Prestea Community Library in Ghana

By Bill Griffin, District Stewardship Subcommittee Chair, District 6970

The vision for the Prestea Community library project began in the Catholic Church of the Epiphany where Father John Bosco Maison serves as pastor and three members of the Rotary Club of Daytona Beach West (District 6970) attend each week.  Father John created the vision for a library in his home town of Prestea, Ghana to honor his mother and her passion for literacy and education.

Many of the children of Prestea leave school early to work in the gold mines that surround the area.  Due to the lack of books, they do not have the opportunity to develop literacy skills and a love for learning. Many may not realize the freedom that reading can deliver – a luxury to most in Daytona Beach West.

Library Dedication

Gloria (left) and Fran Markette (right) with two Prestea youth acknowledge the spirit and support of Rotary. Photo by Larry Young

The Rotary Club of Daytona Beach West received a Rotary Foundation District Grant of $6,500 during the 2014-15 grant cycle to purchase books, periodicals and computers for the library.  Rotarian Fran Markette and Father John Boscos connected with key citizens of the Prestea community, including librarians Gladys Agandaa and Peter Anafo to assist in establishment of a bona fide library operation.  The librarian assisted with the development of a book list, the acquisition of the books, and the delivery to Prestea.  Having a committed local contact was of utmost importance for the success of this project.

The church helped raise the funds for the library construction.  The Rotary Club of Daytona Beach West co-sponsored fundraising classical piano concerts with the church over the past three years performed by fellow Rotarian and renowned pianist Francesco Attesti from the Tuscany area of Italy.

Library Dedication

Students and residents at the opening ceremony and dedication of the Prestea Martha Eshun Maison Library. Photo by Fran Markette

Church members contributed additional books, school supplies, youth clothing and recreational items to fill a shipping container that was delivered and distributed to the teachers, youth and residents of Prestea at the time of the library dedication.

Rotarians Fran and Gloria Markette traveled with Father John Bosco and fellow church members Larry and Susen Young for the library dedication in June 2015. They delivered books, installed the computers, met the residents of Prestea and shared the mission and values of Rotary during their stay.  The Rotary Foundation District Grant brought Rotary to life within the church community.  Through the grant, district 6970 was able to partner with other organizations, facilitate “Doing Good” with Rotarians and Rotary clubs. The Rotary Club of Daytona Beach West is a better, more vital club because of the grant and the Prestea Community Library in Ghana.

Library Dedication

Prestea residents reading the new books at the library dedication. Photo by Fran Markette

Give to The Rotary Foundation and support education and literacy projects similar to the Prestea Community Library, and share your stories of service projects in the comments below.


Millions for HOPE – A teamwork best practice

 by Pam Russell – RRFC Zone 26 2013-2016, District 5340

When challenged to raise money for The Rotary Foundation, RRFC Pamela Russell, E/MGA Brenda Cressey, Past Trustee Steve Brown, and Major Gifts Officer Mike Dunlap worked with Rotary District 5340 as they set a goal of raising $15 million by October 2015 for their “Millions for HOPE” (Health, Overcoming Poverty, and Education) event.  Within the first six months, they had already achieved $10 million. This great achievement stemmed from leaders working together to provide training and ongoing support on donor identification and cultivation in the district.

Past Trustee Steve Brown talking with Ron Kohl and Antonio Grillo-Lopez, both significant donors in the campaign

Past Trustee Steve Brown talking with Ron Kohl and Antonio Grillo-Lopez, both significant donors in the campaign

The leaders engaged with the district governor, district governor-elect and their entire district committee to support their campaign, “Millions for HOPE”. With strong participation from the top 20 clubs in the district, the excitement was building. A key success for cultivating donors was to encourage them to specify where they wanted their donation to go. The donors chose to give to The Rotary Foundation in support of current work, Rotary’s future, a polio-free world or a specific project important to the donor.   This also allowed the district to reach their goal of $15 million in only 10 months.

On 17 October 2015, the “Millions for HOPE” Gala kicked off with a jazz performance and continued with dinner, a DJ, and dancing.  With more than 500 Rotarians in attendance– including local Rotaractors and President K.R. “Ravi” Ravindran, everyone was in high spirits. After the final numbers were announced, an anonymous donor spoke with Past Trustee Steve Brown.  The word was passed to President Ravi and he announced that there would be a match bringing the total donation to The Rotary Foundation to more than $31,000,000!

“Providing millions of dollars to The Rotary Foundation means providing millions of beneficiaries with opportunity” states RRFC Pamela Russell. “Raising $15.5 million as a team was already a huge accomplishment. Then to have a donor match it! It is hard to imagine what the impact is going to be. We are so pleased for District 5340 to have such a profound legacy” she continued.

A balloon drop to celebrate the success of the campaign.

A balloon drop to celebrate the success of the campaign.

It is important to realize that working as a team, the organizers were able to support the district’s successful campaign and event, leading to a meaningful impact for the beneficiaries of Rotary service projects.  The skills you have as regional leaders can help districts with their Million Dollar campaigns and other events.

