Change is slow to happen…but it DOES happen. Here are stories to prove it.
Education is a big deal for Rotarians so spending time visiting schools and listening to principals and teachers is invaluable. Fourteen years ago these visits led to learning about what schools wanted and needed. School leaders asked for help to obtain teaching materials for their teachers, reading books and desks for their students…and more. The schools did not have a reliable water supply so where toilets existed, they could not be ‘flushed’.
In 2004, based on input from school personnel, Rotary began planning school projects that would bring maps, science kits, reading books, white boards, desks and benches for the children, desks for the teachers to classrooms. To improve children’s health, a reliable water source and toilets were included in the projects. Over a period of three years, Rotary worked with 42 schools. Within five years after project completion for the last of these schools, equipment similar to what Rotary had provided was consistently appearing in schools.
Another significant change took place in schools after Rotary began donating ‘reading for pleasure’ books to elementary schools. Initially these books were kept in classrooms. The education department followed up by placing a high priority on building libraries at schools and today most schools have a special library building. Rotary continues to provide books to help fill those libraries with educational and fun to read books. BREAKING NEWS: Bali’s education department will create a ‘reading corner’ in all schools! The intent: create a literate citizenry.
Government clinics are meant to serve the community, but back in 2009 the clinics were required to charge for their services. This often kept poverty level families from going to clinics. As Rotary visited schools, signs of skin and dental problems were clearly seen amongst school children. Rotaract, the young people’s version of Rotary, came up with a great idea… do a project that brings the government clinic to the school! This very first HEALTH DAY, where clinic doctors, dentists, nurses, came to a school, examined all the children, provided medications, checked teeth (and pulled many!), was not free. Rotaract and Rotary paid for this event. The fabulous news is that today this is a regular and FREE service at schools. Even more new services are now provided…clinic nurses visit schools every six months to dispense deworming medication. Clinic staff visit schools regularly to remind children about basic hygiene, expecting every child to demonstrate the correct way to wash their hands and brush their teeth.
In another rare case, one of the government clinics needed help. Two doctors came to a Rotary meeting explaining that their current water system did not have sufficient water supply or pumping power to reach the second story of their brand new clinic. The second story could not be used for patients. Rotary built a deep well, a high water tower and the second story had water. Many more patients could be treated.
In 2013 Bali was facing extreme problems with HIV/AIDS. Culturally, the subject of AIDS was essentially taboo and a positive diagnosis almost always led to stigmatization, isolation, rejection and finally death. Thus, it was important to patients that the illness remain a closely guarded secret. Maintaining patient anonymity during testing and treatment was a very serious consideration when Rotary, working with NGO Bali Peduli Foundation, added HIV/AIDS facilities to an already existing government clinic. This add-on was specifically aimed at anonymously identifying, providing medical treatment and continuing follow-up for AIDS/HIV patients. Counseling explained why protected sex was important and ease in obtaining condoms lessened the likelihood of spreading the virus. Ongoing education at high schools and in village events spread factual information and dispelled myths. Today, with better understanding of the virus, stigma associated with the virus is diminishing and proper medication is saving lives.
Water in Bali is not potable…drinking water that is not boiled or bottled will likely bring on diarrhea. To ensure water is safe can be expensive for our local families and Rotary was always looking for alternatives. When Nazava water filters came to Rotary’s attention, research proved that water from these filters was 100% potable and the filters were not excessively expensive. For comparison, cost of boiling a liter of water was IDR 150; cost of buying a liter of water was IDR 800; cost of a liter of Nazava filtered water was IDR 29. Diarrhea is a common problem and children miss days of school because of it. In 2016, Rotary started including water filters in school projects.
A generation ago almost everything used in Bali was biodegradable. Today plastic is everywhere and is a major environmental problem. Culturally a village relies on its village chief to introduce new ideas. The support and cooperation of village leaders are central to bringing about behavioral change, including plastic management. Rotary is now engaged in a project where local young people work with village and school leaders, asking that plastic be brought to a school every Saturday. The plastic is sorted by these young activists and then sold to a recycling center. Funds are deposited into a bank account and at the end of the year the money is returned to the school children! Within three weeks of starting the project, a second school has already asked to become involved.
Last, but definitely not least, is the response to Lombok’s earthquake disaster. Rotary Clubs throughout Indonesia have stepped up to donate cash, supplies, expertise, special talents and time. Thousands of people on Lombok remain homeless with no way to meet their most basic needs. Rotary continues to send truckloads of supplies, build toilets and houses.
Rotarians believe they can make a difference with their projects. You be the judge.
RC Bali Seminyak
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