Joint statement from RI and other service groups

Woven through the fabric of virtually every community on Earth, service clubs of Rotary International, Kiwanis International, Lions Clubs International, and Optimist International are working safely and diligently to maintain connections with each other and our neighbors so we can cope with and overcome the effects of COVID-19.

We are leveraging the strength of our combined networks of 3.2 million members to provide comfort and hope to those feeling the effects of isolation and fear. And, we are focusing our collective skills, resources and ideas to support frontline health workers and first responders as they battle this disease and save lives.

In these times of uncertainty, your local service clubs remain committed to meeting the challenge of finding innovative ways to take action together to help communities around the globe heal and thrive — and become more united than ever.

“The global effort against COVID-19 depends on actions taken in every country. As people of action, this is our time to connect with each other to offer immediate help to people in need,” says Mark Daniel Maloney, RI 2019-20 president.

“The scale and magnitude of this global pandemic requires our world’s citizenry to heed the advice and cautions of the experts. The work and plans of our collective members and volunteers must not cease.  Our immediate response after the crisis will be necessary to support local Governments respond to the many social and economic challenges that will ensue in its aftermath,” says Adrian Elcock, Optimist International president for 2019-2020.

“Great challenges test us, but they also bring us together. Lions are finding new ways to safely serve. Our Lions Clubs International Foundation has granted over one million dollars to help communities facing extreme rates of COVID-19, and additional grant requests are being received daily.  Our communities depend on service clubs, and we will be there, supporting and strengthening them just as we always have together,” said Dr. Jung-Yul Choi, Lions Clubs International president for 2019-2020.

“During these difficult times, we’re seeing everyday heroism across the globe. I encourage us all to recognize the health and safety professionals who are putting their own health at risk for the greater good. To the educators, grocery workers, delivery drivers and the countless professionals who can’t stay home, the Kiwanis family thanks you. We all play an important role in keeping our friends and neighbors safe. Please follow the advice of the World Health Organization, your local health agencies and the instructions given by your Government. Please, stay safe,” said Daniel Vigneron, Kiwanis International president, 2019-2020.


What Rotarians are doing globally about COVID-19

Screen Shot 2020-04-05 at 7.17.35 PM
Photo for by Fiorani Fabio/Alamy

From Rotary International

As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads uncertainty and hardship around the world, Rotary members and participants are innovating, caring for those affected, and showing that even at a distance there are ways to help.

As people of action, Rotary members are engaged in their communities — gathering for projects and offering help to those in need. But in many areas, life is changing drastically. Health experts are urging people to maintain distance from others or even isolate themselves to slow the spread of the highly contagious virus.

Fighting disease is one of Rotary’s main causes, so members already support efforts to promote proper hand washing techniques, teach people other ways to stay healthy, and supply training and vital medical equipment to health care providers. Now they’re helping health authorities communicate lifesaving information about COVID-19 and donating protective gear and other supplies to clinics and hospitals that are under strain because of the pandemic.

These are just some of the ways members are supporting their communities right now:

  • In Italy, one of the countries that has been most affected, clubs in District 2080 are raising funds to purchase ventilators and protective gear for overstretched hospitals. And when the worst of the outbreak was raging in China, the district’s clubs there raised more than $21,000 for protective masks to prevent spread of the disease there.
  • Clubs in District 2041, also in Italy, raised funds online to buy protective gear for health workers who will care for COVID-19 patients at a 400-bed hospital being built at Milan’s fairgrounds.
  • In Hong Kong, Rotary clubs have raised funds, packed medical supplies, and visited public housing to distribute masks and sanitizers.
  • Rotary clubs in Sri Lanka installed thermometers in airport bathrooms and produced posters to raise awareness about the coronavirus for schools across the country.
  • The Rotary Club of Karachi Darakhshan, Sind, Pakistan, distributed thousands of masks to people in Karachi.
  • Clubs in District 3700 in South Korea)have donated $155,000 to the Red Cross.
  • Rotary clubs in Nigeria’s Akwa Ibom state conducted a campaign to raise awareness about the threat of the virus. Members shared information about the illness and how to keep safe at two schools and distributed materials about using good hygiene to stay healthy.
  • The Rotary club of Metro Bethesda, MD, is contacting neighbors who live alone and are quarantined. Volunteers are asked to contact at least five of those people each week to ask how they are and if they need anything. Members also are leaving flowers on their doorsteps.

