Access to technology prepares students for innovative careers

By Andrea Paolo Rossi and Oliviero Zondini, Rotary Club of Cesena in Italy and global grant project leads

Our Rotary Club of Cesena is big with more than 100 members who represent the rich culture and strengths of our region. The local economy in Cesena is centered around agriculture and the manufacturing industry, in particular mechanics, manufacturing, and construction equipment. These companies must remain innovative to compete in the global market. Our region has high unemployment rates among youth coupled with manufacturing companies can’t find skilled workers.

To address this concern, we decided to focus on educating local high school students about the skills they need to establish a career in the manufacturing industry. The project aimed to create a 3D print lab for the Technical School. We partnered with FabLab Romagna to provide training for the students. FabLab Romagna, headquartered conveniently near the school, works with the international network of fab labs, small-scale workshops offering personal digital fabrication. Fab labs began as an outreach project from MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms (CBA) to provide access to modern innovation technologies.

The project was presented in September 2014 at the 8th Multi-Club Workshop in Ischia, where we met Serbian Rotarians who presented a project with similar characteristics. A partnership was formed from which two global grants were born with the Rotary Club of Cesena and Rotary Club of Beograd-Skadarlija each serving as the local host for their respective project and as the international partner supporting each other’s efforts.

In May 2015, our club’s project was presented to local authorities and citizens of Cesena during the Rotary Romagna Festival. Twelve clubs from our district committed to contribute their time and service to the project. Our artisan association, Confartigianato, supported the project by providing needed consumable materials for the lab.

The Rotary Foundation approved our global grant in June 2016, and in February 2017 the equipment was officially handed over to the school with a public ceremony in which students and teachers presented about their experiences using the fab lab. Our Serbian partners also attended this event.

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The project, valued at $60,650 USD, is now in full swing. The training courses held with FabLab Romagna allow students of different ages and classes to work together to develop a project under the supervision of a fab lab technician. The 3D printers are self- assembled with electronic and mechanical components. Course participants learn to manage the entire supply chain, from starting the project with computer graphics through to the creation of the final product.  The students themselves then become teachers to other students. Students also participate in educational trainings at the local manufacturing companies.

The project will continue throughout the 2017-18 school year, after which the Technical School will have a full 3D printing laboratory and technical expertise to continue training students in an increasing technologically-demanding world of mechanics. But what is most important, these students will learn a method of work that will make them leaders of a changing global industry.

Attend the 2017 Multi-Club Workshop in London, England. The 11th annual event will take place 6-10 September. Learn more about the workshop and visit their website for more information! 

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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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Empowering women and girls in Afghanistan

By Bibi Bahrami, member of the Rotary Club of Muncie and founder of AWAKEN

Growing up as a young girl in the peaceful village of Qala-e-Malakh in Afghanistan, I was part of a loving family with ten brothers and sisters. We were happy, but little did we know that our lives would soon face devastation as the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979. I was frightened and scared for my life and for the lives of my loved ones. Every time I heard shots or explosions, I trembled at the thought of losing a family member.

In the face of war, we were forced to flee our home, leaving everything behind to head towards refugee camps in Pakistan. A long journey awaited us as we traveled through mountains without much food or water, with small children and my mother who was eight months pregnant at the time. We arrived to the camps safely where I spent the next six years of my life. My life had been turned upside down. Growing up, I always had aspirations and dreams to be educated, and hoped for the opportunity to pursue them. My six years in the camp did not give me that opportunity, but I tried to learn what I could from my brothers’ books.

In 1986, I boarded a plane to meet my fiancé, who was a medical student in the United States who I had met in the refugee camp in Pakistan. My trip brought me to Muncie, Indiana, and I was blessed with the opportunity that I had always wanted. I was finally able to pursue my education, completing a GED and continuing on to receive an art degree from Ball State University. As my life has moved on from my home in Qala-e-Malakh and the refugee camps, I never forgot about the girls I left behind who have the same dreams as I did.

