Every day, in communities throughout the world, Rotary clubs are actively working to improve the lives of those around them. From providing safe havens for street children to helping the poor become self-sufficient through the establishment of revolving loan funds, they engage in an impressive spectrum of Community Service activities.
Each Rotary club has the freedom to choose its own service activities, and each is urged to undertake activities that best meet the needs of its own community. But historically, Rotary clubs worldwide have addressed many of the same issues; indeed, Rotary has been proudly identified with service activities that it has initiated, including PolioPlus and Preserve Planet Earth.
While many of the needs Rotarians have been tackling remain as urgent as ever, new concerns arise. In an effort to identify those concerns which have the greatest relevance to Rotary, the Rotary International Board of Directors in 1999 approved a Menu of Service Opportunities which it is encouraging clubs and districts to consider. These opportunities are in addition to the Rotary International structured programs, such as Rotaract and Interact, which have a recommended
framework and guidelines.
The Menu of Service Opportunities includes the following topics:
· Children at Risk
· Disabled Persons
· Health Care
· International Understanding and Goodwill
· Literacy and Numeracy
· Population Issues
· Poverty and Hunger
· Preserve Planet Earth
· Urban Concerns
Children at Risk
For decades, and especially in recent years, Rotarians have been focusing their attention and resources on vulnerable and troubled children. From “adopting” homeless children to serving meals to schoolchildren from low-income families, Rotary clubs worldwide are working to provide education, housing, and a safe, secure environment for needy children. The plight of children at risk merits every effort.
According to United Nations agencies, an astounding number of children worldwide are living under extremely difficult conditions:
· Some 40 million children ages 14 and younger suffer abuse and neglect.
· An estimated 250 million children ages 5-14 are working.
· More than 100 million children live on the streets, vulnerable to exploitation, drugs, and crime.
· Nearly 12 million children under age 5 die every year from preventable childhood diseases and malnutrition.
· Some 130 million children of primary school age, mostly girls, do not attend school, contributing to shorter life spans and greater susceptibility to poverty and illness.
The 1998-99 Children’s Opportunities Grants inspired a wave of Rotarian initiatives. Rotarians need to maintain that momentum on behalf of needy children.
· Host an immunization clinic or distribute immunization history cards to new mothers in order to prevent childhood diseases.
· Support a school-based meal program to improve students’ nutrition.
· Conduct a literacy program focusing on girls.
· Establish an awareness campaign about child labor issues or provide alternatives for child workers and their families, such as scholarships for school.
· Volunteer at a home for former street children or support programs to feed, educate, and provide health services and mentoring to street children.
· Offer vocational guidance and training to increase a young person’s opportunities for employment and break the cycle of poverty.
· Host a community-based workshop focused on raising awareness of children’s issues.
· Promote a local program that assists victims of child abuse.
The first recorded Rotary club project for the disabled occurred in 1913 when Rotarians in Syracuse, New York, USA, initiated a health-improvement program for crippled children. Since then, Rotarians worldwide have worked to provide the disabled with education, employment, accessibility, and equal participation in all essential areas.
According to the United Nations, one in 10 people worldwide is disabled. Eighty percent of them are in developing countries, where their numbers are rising due to poverty, hunger, epidemics, disasters, and wars. Many disabilities could be prevented or treated:
· Of the 160 million people around the world with visual impairments, perhaps 20 million of them could see with a simple cataract operation.
· Some 120 million people have disabling hearing impairments; it is estimated that 50 percent of all hearing disability could be avoided.
· Many disabling and deadly diseases among children under age 5 could be averted by immunizations; due to the polio-eradication initiative of the past decade, three million children who might have been polio victims are walking and playing normally.
· About 150 casualties are caused each week from the 100 million land mines scattered across 64 countries; no fewer than 280 million people are at risk from these mines.