Using technology to address the crisis

  • Although clubs and districts are canceling or postponing their in-person meetings and events, they still are finding ways to keep up their fellowship, re-imagine their service efforts and respond to the pandemic:
  • The Rotary E-Club of Fenice del Tronto in Italy invited the public to a March online meeting to raise awareness about the coronavirus. A virologist spoke about the virus, how it spreads, and how to keep safe.
  • The Rotary Club of Singapore hosted a webinar in which an epidemiologist and an infectious disease expert addressed questions and concerns about the coronavirus and the pandemic.
  • The Rotary Club of East Jefferson County in Washington state used crowd-sourcing to create an online listing of area grocery stores, pharmacies, and restaurants that offer home delivery.
  • Rotary members in Hereford, England, created a Facebook group for Rotary members and others to use to link people who need support with people or organizations that can help. More than 6,900 people have joined the group since it was started on March 14.
  • Two days before its annual fundraiser, the Rotary Club of Schaumburg-Hoffman Estates, Illinois, moved the event to Facebook. It auctioned more than 100 items and raised more than $100,000, about the same amount as in previous years. Food set to feed 350 people at the event was delivered to those in need.
  • The Rotary E-Club of Silicon Valley, California, held an online meeting for members of other clubs to share advice on using digital tools to remain connected. The club recorded the meeting so members could watch it later and share it with others.
  • Rotary clubs in Zone 34 (Georgia, Florida, and the Caribbean) created a guide to help members stay connected online. The Rotary E-Club of the Caribbean 7020 is helping clubs in the zone arrange online meetings.

Global Grant OKd for Honduras Clean Water Project

Screen Shot 2019-11-06 at 3.05.36 PM
Marker shows Honduran town receiving Rotary clean water aid.

The Rotary Foundation global grant effort for the Honduras Clean Water Project that began last year has received approval.

Last fall, the Colonie-Guilderland Rotary Club got the ball rolling with a goal of building a community bio-sand filter that would provide clean water to more than 1,500 people and a school with more than 500 children in Trojes, Honduras. The total project cost is approximately $77,000.

Southern Rensselaer committed $500 to the effort, with the help of students in the East Greenbush schools who held a kickball fundraiser. District 7190 agreed to commit $19,733 of District Directed Funds to the project. By this January, the project was fully funded with more donations coming in, so it was decided to expand the project to include WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene) programs at four schools. Those programs would include construction of water filters and latrines at the schools, and provide curriculum and education on sanitation and hygiene. As more funds were raised, the project expanded to include a study of the water boards and best practices in the region.

Kirk Pogge of the Colonie-Guilderland club explains the process thereafter.

“The grant application was first submitted in July 2019, and was returned to draft mode about a month later. In addition to several requests for more information and details, the Rotary Foundation rejected the study portion and suggested that the WASH program be eliminated for the application to simplify it.

“Initially, we had determined that we could fund the filter project using the club and district donations that qualified for Foundation matching funds and fund the WASH programs without the help of the Foundation matching funds. Since that time, the WASH programs for the schools received funding from another source.

“So now, Pure Water for the World will be using the $18,500 in excess funds we raised to provide training in hygiene, install 35 individual home filters, and construct 21 latrines and five rainwater harvesting tanks in Las Mieles.

“The grant was resubmitted at the end of August, based on the filter project alone. On October 25, we were notified that the grant was approved. Funds for the project will be transferred to our local Global Grant Project account in the next few weeks.”

