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Rotary Aid Makes a Global Difference

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“A hand up, not a hand out.”

Disaster Aid International, a global Rotary International project, has three areas of focus. First, working together, clubs are trying to bring safe water to every child through a partnership with the Skyjuice Foundation. Second, Rotary clubs try to provide disaster mitigation and disaster preparedness training for Rotary members and their communities. Finally, Rotary clubs respond to disasters by providing what a community needs with the clear understanding that the community becomes part of the response, living up to the slogan: “Giving a hand up, not a hand out.”

In a note of appreciation, Anna-Mae Kobbe, Rotary district governor for central Maryland and Washington, D.C., said one strong local example of Rotary’s humanitarian outreach has been the response to the Ellicott City flood. “The seven clubs in Howard County are doing amazing things to support their community’s recovery,” she wrote in her letter on the previous page. “They are aided by Rotarians from throughout our district and from around the world. Our district has an established disaster relief committee that deploys Rotarian volunteers as needed, and our district-based Disaster Aid USA.”

Rotary-to-Rotary Partnerships

In India, where “maanasi” means “of sound mind,” a mental health project called “Maanasi” has been initiated, developed and sustained by Dr.Geetha Jayaram, a senior faculty member of the Department of Psychiatry at John’s Hopkins Hospital.

Efforts towards the project were started in 1997 with Rotarians from the Columbia club, but have been sustained now for several years by Rotarians from the Howard West club and the Bangalore Midtown Rotary in India. The project now serves 206 villages and reaches a population of more than 6 million households.

That’s just one example of many local Rotary clubs in unique partnerships with overseas clubs. Part of “giving a hand up, not a hand out” means finding a local partner that truly knows what a community needs.

The Lakeshore Severna Park club has partnered with the Bamako-Titibougou club to help bring potable water to the Dioila region in Mali, West Africa. Together, the clubs applied for Rotary International grant funding to purchase a village drill and provide training for four people in its use and maintenance.

Why is a local partner so crucial? If the Dioila region is to receive water, the logistics are complex and unique to that area. Implementers must consider drill manufacturing, transportation from Kenya to Mali, customs administration and approval, site delivery, training workshops, inventory control and finally the full execution and installation of a working well site.

Peace-Building Among the Goals

The Annapolis Rotary has been supporting the Uganda Peace Project, an effort that brings four district “peace teams” into local communities. The teams work within government structures and with secondary school teachers.

The initiative has led to the establishment of a Rotary club in Nebbi district, and the club is advocating for unity and peace. The program emphasizes modules of conflict sensitivity, entitled “Do No Harm,” to enable them be conflict-sensitive in their day-to-day operations as leaders. The peace teams not only complement the work of government in ensuring security, but also work to contribute to peace-building through early warning and response action. Clergy are working with Rotarians to build and monitor peace in the communities.

“Sources of conflict could be political, domestic violence, resources, bullying and other conflicts within schools, and land rights,” wrote Phil Silvers, a Rotary International evaluator involved with the program. “The focus was on effecting positive change in communities — not just imparting mediation skills,” he observed. “The trainees were consistently pleased and grateful for the training.”

Next Generation of Rotarians

Since 1929, Rotary International has sent young people around the globe to experience new cultures. Currently, about 9,000 students are sponsored by Rotary clubs every year. Typically, students are sent to another country for a year-long stay, generally living with multiple host families during the year and are expected to perform daily tasks within the household as well as attend school in the host country.

The goal of Rotary Youth Exchange is to promote the advancement of international understanding, goodwill and peace at the person-to-person level.

“The most powerful force in the promotion of international understanding and peace is exposure to different cultures,” noted Tricia Baldwin, a member of the West Anne Arundel club, which has hosted students for the last six years. “The world becomes a smaller, friendlier place when we learn that all people regardless of nationality desire the same basic things: a safe, comfortable environment that allows for a rich and satisfying life for our children and ourselves.”

Youth Exchange provides thousands of young people with the opportunity to meet people from other lands and to experience their cultures. “This plants the seeds for a lifetime of international understanding,” said Baldwin.

The West Anne Arundel club has hosted students from France, Brazil, India, Chile and Germany. “We are currently hosting a student from Chile. We have also sent out students from our schools to Japan and Brazil,” she said.