Connecting over breakouts

The excitement and energy in the WinS Target Challenge programme in India is so high that “our model is being used in countries outside the pilot such as Mexico, Philippines and Uganda. More recently, RIPE Barry Rassin appreciated the group handwashing demonstrated by students when he visited some schools here,” said TRF Trustee and RI’s WinS Committee Chair Sushil Gupta, presiding over a breakout session titled, Sharing success, overcoming challenges and finding partners, at the Toronto Convention.

TRF Trustee and WinS Committee Chair Sushil Gupta addressing a session on WinS in the presence of (from L) PDG Carlos Flores (D 4250), Mariam Wanqui, PDG Ganesh Bhat and Mary Jo Jean-Francois, RI’s Area of Focus Manager (Basic Education and Literacy) and WinS Target Challenge Co-manager.

He stressed on bringing behavioural change in communities with children as ‘agents of change’ to make a lasting impact of the sanitation programme. “We must impress upon people that the toilets and handwashing practice are for their own good. Healthy families mean fewer visits to hospitals.”

The five pilot countries — India, Kenya, Honduras, Belize and ­Guatemala — are always looking for partners and donors to implement the WASH projects in their schools. So a funding mechanism for a two-phase grant has been approved by TRF Trustees, he said. Of the 46 applications received by TRF, four were successful, with a total of $1.5 million being given during the year.

We must impress upon people that the toilets and handwashing practice are for their own good. Healthy families mean fewer visits to hospitals.

Sushil Gupta
TRF Trustee and RI WinS Committee Chair

PDG Ganesh Bhat, giving an update on WinS in India, said that with the introduction of toilets and handwash stations in rural schools, children are insisting upon such hygienic practices at their homes too. Teachers also counsel parents during the PTA meets on sanitation and hygiene and distribute sanitary napkins and soaps. He reiterated the need for ensuring a continuous water supply for the toilets and handwash facilities. Bhat highlighted an instance where a school put up a huge board with the words, ‘Thank you, Rotary’ on its campus, after the inauguration of the toilet blocks there. This certainly promoted Rotary’s public image.

The session explored the conditions prevailing in other countries too. In Honduras, for instance, PDG Carlos Flores pointed out that shortage of water, poor sanitary modules, lack of awareness on hygiene issues and absence of cleaning supplies hamper the WinS programme. Whereas in Santa Barbara, the synergy between the school administration and parents has resulted in the programme’s success.


An appeal for help

Mariam Wanqui, President of RC Kenya, said that in Kenya, resources do not reach in time to schools as primary education is free. Elections further delay any action on the sanitation front. “When politicians are contesting for posts, finance is diverted there, and infrastructure facilities suffer.” Schools are overcrowded and the country ranks No 5 in diseases related to water and sanitation. Mariam made an appeal saying that the District 9212, comprising Kenya, Eritrea, Ethiopia and South Sudan, “badly needs help from clubs and corporates. We want to build better water facilities. Our underground water is rich in fluoride and is unsafe for children.”

In Guatemala, corporates are keen on working with Rotary, particularly for WASH projects, said Rtn Diego Furlan.

From L: Tata Technologies’ Corporate Sustainability Head Anubhav Kapoor, PDG Vinay Kulkarni, TRF Trustee Sushil Gupta, PDG Louis A Johnson and TRF Trustee Bryn Styles.

When a delegate from Bangladesh requested that his country be included in the pilot, Gupta said this project will expire in 2020. “But your clubs can apply for a global grant and do the project. WASH projects are not limited to pilot countries alone,” he said, and added that WASRAG (Water and Sanitation Rotary Action Group) provides the necessary guidance to implement a WinS programme.

Concluding the session, he said, “I am happy at the interest this programme has generated. It is rarely that we see the room so full in a breakout session!”


Garnering CSR funds

The session titled CSR and its impact on Fund development, moderated by PDG Vinay Kulkarni, gave an insight into attracting corporates to partner with Rotary to support community projects with their CSR funds.

Session Chair Sushil Gupta encouraged clubs to explore projects taking into consideration the environment and social factors. “Five of Rotary’s six Areas of Focus are included in the CSR policy of India. So identify programmes that will interest corporates to fulfill their CSR goals and help them get better mileage in society,” he urged.