Much needs to be done to prevent disabilities through measures taken against malnutrition, environmental pollution, poor hygiene, inadequate prenatal and postnatal care, waterborne diseases, and accidents of all types. Just as important, Rotarians and all people of goodwill face the challenge of changing attitudes about disabled persons and promoting awareness about causes, prevention, and treatment of disabilities.
· Present a program by a qualified speaker on subjects such as employment or rights of the disabled.
· Support a program to train the disabled for job interviews and to assist them in finding meaningful employment.
· Construct a professionally designed park that allows disabled and non-disabled children to play together on specially designed equipment; install paths that support wheelchairs.
· Sponsor a disabled student to participate in Youth Exchange or a Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA) program.
· Initiate sporting events for disabled youths in the area.
· Donate medical equipment such as wheelchairs, eyeglasses, hearing aids, crutches, and prosthetic limbs to assist the disabled in low-income countries.
· Finance or provide surgery or other necessary medical procedures to help a disabled person who lacks resources.
From sponsoring eye and limb camps in developing countries to providing surgery for children with congenital defects and building and equipping medical institutions, Rotary clubs have never ceased their efforts to ease suffering and provide life-sustaining care to millions of people. Yet, achieving better health for all is an ever-changing, ever-challenging task.
Despite revolutionary medical advances that have increased life expectancy and quality of life, not everyone shares the benefits of better health, as the World Health Organization and UNICEF make clear:
· While global infant mortality rates have fallen by two-thirds since 1950, in some developing countries mortality rates for children under age 5 are more than 50 times higher than in the industrialized world.
· In many developing countries, HIV/AIDS is increasing infant mortality rates and reducing life expectancy dramatically; in at least two African nations, 25 percent of the population has HIV, which leads to AIDS.
· Although many killer diseases like poliomyelitis stand on the verge of eradication, at least 30 new infectious diseases — for many of which there is currently no treatment or vaccine — have emerged during the past 20 years to pose a threat to the health of hundreds of millions of people.
· In industrialized countries, the major health problems are non-communicable diseases such as heart disease and cancer, which are often linked to high-fat diets, smoking, lack of exercise, and other lifestyle choices.
· In developing countries, the major killers remain infectious diseases, including respiratory illnesses, tuberculosis, and malaria, which are often associated with poverty and unhealthy environments.
Rotarians work on many fronts to help people gain access to health care, build supportive environments, and learn to make healthy choices. The poor especially need the resources Rotarians can provide.
· Organize an awareness campaign, such as an AIDS walk or drug and alcohol abuse awareness rally.
· Hold an immunization drive or a health fair that provides information on health and screening services, in collaboration with the local health department.
· Organize continuing education opportunities for local health professionals.
· Work with local schools to provide staffing and funding for a school clinic for the students.
· Partner with local communities to develop a source for safe water and a sanitation system.
· Establish a clinic or hospital or a facility that focuses on a special needs group such as families affected by leprosy or underserved women.
· Gather and donate medical equipment or supplies.
· Locate areas needing medical assistance and recruit fellow Rotarians with medical expertise to visit the area and provide their services at no charge.
International Understanding and Goodwill
Advancing world understanding and peace, which is expressed in the fourth part of the Object of Rotary, is an important focus of Rotarian service. It is the impetus for numerous service efforts and other cooperative ventures among Rotarians from different parts of the world. It is the reason Rotary International has a long-standing, close collaboration with the United Nations and many of its member agencies. Appropriately, every year the anniversary of the founding of Rotary, 23 February, is celebrated as World Understanding and Peace Day.
It was once thought that international understanding would be a byproduct of world trade and instantaneous communication. However, although globalization may be bringing the world closer together, universal tolerance and peace sadly remain out of reach.
· Twenty-seven major armed conflicts were under way throughout the world in the late 1990s, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute — all but two of them internal conflicts.
· Conflicts have produced some 31 million refugees and other displaced persons, most of them women and children.
· Imbalances of power among nations, tensions between religious and ethnic groups, and the widening gap between rich and poor within and between nations cause deep resentments, which can easily turn into clashes.
