Understanding will make difference in ending world poverty
U.S. Rotarian Deepa Willingham, founder of PACE Universal, gives a keynote address during the spouses plenary session at the 2008 International Assembly.
A basic understanding of poverty is the inspiration Rotarians need to eradicate it, keynote speaker Deepa Willingham said during the second spouses plenary session at the International Assembly.
Willingham, a member of the Rotary Club of Santa Ynez Valley, California, USA, told the audience that 1.3 billion people around the world live on less than US$1 a day and that 10 million children die each year before they reach their fifth birthday due to extreme poverty. “I find these numbers staggering and overwhelming. My heart aches with sadness,” she said.
Figures like these led Willingham to form PACE Universal (Promise of Assurance to Children Everywhere) in 2003. The organization’s mission is to nurture the education, nutrition, health, and social development of young girls in the slums of Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), India, and other areas around the world.
“I’m just a simple Rotarian from a small town in Southern California, but I believe that I can make a difference by doing my share, however small that may be,” Willingham said.
Her club partnered with the Rotary Club of Calcutta Metropolitan to build a permanent building for the Piyali Learning Center, which will eventually serve 1,200 girls and 500 boys from impoverished villages around Kolkata.
The center will also help provide clean water, sanitation, and solar ovens to the community of Piyali Junction. “The aim of the center will be to bring about sustainable changes to the lives of citizens,” said Willingham.
Those living in extreme poverty “live with no hope in their hearts, they have no voice in their destiny or the ability to determine their future,” Willingham told the audience.
It’s up to Rotary to make a difference in the existence of extreme poverty, Willingham added. “Rotarians’ actions are a perfect example of how the power of one can work, changing the life of one child, one community, one village at a time.”