Our club members decided back in early April that we would like to use our Zoom meetings to showcase some amazing Rotary projects and Rotary partnerships to our members, friends and visitors. We have not been disappointed and here is a brief review of our three recent meetings and projects.
Glyn Rees from Witney Rotary visited us in May to tell us about the charity Kids Out. Kids Out has been working in partnership with Rotary in Britain and Ireland since 1990. It started with Rotarians from Kingston taking 200 children to Thorpe Park. In 2019 this had grown to Rotary clubs across the UK taking 28,000 disadvantaged children on a fun day out. The charity also provides toy boxes for children in Women’s Aid refuges around the UK, it has supported sensory rooms in schools for children with autism and they have developed World Stories, a collection of short stories available in 17 languages. Glyn told us that one in eight children in the UK speakers a language other than English as their first language so the stories are used to help children learn about other cultures.
In 2019, over 23,000 children fled domestic violence and sought sanctuary in a women’s refuge in the UK. Many are concerned that during the pandemic lock down, domestic violence is on the increase. Kids Out works in partnership with the Women’s Aid Refuge network to provide toy boxes for children. The KidsIn Initiative gave toy boxes and food vouchers to many families in need of support.
Our club was able to give a donation of £150 to Kids Out to support its fantastic and essential work.
Alan Wolstencroft visited us in June to speak about his work in Sierra Leone. Alan is a member of Banbury Rotary and first visited Sierra Leone in 2005 as a volunteer with Mercy Ships. Alan has supported many projects in schools and communities in and around Freetown. We heard about the projects where the schools and families were able to start the building works or excavations but then needed funds from Alan to complete the work. There are some really low cost projects that make such a huge difference to a wide group of people such as the new water supply for a school and community. Local people work on the projects developing their building skills and the schools take ownership of the maintenance and sustainability of new facilities. Alan receives lots of support from Rotary and businesses in this area. Oxford United Football Club is a particularly fantastic supporter and provides many many football shirts for children in Sierra Leone – so much so that some of us are worried that opposing sides will all be wearing Oxford kit – but I guess they’ve worked it out somehow.
The Sunny Girls project is a more recent initiative and involved discussions with the older girls supported by Alan’s projects, finding out what they needed to ensure that they could attend school when they have their period. It costs £6 per year to supply one girl with sanitary towels and this project is supported by many people and is such a simple way of reducing inequality in education.
Many of Alan’s projects have been supported by Rotary clubs across our Rotary district and beyond. The Rotary Foundation has also provided matched funds for many of these.
Club members were very happy to continue our support of Alan’s work and we gave a small donation to Banbury Rotary for this.
We heard from Gordon Hughes and Bjorn Watson, both of Faringdon & District Rotary, about their club’s support of projects in Nepal. Club members visited Nepal in 2012 and took part in constructing homes with Habitat for Humanity. The club’s engagement with Nepal grew when Gordon joined the club in 2015. He had previously worked in Nepal as an officer in the British Army and in 2009-10 was Deputy Head of the United Nations mission in Nepal. The club supports three projects and has encouraged other clubs in our district to join in, with fundraising and visits.
The HORAC children’s home was established in 2005 and with a huge focus on education it supports around 30 young people from nursery to college age. Gordon told us about their amazing appetite for learning and how the children are often at the top of their classes at their local school. The home sustained some damage in the 2015 earthquake but Rotary was able to provide funds for repairs. The club added a second project when it helped to fund construction work at a school in Saurpani, near the epicentre of the earthquake. The school has 200 children, many of whom walk for 2 hours to to get there. Bjorn is a civil engineer and so was able to work with the contractors on the design of the school block and it was interesting to hear that the cost of construction is often more about getting the materials to these remote sites rather than the labour.
The third and newest project is the Rotary Partnership for Education, or RP4E. This project connects Rotary clubs, Rotarians and other supporters to students in Nepal. The project supports students through college and university, paying their course fees but also providing mentorship. It has been trialled initially in the HORAC home, supporting the older students, and it is expanding beyond the home. While the Rotary Foundation Global Grant Scholarships are all for overseas study, the aim of RP4E is to support study at home, with one of the obvious benefits being the significantly lower costs. Links have been established between the two programmes though: Georgia Richards, a past Rotary Scholar from Australia and hosted by Faringdon Rotary while she studied in Oxford, has become an ambassador for the project and shares Gordon’s passion for education for all.
Gordon spoke about the importance of integrity and sound leadership in the education projects that the club supports: the Director of HORAC advised the government of child protection and the Head Teacher at the Saurpani School is an inspirational leader and teacher.
Our club members were delighted to be able to give a small donation to Faringdon Rotary for their work in Nepal.
Just three examples of Rotary Connecting the World and Opening Opportunities.