The internationality of its membership puts Rotary in a unique situation to promote peace and goodwill. Through club-to-club contacts, international service projects, peace programs, and cultural and educational exchanges, Rotary clubs worldwide make a meaningful contribution to world peace. But Rotary clubs make an equally meaningful contribution to peace through service in their own communities. Given the communal nature of many of today’s conflicts, the homefront is an excellent arena for local Rotary clubs to begin advancing international understanding and goodwill.
· Sponsor a Model United Nations program so that young people can experience the challenges and mechanics of global problem solving.
· Help build friendly reciprocal relations with Rotary clubs in other countries by developing clubto-club links or by participating in an Intercountry Committee.
· Plan — and invite the public to — a club program on Rotary peace activities in honor of World Understanding and Peace Day, 23 February.
· Encourage ethnic diversity in club membership and invite the participation of Rotary scholars, exchange students, and Rotary Foundation alumni in club activities.
· Sponsor a peace-themed essay, art, or drama contest for youth, or use your international Rotary contacts to locate pen or e-mail pals for local youth.
· Participate in RI programs like World Community Service, Rotary Friendship Exchange, and Rotary Recreational and Vocational Fellowships.
· Take part in a Rotary International Convention or other meeting that stimulates mutual understanding, resource sharing, and networking among new friends.
Literacy and Numeracy
For many years, Rotarians have been active in efforts to reduce illiteracy, from building schools and paying salaries of teachers to serving as tutors to collecting and distributing books and audiovisual materials to libraries. Rotarians are working with governments to create large-scale replicable literacy projects in the developing world. In 1997, the RI Board of Directors designated July as Literacy Month, a perfect time for Rotary clubs to develop their own literacy projects as well as raise awareness of Rotarian efforts worldwide to eradicate illiteracy.
Considerable progress has been made in recent decades in reducing illiteracy; yet, close to a billion people lack the most basic literacy and numeracy skills. Millions more are functionally illiterate, lacking the skills necessary to meet the demands of everyday life. The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) illuminates some of the greatest challenges for those tackling illiteracy:
· Ninety-eight percent of the world’s illiterate population is in developing countries.
· Fifty percent of the world’s illiterate people live in India and China.
· More than 50 percent of the population of Africa is illiterate.
· Two-thirds of all those who lack literacy and numeracy skills are women.
· More than 130 million school-age children are not attending classes.
The ability to read, write, and do simple math is not only critical to progress and prosperity, it is necessary for the very survival of individuals in a modern society. Literacy and numeracy projects allow Rotarians to make a creative contribution to building nations, reducing poverty, and opening up opportunities to those who need them.
· Apply for a Rotary Foundation grant to establish literacy programs for girls and women, working with an international partner in a country with high rates of female illiteracy.
· Establish a literacy center with a library where people can come to read and meet tutors.
· Sponsor a business breakfast, inviting business executives and managers of local businesses to hear about literacy efforts in the workplace.
· Offer to set up satellite schools in villages, if girls are forbidden to travel far from home, and to sponsor single-sex schools with female teachers, if coeducational learning is a cultural issue.
· Organize a public awareness campaign encouraging parents to read to their children.
· Donate books to students and class libraries at home and abroad.
· Schedule a reading hour at a local library when club members would read to children.
· Provide child care for parents attending literacy classes.
· Reward students who read the most books, win a spelling bee or book report contest, or tutor others.
Rotarians care about the quality of life for all, from the youngest to the oldest, and have sponsored immunization and health programs that have helped to increase longevity. But falling global child mortality rates and climbing lifespans have prompted a new concern: that population growth may outpace Earth’s ability to sustain development.
In the 30 years between 1969 and 1999, the world’s population grew from 3.7 billion to 6 billion people. While the annual rates of growth slowed from 2.4 to 1.3 percent over that same time span, the global population continues to rise by about 78 million a year. United Nations reports provide telling glimpses into population issues:
· The highest population growth rates are generally occurring in the poorest and most environmentally fragile parts of the world.
