Spoon project a measure of success
A child at a health care clinic in East Cape, South Africa, holds on to his rehydration spoon which was designed by Rotarian Helen Batting. Photo courtesy of Batting
Past RI President Dong Kurn Lee asked Rotarians in 2008-09 to Make Dreams Real. With an idea, a spoon, and an eager young club, Helen Batting did just that. Literally.
About two years ago, Batting, president of the Rotary Club of East London Sunrise, South Africa, woke up in the middle of the night with an amazing idea. She had dreamed of a simple spoon design that would save the lives of children in South Africa who were dehydrated because of diarrhea.
"As a child, I remember my mother telling me about a spoon she created that saved hundreds of children's lives," says Batting. "I never saw the spoon, but I dreamed of them one night, woke up, and knew exactly what they should look like."
Batting designed a double-ended spoon that measures the exact amount of sugar and salt to be added to a cup of boiling water to create a rehydration fluid.
Clinics currently instruct mothers to pour 8 teaspoons of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of salt into about a quart of boiling water to create a rehydration solution known as Darrow's fluid, which also combats potassium deficiency. But the method requires a certain level of literacy and mathematical skills.
"Many mothers, especially in rural communities, are functionally illiterate, which means they may not be able to count or do fractions," Batting says. "If mixed incorrectly, it actually exacerbates the problem. We aren't changing the method, just simplifying it. One and one into one, and it's done!"
Only nine months after its charter in 2008, the East London Sunrise club used Batting's spoon design, now under patent, and launched the East London Sunrise Spoon of Hope initiative.
The project, recognized last year with an RI Significant Achievement Award, has produced and distributed more than 60,000 spoons to families in rural communities and medical clinics in Eastern Cape, South Africa. A large shipment of spoons has been sent to Zimbabwe as well.
Club members have helped manufacture, market, and promote the spoons.
Because her club was so new, the support of District 9320 (Lesotho; South Africa) and local clubs became an invaluable asset to the project's early success, says Batting. Fifteen clubs donated more than US$125 to get the project started. Each spoon costs less than 50 cents to purchase.
The spoon has garnered praise from many health care professionals, including Trudy Thomas, a children's advocate and former member of the Executive Council of the Legislature for Health in the Eastern Cape, as a simple, practical, and effective medical intervention.
"The beauty of this is that it only requires ingredients which are available even in the poorest communities and which can be administered by people with little or no education," says Thomas.
Batting is grateful for the project's widespread support. "So many people recognized the project's potential. We received an enormous amount of encouragement, energy, and help from fellow clubs and district leaders," she says. "It has been an exhilarating experience for me to have been picked up and carried along by an amazing Rotary movement."
Learn more about the East London Sunrise Spoon of Hope project.