RPCVs and Rotary Clubs: Productive Partnership
By Guest Contributor on Monday, April 30th, 2012
Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of South Florida (RPCVSF) is reaping benefits of its new relationship with a local Rotary Club. In 2011, RPCVSF received a $4000 matching grant for its micro-credit loan program (The Colombia Project) and is working on a second grant of $17,600 with no RPCVSF match and has been invited to submit grants for local projects as well.
It makes a lot of sense for RPCVs to collaborate with Rotary. Rotary and Peace Corps (and RPCVs) have compatible goals. The Rotary website leads with: “What would it take to change the world? Rotary’s 1.2 million members believe it starts with a commitment to Service Above Self,” a commitment that Peace Corps Volunteers would readily understand. Rotarian values stress service, ethics, fairness and respect in personal, business and community life. Their commitment to the “advancement of international understanding, goodwill, and peace through a world fellowship of business and professional persons united in the ideal of service” provides a good complement for Peace Corps projects. While Peace Corps and RPCV projects often struggle at the grassroots level to access the professional and financial resources their communities need in order to prosper, Rotarians sometimes lack connections to the marginalized communities their members would like to serve.
Rotary funding is available for all types of worthy projects including Literacy and Education, Disaster Relief or Recovery, Children and Youth at Risk, Health, Hunger, Environment, Poverty, Urban Concerns and Water and Sanitation. While Rotary does not fund salaries, reimburse for completed projects or fund ongoing projects, they will consider grant requests to improve, expand or replicate an existing program. What they do demand, however, is complete and accurate reporting. The Colombia Project was able to document for them how the $4000 from Rotary plus our $4000 match was invested in 45 specific micro-loans and then showed how the repayments on those loans funded an additional 48 loans within the first 8 months.
Making a Local Connection
In Miami we are fortunate to have an active Rotarian in our RPCV group, David Snyder, who served in Guatemala and has successfully solicited Rotary grants for Guatemala, Bolivia and Colombia. While the first Colombia Project request was initially dismissed, Dave took the time to address all of Rotary’s concerns. Thanks to Dave’s follow-up, the first grant was enthusiastically supported with an equal match by the Coconut Grove Rotary Club and I was invited to make a presentation at one of their weekly meetings. Upon completion of that locally-funded grant, we were encouraged to request an International grant which requires an international Rotary partner. Once again, it was a hard sell and we were met with initial skepticism by the Rotary Club in Barranquilla, but by the end of the meeting, they not only signed the grant application but invited us to open a micro-loan site in Barranquilla. Since our visit, they have met with one of our micro-loan partners to discuss projects of mutual interest.
Before applying for Rotary assistance it would be a good idea to read Rotary’s Guide to Effective Projects . According to the guide, “Effective service projects do more than just offer a quick ‘fix’ to problems. Typically, Rotary’s most effective service projects:
· Respond to real issues
· Improve community members’ lives
· Incorporate the abilities of those who are served
· Recognize the contributions of all participants as important and necessary
· Are based on a realistic assessment of available resources
· Aim for specific goals and objectives with measurable results
· Build effective networks
· Empower people and communities”
Rotarian literature stresses the importance of fairness and respect as all actions, thoughts and words are subject to their 4-way test:
1. Is it the TRUTH?
2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?
3. Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?
4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?
To locate a Rotary Club near you or in a country in which you would like to implement a project, you can use the Club Locator on the Rotary website. Rotary funding is available throughout the year.
This piece was contributed by Helene Dudley, RPCVSF Board of Directors.