PDG Sharat Chandra, D 3110, and Rakesh Bhargava, the District CSR Chair of D 3131, shared their success stories in attracting corporates to partner with their clubs. While D 3110 had struck a partnership with RDS Project Limited to set up a cath lab in ­Firozabad in Uttar Pradesh with CSR contribution of $175,000, D 3131 had implemented five ­projects with corporate partnership worth $300,000, with Gestamp partnering twice, since 2016–17 and Tata Technologies spearheading their e-learning programmes in schools.


Show them what their money can do

Sharing the success strategy, Chandra said that he first reached out to Rotarians who owned a company or were connected with one in some way and impressed upon Rotary’s transformative work to few other corporates. “One corporate has doubled its contribution to a Rotary project in two years and another company has promised to repeat their contribution when we identify another good project.” Transparency is of utmost importance. Corporate heads must know how their money is being used, he warned. “We gave a clear picture to RDS Project on where and for whom their money was going. And during the course of the work, we invited the CEO Madanlal Goyal to accompany us to the hospital site where he could see for himself what huge difference his money can make for the heart patients in the village,” he said.


Study the corporate world

Bhargava, sharing his lessons of how D 3131 bagged CSR partnerships, said that his team studied the published data on how each company spent its CSR money and those that had a CSR policy in place. What kind of projects were they interested in; did they have their own Foundation/Trust to implement projects or was it through their internal department. Most medium-sized companies and multinational companies did not have in-house departments to carry out their CSR projects. “We targeted companies that outsourced their projects to NGOs and impressed upon them about Rotary’s pan-India reach, our depth and planning, clear financials and control over expenses. We told them we bring leadership and skillsets and there cannot be a better partner.”

Anubhav Kapoor, Tata Technologies’ Corporate Sustainability Head, listening to these “strategies”, said in a lighter vein, “I didn’t know that there was a marketing strategy behind all this. I thought Rotarians are simple, straight-forward people.” Complimenting the Rotarians of D 3131 he said, “I am very happy to be associated with Rotary. Rotarians are wonderful people who know what they are doing and how to go about the job. Your vast experience in various fields make you experts in knowing what a community needs and how you can fulfil them.”

He added that most of the corporates do not enter the social sector directly. About 65 per cent of them entrust the job to NGOs such as Rotary. “If Rotary comes up with more ideas and workable solutions, we will be ready to work with you,” he said, adding that his company is keen on implementing educational projects in 16 other countries across the world.

To a question on what if a company pulls out from a project, Gupta clarified that there must be a clear agreement between TRF and the corporate stating the details of the project, duration and how the money will be utilised.

TRF Trustee Bryn Styles and PDG Louis A Johnson shed light on the prospects of CSR in Canada and Australia. Vinod Bansal, the Vice Chair for the Rotary-CSR partnership in India, also provided some inputs on CSR practices world over.


Other interesting breakouts

A session for Rotary doctors explored possibilities of them extending their services to provide healthcare and save lives across the world. Rtn Dr S ­Sunder of RC Mambalam, D 3232, shared information about his club’s ‘Walk India’ project that puts thousands of orthopaedically-challenged people in Tamil Nadu back on their feet with artificial limbs, reaching out to them at their doorsteps.

PDG Dr N Subramanian, D 3011, spoke about the club foot challenge in India. “Many people in villages are still unaware that club foot is curable. They will not bring their children to the doctor as there is a misconstrued fear of the treatment being major and expensive.” District 3011 is partnering with CURE International India in setting up CURE clinics in hospitals and training orthopaedicians to correct club foot deformity in children across India.

Rotary fellowship groups and their activities were discussed in the session, Fellowships: the hidden gem of Rotary. “Whatever be your interest, you can connect with a fellow Rotarian who follows a similar passion and serve humanity through your common interest,” said Madhumita Bishnu, RC Calcutta South, D 3291. From music-lovers, photographers and magicians to lawyers, these groups are a fun way to make friends, participate in projects and share the enthusiasm for what you love, she added.

Pictures by Jaishree

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Message Us