For nearly a century, Rotarians have been putting the motto Service Above Self into action, using the resources of Rotary International and their club members to make a difference in communities around the world. For every Rotarian who is passionate about the call to serve, there are countless communities around the world that desperately need help. Yet these communities don’t merely want a handout; they seek long-term solutions that community members can implement themselves.
An excellent way to foster enduring community development is to sponsor a Rotary Community Corps (RCC), a team of non-Rotarian men and women from the community who want to spur long-term economic development and self-sufficiency.
Under the guidance of a sponsoring Rotary club, RCCs can address drug abuse, crime, illiteracy, hunger, pollution, inadequate housing, and other problems that plague their communities. RCCs can work wherever they’re needed. Any challenge in any community can be addressed by an RCC.
Perhaps the greatest asset of the RCC program is its flexibility. Geographic location has no bearing on the feasibility of RCCs — they are appropriate anywhere non-Rotarians and Rotarians want to work together to address a pressing concern. An RCC may comprise an entire village or community, or a smaller group within it. And because RCCs are both rural and urban, their usefulness is universal and reflects the diverse communities in which they serve. Consider the possibilities of what an RCC can do in your own or in any adopted community worldwide:
· Establish a literacy center or a tutoring group at a local school or library
· Set up a clinic for people who cannot afford regular health and dental care
· Train unskilled workers so they can find better jobs
· Organize teams to clean up local parks and highways.
To be truly effective, RCCs must consist of active participants who can mobilize to articulate, design, and carry out their own plans for change. Organizing an RCC involves a major commitment from the sponsoring Rotary club, but in time, Rotarians oversee projects less closely as corps members become increasingly independent. And as corps members take on ever-greater responsibility, real community development is achieved and sustained.
Any community’s power to transform itself exists right in the community itself. Who else besides the residents have firsthand knowledge about the community’s most pressing problems? Unfortunately, oftentimes the voices of community residents are ignored, particularly in less economically developed areas. And when “outsiders” attempt to implement change, projects often fail due to ill-advised planning or lack of community support.
Rotary clubs have a proud history of addressing community problems. Most clubs take the common-sense approach of investigating the community’s needs and developing service projects based on their observations. RCCs serve as ideal vehicles for communities to enact their own change, increasing their likelihood of success.
An RCC can adapt to the geographic location and social and economic conditions of the community it serves. Corps is equally effective in rural and urban communities in addressing global problems such as poverty, hunger, children at risk, and health and environmental problems.