Saw this amazing collection of Rotary stamps & first day covers at Rio de Janeiro. Over 200 of them from 1948.
Basic education and literacy are essential for reducing poverty, improving health, encouraging community and economic development, and promoting peace. Over the years, we’ve helped make significant progress towards helping achieve the United Nationals Millennium Development Goals, especially within the basic education and literacy area of focus. According to a 2014 progress report, literacy rates among adults and youth continue to rise and the gender gap in literacy is narrowing.
This September, Rotary Basic Education and Literacy Month, we’re celebrating our progress and reaffirming our commitment to help attain universal education! Here are just a few examples of club service projects helping improve education around the world:
While we’re making progress, there’s still much work left to be done. Pressing global concerns still remain: 58 million children worldwide are out of school while 781 million adults are illiterate[i]. Imagine: if all students in low-income countries left school with basic reading skills, 171 million people could be lifted out of poverty equaling a 12% reduction in global poverty[ii].
Throughout the month of September, encourage fellow Rotary members to check back here for tips, resources, and inspirational success stories to help plan club and district literacy projects. Add your voice to the conversation using the blog’s commenting feature and share how your club supports basic education and literacy initiatives on Rotary Showcase.
- Rotary Service Connections
“I loved it, so when I heard about Rotary Youth Exchange, I knew that was something I wanted to do,” says Vessani, who is an Interactor from São Paulo.
This year, Vessani participated in the program. Hosted by the Rotary Club of Waterdown, Ontario, Canada, she stayed with four families, one of which included adopted children from different parts of the world.
“They had seven children, and it was crazy for me. But I loved it,” she says. “It was such a unique experience getting to know all of my host brothers and sisters, and learning about so many cultures.”
Vessani and 104 other Rotary Youth Exchange students visited Rotary World Headquarters in Evanston, Illinois, in July as part of a 31-day Discover America cross-country bus trip that was a finale to the exchange experience.
“This is the best program Rotary can be involved with, because Rotary is all about changing lives,” says Vessani.
Rotary Youth Exchange has been providing intercultural exchange opportunities for secondary school students ages 15-19 since the 1920s. Students become cultural ambassadors for up to a full academic year, and the host families can help build peace and international understanding, serving one of Rotary’s six areas of focus.
Mike Lubelfeld, an elementary school superintendent and member of the Rotary Club of Deerfield, Illinois, spent weeks making arrangements for his club to host its first exchange student in more than two decades. In August, Leo, a 17-year-old from Indonesia, was greeted at the airport by an enthusiastic welcome committee from the club.
“We have just started the process and, already, there is so much excitement,” says Lubelfeld. “Working with youth of the world is one of the best ways to ensure a better future. And for our club to be able to take part in this cultural exchange is a huge opportunity that will not only benefit Leo but our members as well.”
Varda Shah’s family was asked by a friend to host an exchange student two years ago in Mumbai. At first, family members were reluctant.
“We were like, he’s a boy, he’s German, I don’t know how this is going to work,” says Shah. “But we decided to take a chance, and I never would have thought I could grow so close to someone in three months. We still Skype and connect through social media constantly and are always in touch.”
Shah decided she wanted her own exchange experience. She stayed with three host families in New York, learning about camping, tailgating at sports events, and ice hockey. But the biggest change was to her self-confidence.
“Before, I would never be able to make a conversation with a person I didn’t know,” she says. “Now, I can proudly say it isn’t like that anymore. I can go up to people. I have become more open, more mature.”
Juliana Kinnl of Vienna decided to follow in her older sister’s footsteps and take part in a Rotary Youth Exchange. She was hosted by two families from the Rotary Club of Newtown, Pennsylvania, and says she learned to be more accepting of other people and their differences.
“Meeting exchange students from all over the world, I have grown to accept people for who they are and not to judge them because they are different,” says Kinnl. “I’ve also grown more confident in my own abilities and who I am.”
Minerva Lopez Martinez of Marcia, Spain, spent her exchange in Canada, hosted by the Rotary Club of Simcoe, Ontario. She said some of her friends at home chose not to pursue an exchange because they felt they would be losing a year of schoolwork. But she has a different perspective on that.
“You have your whole life to go to school and learn. You only have one opportunity for a youth exchange,” she says. “The reason I came on the exchange is that I can be shy, and I didn’t want to be like that anymore. Now, I am trying new things, talking to people I don’t know. It has changed me a lot.”
When Mariana Day moved in 1989 to the small beach town of Chacala, in Nayarit, Mexico, she noticed that the surrounding rural areas struggled to maintain schools. And most children weren’t able to go beyond an eighth-grade education. Day, who is a member of the Rotary Club of Bahía de Jaltemba-La Peñita, in Nayarit, had started a local scholarship program before she joined Rotary. Called Changing Lives, the program provided students with high school tuition, uniforms, school supplies, and transportation.
In addition, Rotary clubs from the United States and Mexico have been investing in the education of children in Nayarit since 2003, providing scholarships and libraries and rehabbing school buildings.
The lasting impact in the region is apparent.