· The most rapid fertility declines have occurred in developing countries which have achieved major improvements in child survival rates and educational levels and have implemented family planning programs.
· Even if fertility rates everywhere were to fall instantly to replacement level (2.06 children per woman), the high number of youths who are entering reproductive age ensures that world population growth will continue for another two generations.
· While there are more young people than ever, there are also more older people; the proportion of people over age 65 worldwide will exceed 17 percent by 2020.
In 1999, the RI Board adopted a statement on population growth and sustainable development, which reads in part: “Rotary International encourages Rotary clubs and districts, working as appropriate with government agencies, nongovernmental organizations and local leadership, to increase awareness and undertake even more projects that directly impact population growth and sustainable development. Projects would include those that promote education on the issue of population, access to family health care, adequate nutrition, and enable individuals to make informed and responsible decisions about issues such as child spacing in a way that is in keeping with their personal values and cultural and religious considerations.”
· Conduct or sponsor women’s health seminars in the community, focusing on reproductive health, prenatal care, and the benefits of delaying childbearing past adolescence and of spacing children, if appropriate.
· Arrange transportation for underprivileged mothers to attend health clinics and seminars.
· Sponsor a community health fair providing senior citizens a free blood pressure check, eye exam, diabetes screening, and other services.
· Develop a community-awareness campaign aimed at warning young people about the consequences of teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases while promoting self-esteem.
· Sponsor a microcredit program to provide loans to small-business entrepreneurs, particularly women.
· Conduct a literacy program focusing on girls, or establish a scholarship fund for girls that would cover the costs of school fees, uniforms, books, and other materials.
· Develop child care programs for preschoolers so that their older sisters would be free from babysitting duties to attend school.
· Invite a speaker to educate Rotary club members about population and development from a global perspective.
Poverty and Hunger
Traditionally defined as lack of income, poverty also means lack of access to health care, nutrition, education, and employment. It is perpetuated by hunger. People without enough food to eat are unlikely to have the strength to educate themselves, learn marketable skills, or find and keep a job. The United Nations Development Program points out:
· Nearly 1.3 billion people — more than one-fifth of the world’s population — live in extreme poverty on little more than US$1 a day.
· Some 840 million people — one out of every seven worldwide — are malnourished.
· Although the world produces plenty of food, it is not getting to those who need it most.
· When the health and productivity of a nation declines, it is vulnerable to economic and social hardship and political instability.
Rotarians undertake thousands of service projects each year to help conquer poverty and hunger in communities around the world, often with local resources only. Many projects draw upon the assistance of Rotary clubs in other countries through World Community Service, The Rotary Foundation, or other organizations.
· Establish a microcredit bank or revolving loan fund to help residents start or expand small businesses.
· Make available appropriate technology tools, expertise, and training to farmers to help increase their harvests, and encourage them to assist neighboring farmers.
· Provide vegetable seeds and training to impoverished families to enable them to raise food in their own gardens.
· Sponsor a land-use survey to determine how agricultural production might be increased through irrigation, fertilization, cultivation, and other means.
· Provide low-cost housing for homeless or extremely low-income families.
· Establish a hot lunch program for disadvantaged children at a local school.
· Identify children in the community whose families cannot afford to send them to school and arrange to pay for their tuition and fees.
· Organize a club for disadvantaged youths to provide vocational training, job placement, mentoring, and fellowship, and instill self-esteem.
· Collect donated coats and other clothing in good condition that can be provided to impoverished children and their families.
Preserve Planet Earth
Improving the environment has been central to Rotary service from the organization’s earliest days. Spurred by the example of Rotary founder Paul Harris, who stopped to plant many a tree during his world travels, Rotarians have planted millions of trees, created parks large and small, and carried out recycling activities in communities all over the globe. In 1990, Rotary International endorsed a focus on Preserve Planet Earth as a way to promote awareness among Rotarians and increase the number of Rotary environmental service projects.