The contributors or pledged funds:

District 7190
Southern Rensselaer County Rotary Club
Rotary Club of Springfield, IL
Trinity, FL, Rotary Foundation
Poultney, VT, Rotary Club
Colchester Milton, VT, Club
Rutland South, VT, Rotary
Past District Governor 2012-2013
Rotary District 7870
Capital City, NH, Sunrise Rotary
Albany Rotary Club
Shenendehowa Rotary
Rotary Club of New Port Richey, FL
Rotary Club of Saratoga Springs
Rotary Club of Glens Falls
Scotia Rotary
Twin Bridges Rotary Foundation
Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Rotary
Niskayuna Rotary
Colonie-Guilderland Rotary
Grassland Equipment
Loudonville Presbyterian Church

World Polio Day: An uplifting progress report

From Rotary International

Rotary and its partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) are celebrating a major milestone this World Polio Day: confirmation that a second type of the wild polio virus has been eradicated, which is a significant step toward the ultimate goal of a polio-free world.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), announced the historic feat in a video address during Rotary’s Global Online Update today. He said an independent commission of health experts certified the global eradication of the type 3 strain, which hasn’t been detected anywhere in the world since Nigeria identified a case of polio that it caused in November 2012. The type 2 strain was certified as eradicated in 2015.

“That leaves just wild poliovirus type 1,” Tedros said. He also commended Rotary’s long fight against polio. “Everything you [Rotary] have done has brought us to the brink of a polio-free world.”

Tedros balanced the good news with a note of caution, saying that the biggest enemy of global eradication is complacency. He encouraged Rotary members to redouble their efforts.

“We must stay the course. Together, we can make sure the children of the future only learn about polio in history books.”

“If we stopped now, the virus would resurge and could once again cause more than 200,000 new cases every year,” Tedros said. “We must stay the course. Together, we can make sure the children of the future only learn about polio in history books.”

Rotary’s World Polio Day program this year was streamed on Facebook in multiple languages and multiple time zones around the world. The program, which was sponsored by UNICEF USA and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, featured TV presenter and Paralympic medalist Ade Adepitan, supermodel Isabeli Fontana, science educator Bill Nye, and actress Archie Panjabi.

The program also featured never-before-seen footage of three Rotary members working to protect children from polio in their home countries of India, Pakistan, and Ukraine. In Pakistan, Rotarian Tayyaba Gul works with a team of health workers to educate mothers and children about the importance of polio vaccination. Dr. Hemendra Verma of India encourages his fellow Rotary members and our partners to make sure health workers and volunteers reach every child. And Ukrainian Rotarian Sergii Zavadskyi oversees an advocacy and awareness program that uses social media and public events to educate people who are reluctant to have their children vaccinated. These three heroes of the polio eradication effort show what it means to be a dedicated volunteer, and represent the efforts of Rotarians all over the world.

Adepitan, a polio survivor who contracted the disease as a child in Nigeria, praised the efforts in that country, which hasn’t reported finding wild poliovirus in more than three years. “This is massive news,” Adepitan said.

Nigeria’s milestone clears the way for the entire WHO African region to be certified wild poliovirus-free next year. Adepitan reminded people just how far the continent has come, saying that even a decade ago, Africa reported nearly 75 percent of all polio cases worldwide.

“Today more than a billion African people are at the cusp of a future where wild polio is a disease of the past,” he said. “We’re not done. We’re in pursuit of an even greater triumph — a world without polio. I can’t wait.”

Scientist Bill Nye talked about some people’s reluctance to use vaccines, which he called a dangerous issue around the world. “As the conversation around vaccines becomes more hostile, we’re seeing an increase in outbreaks of preventable diseases. It’s not just measles. It’s rotavirus. Tetanus. Even polio,” he said. However, he said: “The science on vaccinations is settled. There is no dispute.”

Look even just at what Rotary and its partners have achieved since 1988, when the GPEI was formed, Nye said. Three decades ago, the disease affected 350,000 children in one year. Because of massive vaccination campaigns around the world, the number of polio cases has decreased by more than 99.9%.

“That’s about as concrete as evidence gets for preventative medicine,” Nye said.