“I think the combination of the scholarship program and Rotary’s interaction with the schools has made things seem possible, has changed the climate of education here, and the way the people think about education,” Day says.
One example of Rotary’s impact is Carolina Gonzales Rivas. She was able to attend high school thanks to Day’s scholarship program. Rivas is currently working on her master’s degree and has recently joined the Rotary Club of Jaltemba-La Peñita.
“I think that what Rotary is doing by supporting education and supporting students is to have a vision for life, to have aspirations – that’s what is going to change the world,” Rivas says.
The Rotary Club of Berkeley, in California, USA, along with the Bahia de Jaltemba-La Peñita club and other North American clubs, recently tackled their largest project to date: a monthlong renovation of La Preparatoria 20 de Noviembre , a high school in the village of Las Varas. Funding came from a Rotary Foundation global grant and the financial contributions of six Rotary districts covering the 25 Rotary clubs that participated.
A total of 90 volunteers including the school’s teachers, students, and students’ parents, improved the old buildings and built three laboratory classrooms. All three feature new equipment and technology and can be used by local residents as well as students.
Eduardo Dominguez, a member of the Bahía de Jaltemba-La Peñita club, says one of the biggest rewards of these efforts is the fact that a college education is now a real possibility for local students.
“There are many young people in Mexico with huge potential and with much to give, as long as they are given an opportunity,” Dominguez says. “Rotarians are helping those opportunities to occur, for [these young people] to become contributors to their communities.”
Illustration by Berto Martinez
Before her family was forced into exile, before her mother was assassinated, before her father became president, Aseefa Bhutto Zardari was known for something simpler, but in some ways equally powerful: In 1994, she became the first child in Pakistan to receive the oral polio vaccine, as part of the country’s first National Immunization Day. Benazir Bhutto, then prime minister, gave the drops to her daughter herself, a compelling endorsement of the nascent campaign.
“I was a baby at the time, so I don’t remember it,” says Bhutto Zardari, now 22. “But the moment was an inspirational one for the nation, and encouraged women to believe that polio drops were and are safe.”
In 1988, at age 35, Benazir Bhutto became the first woman elected to lead a Muslim country. She was assassinated in 2007, just months after she had returned to Pakistan after almost nine years in exile. But Aseefa Bhutto Zardari – whose father, Asif Ali Zardari, served as president of Pakistan from 2008 to 2013 – is carrying on her mother’s work. As a Rotary polio ambassador, she meets with officials, visits schools, and talks with families of health workers who were killed while working to vaccinate children.
Bhutto Zardari has raised the profile of the polio eradication campaign in Pakistan and around the world. She writes about the topic for the Huffington Post and joined Rotary International General Secretary John Hewko onstage at the 2012 Global Citizen Festival in New York City’s Central Park. On Twitter, with more than half a million followers, she encourages people in Pakistan to support ending polio and chastises those who stand in the way. In April, she invited two other prominent women in Pakistani politics to join her in the polio eradication effort, a move that garnered media coverage across the country.
In 1994, the year Bhutto Zardari received those first drops of vaccine, Pakistan had an estimated 35,000 cases of polio. As of 10 June, 24 cases had been reported in the country in 2015. Bhutto Zardari, who is completing a master’s degree in global health and development in London, talked to us about ending polio in Pakistan, her future in politics, and prospects for peace in her country.....
AFRICA HAS reported some genuinely good news in the battle to eradicate polio. Late last month , Nigeria passed a full year without a case of wild poliovirus. As of Aug. 11, it has been a year since the last case was detected anywhere on the continent (it was in Somalia). These anniversaries are unofficial milestones, but they point toward continued progress against polio, a scourge that once claimed hundreds of thousands of lives each year. Unfortunately, polio has shown a fierce tendency to return. Hopefully this time will be different.
Nigeria’s accomplishment is impressive. The country suffered a major setback in the struggle against the disease more than a decade ago when a state governor and religious leaders in the predominantly Islamic north put into effect a year-long vaccination ban, claiming that the vaccines were contaminated by the West to spread sterility and HIV/AIDS among Muslims. This led to a wider outbreak of the virus, which is highly contagious, largely strikes children under 5 years old and can cause permanent paralysis.
Another effort by Nigeria to come to grips with polio in 2009 seemed to falter when the militant group Boko Haram carried out a wave of violent attacks in the north that disrupted vaccination. The oral vaccine is effective if it can be given to enough children to prevent and interrupt transmission. As recently as 2012, Nigeria had 122 cases — and it now is down to zero.
A valuable lesson from Nigeria is that containing polio requires a multifaceted campaign that goes beyond dispensing vaccines. One important tactic was to address head-on the rumors and myths about the vaccine that undermined earlier campaigns. Local volunteers were brought in to build trust. Health teams used “hit and run” tactics to enter a dangerous area quickly, vaccinate and then exit. Yet another approach was to offer “health camps” that provided a wide array of everyday medical treatments, not just for polio, which gave parents an incentive to bring their children for vaccination. Nigeria also benefited from the determined focus of organizations such as Rotary International, which invested $207 million to fight polio in the country, as well as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, UNICEF, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization and others..........
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