Reports from United Nations agencies and the World Bank underscore the urgency of preserving our planet:
· Without changes in water management, a third of the world’s people will likely suffer from chronic water shortages in 30 years.
· In a 25-year span of the late 20th century, the world’s natural forest cover declined about 10 percent, an area equivalent in size to England and Wales.
· Loss of forests and global warming are among factors aggravating the impact of natural disasters, resulting in great loss of life and displacement of people.
· Global energy use is increasing more than 2 percent a year, most of it from nonrenewable fossil fuels.
· In developing countries, an estimated 400 to 700 million women and children are exposed to severe air pollution, mainly from cooking fires.
· As much as a third of all croplands worldwide have lost topsoil due to poor agricultural practices, and dry lands are spreading in more than 100 countries.
Through hands-on activities, educational programs, and innovative projects to reverse environmental deterioration, Rotary clubs and districts continue to make Preserve Planet Earth a service opportunity.
· Support the creation of urban gardens, parks, woodlands, and greenbelts.
· Arrange a cleanup day along a river, lake, or ocean shore in your community.
· Promote the use of public transportation and ride-sharing.
· Assist poor communities to obtain safe water and sanitation systems.
· Publicize community health training that addresses the relationships between safe water, sanitation, and health.
· Organize a community program to collect and sort glass, paper products, and other recyclable items.
· Support innovative educational programs that emphasize the importance and interdependence of the ecosystem.
· Sponsor a service project that provides agricultural training, appropriate tools, and capital resources to small farmers.
· Give awards to local businesses or industries for ecologically sound extraction, production, design, packaging, and waste disposal practices.
In 1905, Chicago was a bustling frontier city with both job opportunities and destitution, and with a reputation for filth, violence, and vice. Paul Harris believed “there could have been no more favorable birthplace for a movement like Rotary than paradoxical Chicago.” For the founder of Rotary, the city not only was a place in dire need of club fellowship but also of basic services, like public toilets. Rotary has never forgotten its urban roots and service concerns.
Today, the United Nations calculates that more than 50 percent of the world’s population resides in urban or suburban areas, many in cities of 10 million or more inhabitants. The world’s urban population is growing by 60 million a year. While urban areas have become the engine of social growth in all regions, they also pose great problems:
· Urban population growth, especially in less-developed regions, has outpaced the development of employment, housing, services, and the rest of the infrastructure; some 25-30 percent of urban inhabitants in developing countries live in slums.
· The numbers of poor women in particular have increased, both in cities, where work opportunities are limited, and in rural areas, where their husbands or children are leaving to seek urban opportunities.
· Problems once associated with urban decay and poverty in large cities can now be found in communities of all sizes: crime, unemployment, gangs, domestic and other violence, substance abuse, ethnic tensions, and homelessness.
Just as Rotarians work for peace globally, it is equally critical that Rotary clubs develop plans of action to address urban problems that threaten their own neighborhoods. From sponsoring inner-city Scout troops to building houses for low-income residents to providing training and jobs to exsubstance abusers who need a fresh start, many clubs are finding a way to renew their communities.
· Recognize that young people can too easily become either the victims or perpetrators of violence, and structure service efforts that focus on the needs of children.
· Utilize the workplace as an area to build community peace, assist in vocational training, and promote fairness and integrity in business practices.
· Create a service project addressing the needs of refugees, migrants, or immigrants in your community.
· Support a local shelter for victims of domestic abuse.
· Serve as mentors or tutors for young people in need of caring adult role models.
· Work with local schools to create a peer mediation program or present a conflict-resolution or peace education workshop to students.
· Sponsor alcohol-free festivals and dances to demonstrate you needn’t be “high” to have fun.
· Conduct a community cleanup or tree-planting to improve the physical appearance of a neighborhood and instill a sense of pride in its residents.