Despite these accomplishments, polio cases are rising in areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan that face tremendous challenges: They are difficult to get to and travel in, they are often not secure enough for vaccinators to do their work, and people are highly mobile. In all of 2018, these two countries reported just 33 wild poliovirus cases. The 2019 case count is so far is 88, and health experts predict more cases to come.

Michel Zaffran, director of polio eradication at WHO, discussed the increased number of cases in Afghanistan and Pakistan. “At its core, polio eradication is very simple: If you vaccinate enough children in given areas, then the virus has nowhere to hide and eventually disappears,” Zaffran said.

It gets more complicated, he said, when thousands of children are not being vaccinated in some areas. “The reasons vary greatly, district to district, in both countries,” he added. “It could be because there is hampered access due to insecurity, lack of infrastructure, lack of clean water supply, inadequate planning of campaigns, community resistance, and other reasons.”

To combat any further spread of the disease, Zaffran says health workers are evaluating each area to understand why a child is missed and making customized plans to overcome the area’s specific challenges.

This approach is similar to how health experts overcame the last hurdles in India, which was declared polio-free in 2014.

“I encourage Rotary members everywhere to stick with it and stay optimistic,” Zaffran said. “Keep raising funds and awareness, advocate with governments. We truly are on the cusp of eradicating a disease for only the second time in human history.”

If it is eradicated, polio would follow smallpox as the second human disease eliminated from the world.

Rotary has contributed more than $2 billion to polio eradication since it launched the PolioPlus program in 1985, and is committed to raising $50 million a year for polio eradication activities. Because of a 2-to-1 matching agreement with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, that means that $150 million a year goes toward fulfilling Rotary’s promise to the children of the world: no child will ever again suffer the devastating effects of polio.

Honolulu convention registration is open

Screen Shot 2019-07-22 at 4.27.46 PM

On a rainy, dreary day like today, one’s imagination often turns to visions of sunny places. How about Hawaii? It’s worth thinking about since that’s where the Rotary International Convention will be held in Honolulu on June 6-10, 2020.

Registration already is available online for Rotarians and Rotaractors alike, and earlybirds always are rewarded with discounted fees. Here are the key dates:

• December 15: Last day for early-registration discount.
• March 31, 2020: Last day for preregistration discount.
• April 30, 2020: Last day to request to cancel registration or tickets.
• June 10, 2020: Last day for online registration.

May is a very special month for Rotary

Feel free to share this flyer on your social media accounts. Developing leadership skills and a commitment to community service among young people has long been one of Rotary’s priorities. Check this website’s inside pages list for links to information on RYLA, Rotary Exchange, Rotaract, and other Rotary-affiliated organizations and activities suitable for high school- […]

Buy a ticket to India, get a no-strings free stay

Screen Shot 2019-05-01 at 2.46.47 PM
Marker shows location of Chennai on India’s southeast coast.

To the Southern Rensselaer County Rotary Club:

Greetings from the Rotary Club of Madras South in Chennai, India.

We were chartered in 1960 [like the SRC] and we are celebrating our diamond jubilee in 2019-20. To share our joy on this great occasion, we are organizing a four-day fun and fellowship event in Chennai from December 18-22. We are inviting all clubs across the world who were chartered in 1960 like ours to share this special bonding.

Screen Shot 2019-05-01 at 2.40.45 PMWe are hosting this event at NO COST for the participants, except travel. We will take care of accommodation, food, transport, sight-seeing and fellowship during your stay at Chennai. And, we are working out post-tour options for whoever is interested, on a paid basis.

We organized a similar international fellowship event in in January 2000. Twenty-one  Rotarians and Anns from seven countries — Argentina, Australia, France, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and Malaysia — joined us. It was four days of great fun, fellowship, and bonding for lifelong friendships with visiting tourist and cultural attractions, service projects, and shopping expeditions.

Some feedback from Rotarians who came in 2000:

• Hans Setz from Switzerland said,  “It wasn’t a travel agent waiting for us at the airport, but an ex-Rotary Governor and his wife.” Hans returned three years later to attend the wedding of a daughter of another Rotarian.

