrollment and attendance by bringing sanitation and hygiene services to schools
  • Organize a water, sanitation, or hygiene (WASH) education project in your community. Contact us for help conducting a community assessment to determine local WASH priorities, or for help developing and implementing a club or district WASH project

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

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Take action to support education during Rotary Literacy Month

By Azka Asif, Rotary Service and Engagement Staff

Today, 103 million youth around the world still lack basic literacy skills, and more than 60% of them are women. An estimated 50% out-of-school children of primary school age live in conflict-affected areas. Enrollment in primary education in developing countries has reached 91%, but 57 million children still remain out of school. *

Why are these statistics so important? By supporting education and literacy in communities around the world, we can change these figures and help improve lives. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 4 calls on ensuring inclusive and quality education for all and promoting lifelong learning.

Rotarians worldwide are committed to supporting this goal through education-oriented projects that provide technology, teacher training, vocational training teams, student meal programs, and low-cost textbooks to communities. Rotary’s goal is to empower communities to support basic education and literacy, reduce gender disparity in education, and increase adult literacy. Here are a few examples of Rotarians taking action:

  • The Rotary Club of Flemington (USA) adopted a school in Bogor, Indonesia, in support of education for children with autism. The club provided financial support for educational materials, organized teacher trainings from the Western Autistic School, Olga Tennyson Institute at LaTrobe University, and coordinated teacher visits to local government schools where children with autism are integrated into classrooms. Bogor also received technical support in reviewing current practices and planning for future development.
  • Learning to read is a critical foundational skill strongly correlated with academic and vocational success. The Rotary Club of Waterville’s Rhoda Reads™ program trains Rotarians on early childhood development for children ages 0-5 in Maine, USA . The program equips each Rotarian participant with a tool kit including a variety of books along with a stuffed owl named Rhoda (the program mascot). Rotarians are matched with a local early childcare provider which they regularly visit and spend time reading to children.
  • In order for children to succeed after high school, they must be computer literate. With the support of the Auckland University of Technology, the Rotary Club of Taveuni provided a digital learning room for high school students on the Island of Taveuni, Fiji. Watch the video below to learn more.

During SeptemberRotary Basic Education and Literacy Month, we’ll be sharing tips and resources to help with club and district literacy projects. Read previous posts below focused on education and check back here for more inspirational stories!

* www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/education

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