Did you wake up this morning to electricity, hot and cold running water with some food in the fridge? You didn’t even think about these automatic parts of our lives right here in Cotati, did you? Not everyone in the world has these benefits and so members of the Rotary Club of Rohnert Park-Cotati are helping people in Mexico, Ecuador and Uganda.
Members work with Rotary Club friends in these countries to provide clean drinking water, keep girls in school, help communities with economic development and increase their income. What is this all about?
In Ecuador the club participated in a Rotary Foundation Grant to provide clean water to six villages (about 6,000 people) in remote areas of the Andes. The club also participated in another Rotary Foundation grant to provide organic farming training to people to grow healthier food and to market it to the restaurants in Quito. Rotarian Dale Ann Knight visits these projects in Ecuador annually.
In Mexico Rotarians have been working to clean a major river, the Ameca, for healthier environments for drinking water, sewage treatment and tourist opportunities along the beaches. They provided water filters, solar panels and ping pong tables to a migrant shelter center where people can rest, seek asylum and get medical care. Over the past two decades the Rotary Club has done at least 35 projects in Mexico. Another project replicated in several locations provided the computers for distance learning in remote towns, so people could stay home and get a secondary or university education. The club supports scholarships for students at Project Amigo. Rotarians Dale Ann Knight, Mike Pastryk and Arianne Eskew visit these projects quite regularly.
The Rotary Club of Rohnert Park-Cotati participates in other projects including supporting girls who have been abused by family members in shelters providing them with safe, clean and protected places. The shelters assure that the girls attend school.
These same shelters also provide counselling to the girls to help them recover from the terrible abuses.
In Uganda the Rotary Club adopted Bukaleba Village in 2009. Recently the village bee keepers sold their honey and, instead of distributing the profits to themselves, they established a micro-bank to loan the money and doubled the funds in their local bank. Club members are currently working on a Rotary Foundation grant for primary education in remote villages to provide textbooks (they have none), teacher guides for the curriculum, desks (imagine 100 kids sitting on the floor trying to learn) and solar cooking panels to cook lunch. These students come to school hungry (which we know through the Back-Pack Program) and they learn better when they have protein in their diet. Club members have sponsored menstrual health management training for girls, boys and teachers in 4th – 6th grades including how to make reusable sanitary pads with locally available materials as there are no stores in these villages. Imagine this, fathers have requested this training.
By supporting girls’ education and empowering women entrepreneurs, the club is helping to alleviate poverty. In the developing world, empowering girls and women is seen and valued as the way to improve lives for everyone in the village and country. This facilitates keeping children in school.
The club has also sponsored students at Lords Meade Vocational College – a secondary school teaching both academics and vocational skills. For those students this is a path out of poverty and to a better future. One of the girls being sponsored had no chance at a secondary education. By attending Lords Meade and learning concrete and building practices as her vocational skill, she was able to build her family of 10 a brick home. Yes, they made the bricks themselves. Again, Rotarian Dale Ann Knight visits at least once or twice a year to work with friends and visit projects.
An additional benefit to working with Rotary friends in these countries is the long- term friendships. This is probably the best part of working internationally with Rotary. Rotary Foundation’s mission is world peace and understanding. The way forward is developing these strong relationships. By visiting and listening to our fellow host, Rotarians present their projects and the needs identified by the local community and the community assessments of priorities. As Rotarians, we are “Making a Difference” in people’s lives everywhere.