by Divya Wodon, Naina Wodon, and Quentin Wodon
“When you work on a future vision grant, you confront the issues faced by fellow Rotarians overseas. You form a bond. You learn what matters in life and the balanced approach needed to have an impact. You learn to appreciate the beautiful work that comes to fruition when everyone is working together with respect and trust.” Rachael Blair, former Rotarian from the Annapolis Rotary Club, knows what she is talking about. She has led several international projects, including a recent Ecuador literacy project that produced a book of stories from its beneficiaries.
This was Rotary’s first collaboration with the Organization of American States. The OAS requested a project for early grade reading. With the help of a former Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar, Amber Gove, the team found a willing partner in the University of Andina Simon Bolivar. The Rotary Club of Quito Occidente was also an ideal partner since a previous project – a water grant for three schools – had worked very well.
Rachael visited the literacy project sites three times: “I was very moved by the response of the teachers. They could not believe that Rotary clubs would take such an interest in their professional development, especially clubs from overseas. I was humbled by their discipline and motivation. They reminded me that when you nurture and support others, they shine and bring their very best skills and talents to the table. They do this because of their support network. That’s what Rotary is, a support network of like-minded people who want to have a positive impact based on mutual and creative collaboration.”
What is Rachael’s advice to Rotarians? “You need to understand the project scope and Rotary rules and regulations. You need to be patient. You need to persevere. You need to be culturally sensitive. You need to accept the fact that one person will have to move things along with diplomacy and understanding.” As to her advice to the Rotary Foundation: “These projects require many people in the Rotary hierarchy to be on board for their approval. I spent a lot of time getting people on board for signatures. Raising funds was a big issue and very time consuming. I would want to see Rotary restructure the funding aspect of global grants.”
Note: This story is reproduced with minor changes from a book published by the authors entitled Membership in Service Clubs: Rotary’s Experience (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014).