If you are interested in the training resources, contact E/MGA Brenda Cressey and RRFC Pam Russell. Check out the Facebook album of celebration photos.

Club99 in Little Rock partners with Heifer USA to help Small Ag Farmers get a hand up.

Rotary International

Rotary International Little Rock, Arkansas – Photo credit: Jacob Slaton

In honor of Rotary’s Economic and Community Development month, we are featuring the great work of District 6150’s Rotary Club of Little Rock, Arkansas and Heifer International, who have joined strengths and skills to create the “Seeds of Change in the Delta” project.

The Arkansas’s Delta region has struggled to cope with rural poverty. As families search for employment and entrepreneurial opportunity, there has been a growing need for grassroots economic and community development. Through Seeds of Change, District 6150 is spurring community development by connecting rural farmers and urban food markets- providing sustainable livelihoods for the farmers, and greater access to healthy, locally produced food for Arkansas’s consumers.

Seeds of Change began in September 2014, with a Global Grant from The Rotary Foundation. In the year since its inception, the project has provided farmers with business-training workshops including bookkeeping, debt/financing, expense and inventory control, and pricing. Its Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) network provided over 200 Arkansan households with high-quality produce, while building meaningful connections between producers and consumers.  With headquarters in Little Rock and deep ties to the community, Heifer International is a key partner in District 6150’s efforts.

Ultimately, the Rotary Club of Little Rock wants to expand Seeds of Change to other clubs and districts. Working with Heifer International and Rotary, they have created a video which they are now using to market their program to other clubs, and to recruit new farmers.

Interested in hearing more about the Seeds of Change project? Contact and the Rotary Club of Little Rock for more information. Don’t forget to check out Rotary’s Economic and Community Development resources page to learn about other Rotary projects growing local economies and strengthening the bonds of local communities. If you have an economic or community development project happening, please tell us about it in the comments below.

Updated information has been added to this original post on 3 November 2015.

Rotary Staff Give Back to Evanston

(Left to Right) Melanie Davis, Stephanie Norton (back), Michelle Gasparian, Renee O'Keefe (front), Maura Rogan (back), Nora Beamish-Lannon, John Wahlund

(From left) Melanie Davis, Stephanie Norton, Michelle Gasparian, Renee O’Keefe (front), Maura Rogan (back), Nora Beamish-Lannon, John Wahlund

More than 100 Rotary employees volunteered 316 hours of service during the first Rotary Week of Caring on 14-18 September. Regional Grants Officer Rebeca Mendoza, along with a team of Rotary staff and executive management, organized events with 10 local charities and organizations doing great things here in Evanston. Activities included teaching local youth about the importance of hand washing, maintenance of community gardens, packing food at a food depository, sorting medical supplies, and cleaning a community resource center.

Regional Rotary Foundation Coordinator Specialist, Melanie Davis, discusses germs and contact with students.

Regional Rotary Foundation Coordinator Specialist Melanie Davis discusses germs and contact with students.

Members of the Regional Leader Support team spent a few hours at Family Focus teaching third, fourth and fifth graders hand washing skills through fun learning activities and a demonstration of how germs are spread.  John Wahlund, the Area of Focus Manager for Disease Prevention and Treatment, joined Regional Leader Support to teach the students.

The Week of Caring activities helped staff boost visibility and influence of Rotary here in Evanston. “We feel fortunate to work for an organization with so many civic and humanitarian-minded colleagues who are eager to give back,” said Rebeca Mendoza.

If you want to give back through a water and sanitation project, join Rotary and the Water & Sanitation Rotarian Action Group for a three part webinar series to assist Rotarians with WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene) in Schools projects beginning 15 October. You’ll join sector experts and hear about the importance of program efforts, behavior change through hygiene education, and how to engage your community.

What service projects are underway in your region that increase Rotary’s visibility?  Share your stories in the comments below!

Rotarians in India seek to increase number of literate adults

By Kamal Sanghvi, Rotary Public Image coordinator, Zones 4 & 6A 

India has the highest number of illiterate adults at 287 million, which accounts for 37% of the world’s adult illiterate population (Source – Education for All Global Monitoring Report, 2013-14: UNESCO). Rotarians in India are tackling this illiteracy problem through two programs.

The first is the “Rotary India Global Dream Each One, Reach One, Teach One” Campaign, an initiative to educate 100,000 illiterate adults, under our Adult Literacy Program. Through the program, 60,000 school children in 17 states act as student volunteer teachers. They are currently spending 30-45 minutes per day teaching illiterate adult learners to read.  To do this, they use a specially designed set of books and other teaching aids, at the low cost of USD1.50 per adult learner.  The books and teaching process were initially developed by the Devi Sansthan of Lucknow (an Indian organization focused on dignity and education) in collaboration with Rotary and have been translated into all major Indian languages.


A student volunteer teacher works with an adult in the Adult Literacy Program.