• Liz and Olof  Madebrink of Sweden said, “Our trip was like a dream from start to finish. We had a wonderful host couple who did everything for us.”

We invite you and your members to join us in December 2019. Due to logistics and other constraints we will be hosting maximum of 30 members on a first-come, first-served basis.

We will send you more details soon, meanwhile communicate this to your members and let us know who are all interested to join us. Looking forward for your reply and see you all soon in Chennai to experience “Incredible India” and our hospitality.

Warm regards,

Rotarian K. Saravanan    
President, Rotary Club of Madras South

Rotarians work for peace, conflict resolution

District 7190 Governor

Each month Rotary International focuses on a particular humanitarian issue. In February, for instance, the focus is on “Peace and Conflict Resolution/Prevention.”

While we all tend to focus somewhat singularly on the high profile conflicts around the world, like the fighting and human suffering in Syria, the fact is that according to the 2018 Global Peace Index (GPI) the global level of peace has deteriorated in the last year, marking the fourth successive year of deteriorations.

Peacefulness in 92 countries deteriorated, while in 71 countries it improved. The 2018 GPI reveals a world in which the tensions, conflicts, and crises that emerged in the past decade remain unresolved, especially in the Middle East, resulting in this gradual, sustained fall in peacefulness. Clearly, there has never been a more important time for Rotary International to push forward with peace initiatives worldwide.

In our own District 7190, we will hold our second annual “Peace Summit for Youth” on May 11 in Schenectady. (Details to come.) This day-long event is aimed at high school students and invites them into a facilitated conversation which encourages them to self define peace — in their school, in their community and in the world.

While adults may think of peace on the context of war and border conflicts, our youth perceive conflict in social media, drug abuse, violence, bullying, and sex. Finding peaceful solutions to these issues is where they tend to focus their thinking and hopes.

It is our job to nurture their ideas and help them to grow hope for their own future.

Undecided about attending Toronto convention? Read this

Screen Shot 2017-11-18 at 12.06.35 AMBy John Mucha
7190 Past District Governor

We are about 10 months away from a very exciting opportunity for Rotarians and friends from District 7190 to attend an RI Convention close to home.

The convention will be held in Toronto, Canada, less than a day’s drive from anywhere in District 7190. No need for plane tickets, or long international flights. No language issues. This chance likely will not come again in many years.

The District is encouraging all Rotarians to make the effort to attend this event. Many Rotarians believe you cannot truly understand the worldwide impact of Rotary without attending a convention. You can simply register online for a fee of just $345 per person until December 15 when the price will increase.

Perhaps more important than registering now is securing a place to stay in Toronto. Many hotels already are sold out or are close to it. District 7190 has designated the Courtyard Marriott Downtown, on Yonge Street, as the District hotel.  Staying there will allow our District folks to be together if they wish.

You can register for a hotel on the website by clicking on “Convention Hotels.” There are rooms available at the “official” hotel as of this writing. Or you can, of course, register for any other hotel or any other housing you prefer. The important thing is to attend the convention. You won’t regret it!

ShelterBox aiding Asian refugee flood

Screen Shot 2017-10-06 at 9.24.47 PM
A Rohingya refugee slum in Bangladesh.

We usually hear about ShelterBox providing disaster relief to areas around the globe battered by floods, earthquakes, monsoons and other natural disasters. But, religious, sectarian and ethnic terrorism continues creating hordes of refugees in need of help.

The latest such situation is in Bangladesh where roughly a half-million Rohingya refugees have poured over the border of the South Asian country fleeing military violence against their ethnic group in neighboring Myanmar (Burma) and are living in squalor in makeshift camps.

There are more than a million Rohingya in Myanmar, but since the 1980s they have not been allowed to have citizenship in their own country. They often are referred to as the world’s most persecuted minority.

Liz O’Dell, who has volunteered for 18 Shelterbox deployments in various parts of the world, says this camp (seen above) is “one of the most shocking” she ever has seen. The squalor is apparent at just a glance. Click here for her video report.

Click here for background on the refugee crisis.

Click here for background on the Rohingya people.