Article: Rotary Outstanding Project Awards winners

Rotaractors in Mumbai, India, most of them medical doctors, are providing vision screenings and comprehensive eye care to thousands of schoolchildren in poor neighborhoods of the city, through a series of medical camps aimed at improving the children’s performance in school.

Vision Six by Six, a project of the Rotaract Club of the Caduceus, Mumbai, raised US$15,500 through a variety of creative fundraisers, including a stand-up comedy event, to fund the medical camps. Club members bought supplies in bulk to cut the cost of the screenings to $1 per child, and worked with three nonprofit hospitals to provide surgeries for cataracts and squinting problems.

The initiative has been selected as the Rotaract Outstanding Project Awards international winner, one of seven projects singled out for honors during World Rotaract Week, 11-17 March.

Representatives of the clubs recognized as international and regional winners will present their projects at the Rotaract Preconvention Meeting in Lisbon, Portugal, in June.

Among conditions treated in the camps were refractive errors [vision problems], infections, eye allergies, and Vitamin A deficiency. In the program’s first seven months, 10,000 children were screened and 1,520 of them received some form of correction, from surgery to corrective lenses.

“We wanted to do something to help the 15 percent of children in government-run, low-resource schools in Mumbai who have undiagnosed refractory error,” said Pankaj Jethwani, president of the Rotaract Club of the Caduceus. “Young children develop an aversion toward going to school because they can’t see sharp images on the blackboard and don’t realize this is not normal or treatable. Most of the children we treat have never met an eye doctor before.”

The Rotaractors received support from their host Rotary Club of Bombay Central in planning, implementing, and evaluating the project and in fundraising for it.

For the comedy fundraiser, club members worked with a nonprofit consulting firm to book four of India’s leading stand-up comedians, who performed free of charge. The Rotaractors also used the Internet to solicit donations through crowd-sourcing.

In addition to providing medical assistance, the Rotaractors started a teacher training program, enlisting the support of educators to ensure that the children follow through with their care. They found that 92 percent of the children were adhering to their suggested treatment -- for example, wearing their glasses -- two months after the camps.

“More children can now see clearly, potentially impacting their future,” says Jethwani.

Regional winners

The regional Rotaract projects recognized during World Rotaract Week are:

-          Africa: Rotaract Club of Cairo Royal, Egypt (District 2450) for Tanweer el Heiz. Club members installed solar power systems in 16 homes in el Heiz, a village in Egypt, enabling villagers to store food safely and providing light so that children can study in the evening. The club is fundraising to provide solar power for 350 other houses in the village.

-          Asia Pacific: Rotaract Club of the Illawarra, New South Wales, Australia (District 9750) for The Urban Grown City Farm. Club members worked with other community organizations to create and operate an organic farm that provides employment for youth and sells produce to local businesses.

-          Europe: Rotaract Club of Bari, Italy (District 2120) for Rotaract and UNICEF for Afghan Women and Children. Club members collaborated with UNICEF to train 10 midwives in Afghanistan and provide them with medical supplies to enable them to assist with childbirth.

-          Latin America: Rotaract Club of the University of Guyana (District 7030) for Victoria Literacy Project. Club members created a weekly literacy program at a local primary school that focuses on teaching 50 students basic literacy and numbers skills to prepare them for a national assessment. In addition to providing weekly instruction, the Rotaractors obtained supplies and furniture for the classroom.

-          South Asia: Rotaract Club of H.R. College, Maharashtra, India (District 3140) for "I" for an "Eye." Club members held numerous school and community events to spread awareness about eye donation and encourage people to sign eye-donation pledge cards. The Rotaract Club of H.R. College also collaborated with the Rotaract Club of the Caduceus, this year’s international Outstanding Project Award winner, to raise US$14,000 for treatment of eye disorders.

-          United States, Canada, and the Caribbean: Rotaract Club of Yale College, Connecticut, USA (District 7980) for Vocational Training for the Tribal Community of Potkhal and Baste Villages, India. The club has partnered with the Rotary Club of Bombay Midtown, Maharashtra, India, to launch a vocational training center for a tribal community in Maharashtra. The center offers courses to men and women in vocations such as tailoring and welding, helping them to improve their quality of life.