After the completion of 3 months of learning, the adult neo-literates are ready to take the government aided National Institute of Open Schooling examination, which certifies them as literates or a similar evaluation.  This past August saw approximately 333 adult learners appear to take the examination in West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh, with the results expected to be shared in January 2016.

The second program is the Rotary India Literacy Mission (RILM). This program is:

  • Training and recognising 5,000 outstanding teachers in primary schools.
  • Establishing 10,000 E-Learning Centers in schools.
  • Educating 100,000 adult non-literates.
  • Sending 100,000 children back to school.
  • Upgrading 1,000 elementary schools to Happy Schools to curtail student dropouts.

Adult literacy is only one component of the comprehensive program developed by RILM. This T-E-A-C-H program seeks to meet literacy and educational goals through teacher support, e-learning, child development, and happy schools.

As an RPIC and Vice-chair of the Rotary India Literacy Mission, I oversee the measures of external and internal public relations and communication channels with a view to establishing Rotary’s image in the field of literacy.  I also consider and approve all the important policy matters and general guidelines relating to the programs, fundraising activities and budget.


Adult learners sit for the examination certifying their literacy.

The reasonable measure of progress of any country is the level of literacy of its citizens.  If we want our children to be well educated and taken good care of, it is important that the parents or adults are educated first. Educating adults gives them the opportunity to make a mark for themselves and gives them a place of dignity in society.

For more information about Rotary India Literacy Mission, visit our website. If you have been involved in an educational and literacy project, please share below!

Making the most of GETS and Institute: Tips from Regional Leaders

The 2015-16 GETS and Institute season has begun! Many of you will be participating on GETS training teams. Even if you are not directly participating in training, these sessions are a great way to introduce yourself to a wide variety of Rotarians and communicate the value of your expertise.

As you prepare for your Zone GETS and Institute, consider the following selection of tips from Zone 30 RRFC Floyd Lancia, Zones 7B & Part of 8 RC Jessie Harman, and Zone 21A RPIC Leticia Parra Toledo.


Lancia: The most effective facilitation is not accidental – it’s the result of the facilitator spending hours familiarizing her/himself with the content and instructional materials, such as the GETS Leaders Guide. Make your own notes highlighting portions that are essential and need to be stressed and focused upon.  Your notes can be questions, in your own words, that will stimulate discussion in the event the session stalls.

Harman: Always focus on your adult learning principles – keep the learning material relevant, use examples which are meaningful, and ensure that governors have ample opportunities to share stories and learn from each other.  Also remember that adults learn in many different ways – so mix it up a bit – use case studies, small group discussion, large group discussion, individual reflection, even a role play.

Parra: Some months before GETS, I try to contact [district leadership] and introduce myself, explaining my role and the main points in the DG Manual.  I also tell them that there is a Rotary Public Image team with Rotarians who will be glad to attend and help them to achieve their goals.


RPIC Leticia Parra Toledo


Lancia: Don’t agree or disagree [yourself], ask for agreement or disagreement from others, or ask if anyone would like to add anything that can clarify the comment more fully. Don’t allow [one] participant to dominate. Stay on topic. Before adjourning ask for takeaways and or action plans.

Harman: Take time to plan and prepare the questions you will ask your governors elect.  Great questions prompt discussion, encourage individual and group reflection, and stimulate creative thinking.  Great questions are also empowering – they create a positive environment of mutual problem solving and respect.  Great questions also provide a useful roadmap – helping discussions to open up, change direction, even close down when required.

Parra: I try to keep the audience focused on what they will achieve: excellent goals.  I try to make a speech that is both meaningful and important to them, repeating key ideas and main points.  I invite DGEs to share their ideas on what they would like to work on in their districts.  Focus on friendly faces in the audience. Maintain eye contact with the listeners; I will find encouragement and support from their smiles and approving nods.

To see the full list of tips from these regional leaders, click here. Consider sharing your own tips in the comments section below!

Making the Most of Membership Month

August is Membership and New Club Development Month. We are celebrating strong membership growth of nearly 25,000 members over the 2014-15 year. The hard work and support of our members has produced incredible results over the past year, most significantly with the recent polio eradication milestone on the African continent, which marked one year without a case of polio caused by the wild poliovirus. With your important efforts as Regional Leaders, we can continue attracting new members, engaging current members, and changing the world. Here are a few ways you can help:

  • 11828671_10154136027344552_1519046550404063775_nRotary’s social media channels, The Rotarian magazine, and are showcasing Membership Month promotions and activities all month long. We encourage you to share these features with your club and district leaders.
  • Remember to visit My Rotary or the Rotary Shop to find publications and resources to help you attract new members and engage your current members. Copies of many of these publications are also available through your Rotary workgroups.
  • Tell our colleagues in Membership Development why you joined Rotary—and why you continue to stay involved—on Facebook or at Sharing the positive experiences you have had as a Rotarian is an effective way to interest a potential new member!
  • Finally, take a moment to read a blog post by Zone 24 West E/MGA Chris Offer about why he stayed in Rotary.

What strategies for attraction and engagement are you using during Membership Month? Share them with us in the comments below!