Since 2008, the Springfield, Ohio, Rotary Club has propelled local pledges of $60,000 into $224,000 for helping AIDS-infected orphans in Lesotho, Africa, pursue a better life. Rotarian members thought the club should live up to its name, "Rotary International," and get involved in a global project. The group searched for ideas and learned of Wittenberg University Professor Scott Rosenberg's annual trips with students to Lesotho. The group discovered that Lesotho had extensive poverty problems and high numbers of AIDS orphans. Rosenberg, a club advisor, now claims that the international project is "on a scale I could only dream about."
With support from the late Hans Berkle, Rotary District 6670's then-governor, the Springfield club's efforts magnified. At a breakfast, Berkle initially promised $15,000 in matching funds, then $25,000, and eventually $75,000 in district funds, leading the Springfield club to obtain Rotary Foundation grants. Their first effort proposed a 56-child dormitory in an established orphanage in Motsekuoa village, where they replaced outhouses with showers and modern bathrooms. They also renovated an existing dormitory that housed 142 children. The orphanage project expanded to meet the spiraling number of HIV crisis orphans. The orphanage combined HIV and non-HIV orphans, reducing the stigma accompanying HIV isolation. The project added a health clinic.
The Rotary project has spawned other collaborations. Rotary International and the Maseru Rotary Club in Lesotho's capital city created Kick4Life, an AIDS awareness program built around soccer, as well as a hospitality training project in which the orphans learned the business by working at bed-and-breakfasts. The project developed a successful relationship with Sister Gisele, a Canadian nun, who operated a girls' school and a homeless and seniors housing program in Maseru. Ohio's Clark County teens have joined Interact Club, Rotary's club for high school students, for which they collected and packed clothing and books for shipping to remote mountain villages in Lesotho. Interact Club also helped Maseru High School students form their own Interact Club, a club that is now raising pigs, rabbits, and chickens to feed the orphans. The Interact Club held a fundraiser that paid for orphans' blankets at a Motsekuoa school. More projects are in the works.
Commenting on Springfield's Interact Club, Rosenberg noted the benefits for the city's next generation's involvement in helping others, and declared, "You never know how this kind of exposure at 17, 18, changes your life."
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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.