My husband and I continued to travel back to the refugee camps in Pakistan every year, with medicine and other humanitarian supplies. In 2002, with the support of family and friends, we established AWAKEN (Afghan Women and Kids Education & Necessities) to provide educational opportunities, vocational training, and healthcare services to the people of Afghanistan, especially the women and children.

As part of AWAKEN, we offered a vocational training program where we traveled from village to village and rented a room conveniently located near women’s homes. We conducted a six-month course teaching women basic hygiene, reading, writing, and sewing. At the end of the course, all women received a sewing machine and kit so they could become self-sufficient.

There were also no opportunities for education in my hometown of Qala-e-Malakh. In 2004, AWAKEN established a school for children grades K-12. The school now has more than 1200 students enrolled.

Most villages in Afghanistan do not have access to any sort of healthcare. In 2008, we built the Behsood Health Clinic which provides over 500 families access to basic treatments such as vaccines, birth control, etc. The clinic sees more than 180 patients daily.

Recently, AWAKEN partnered with the Rotary Club of Muncie Sunrise (United States) and the Rotary Club of Jalalabad (Afghanistan) to establish a Saheli Center. The center will open near the current AWAKEN clinic and school providing literacy, nutrition, and reproductive health classes. The center will also provide vocational education, including but not limited to computers and tailoring expanding upon AWAKEN’s efforts.

One of my biggest dreams was to open a birthing center in the village. AWAKEN created a birthing center to provide prenatal and postnatal care. With the support of partnering Rotary clubs, we will expand our efforts by conducted Family Planning Workshops taught by medical professionals from the Rotary Club of Jalalabad and the AWAKEN clinic staff. Birth attendants will also conduct small workshops on pre-natal nutrition, birthing practices and infant nutrition, including breast feeding for those receiving pre-natal care. Small packages of infant care supplies provided by the Rotary clubs will be given to women who complete all the classes.

I was once a little girl in Afghanistan with limited opportunities, and am blessed to have the life I enjoy today. Unfortunately, people living in impoverished countries do not have access to the opportunities and resources that I do now. Together we can make a difference in the lives of many women and children in Afghanistan, so that they can awaken to a brighter future with opportunities for continuing their education and becoming self-sufficient!

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Empower others with your expertise

By Azka Asif, Rotary Service and Engagement Staff

As part of Rotary’s guiding principles and the Avenues of Service, Vocational Service calls on Rotary members to empower others by using their unique skills and expertise to address community needs and help others discover new vocational opportunities and interests. January is Rotary’s Vocational Service Month, a great time to reflect on how the concept of vocational service is implemented in your club and district.

Here are some examples of Rotarians using their expertise to help meet their community’s needs:

  • For the past decade, the Rotary Club of Newport Beach Sunrise in the United States has supported a local career center. Club members have been trained to facilitate a series of workshops designed to assist adults re-enter the workforce after experiencing traumas and tragedies in their personal and professional lives. Members coach center attendees on preparing a job application, interview skills, business culture and etiquette, body language in the business environment, goal setting and dressing for success. The final phase of the initiative is a fun filled day of self-esteem building including a colorful graduation, new business attire, haircuts, manicures and massages for all the participants.
  • The Rotary Club of Madras Industrial City in India conducted a career guidance workshop for their Interact club to help students discover their interests. The District Vocational Service Chair arranged a half-day interactive session for students to form career goals and plan for their future vocations. A special workshop was conducted for girls and more than 200 students benefited from the project.
  • In Nigeria, the Rotary Club of Port Harcourt Airfield partnered with a local organization to host a free training program for impoverished people on making handcrafts such as beads, soaps, baking sweets, and repairing computers. At the end of the training, thirteen participants were given grants to start their own businesses.
  • The E-Club of Tamar Hong Kong in China organized seminars for youth in their community aimed at teaching them to balance everyday life and a career. Members of the club shared insights on different industries such as travel, jewelry, entertainment, and entrepreneurship. Youth were also taught to write a resume, cover letter and offered suggestions for successful interviews.

Read more stories about vocational service and gain inspiration for club and district service projects. Post your club’s vocational service project on Rotary Showcase and join the conversation in My Rotary’s discussion groups. Share your thoughts about vocational service in the comments below!