Indian Rotarians help Ohio school district
Ram Gawande (right), governor-elect of District 6690 (Ohio, USA) passes out a new textbook to a student at the Trimble Elementary School in August. Photo courtesy of Gawande
More than 800 students of the Trimble Local School District near Athens, Ohio, USA, received thousands of textbooks in August, in part through a gift from an unusual source: Indian Rotarians.
For nearly 18 years, Ram Gawande, an Athens resident and RI District 6690 governor-elect, has been involved in projects aimed at improving communities in his native Nagpur, India.
After hearing of Gawande’s election as district governor, Nagpur Rotarians decided to thank him for his years of support by raising US$5,100 for a project that would benefit Athens. Gawande used the gift to provide reading and math books to middle schools in the Trimble school district, where 40 percent of families with children live below the poverty level.
"This is a scenario of the poor helping the poor," says Gawande, a member of the Rotary Club of Athens. "Rotary in the United States has done a lot for the people of India, and the people of India wanted to say thank you. We've become united under a common mission of improving literacy."
The literacy project was augmented by a Rotary Foundation Matching Grant of $8,530 and donations of $2,300 from both the Athens Rotary club and District 6690. Athens Rotarians purchased thousands of math, science, and reading textbooks from the National Geographic Society.
Low test scores have plagued Trimble schools for years, says Gawande. After the 2002 standard proficiency tests administered by the Ohio Department of Education, Trimble schools received a designation of "academic emergency," meaning the district failed to meet minimum proficiency levels in more than 70 percent of the areas covered by the tests, according to state report-card data.
The school district has struggled to purchase new books with limited funds. While test scores have been improving steadily, some schools are still using books that are 20 years old.
In August, Gawande and 15 other Athens Rotarians distributed books and materials to students at the Trimble Elementary School. The textbooks are bridges to the world around them, says Gawande.
"The expressions of gratefulness on the students’ faces are much like those [of the students] we have helped in India," says Gawande. "It was very touching to see how happy Rotarians in India made students [here]."
Since 1991, Gawande has been instrumental in several of his district's projects in India, including the digging of several water wells, providing 6,000 cataract eye exams, and purchasing hearing aids for more than 150 children.
Projects that help developing countries will always be a part of Rotary, says Gawande. But he also notes there are great needs in the United States and other developed countries.
"Rotary needs to work as a two-way street," says Gawande. "We all must join hands and help the poor in every part of the world. This project is an example of Rotary working as a circle. Indian Rotarians felt an enormous amount of satisfaction for giving rather than receiving."