Vocational training teams aid Adopt-a-Village project in Uganda
District 5340 VTT team member Charles DuVivier, of the Rotary Club of Encinitas, California, USA, discusses agriculture and irrigation techniques with a farmer in Nkondo, Uganda. Photo courtesy of District 5340
An Adopt-a-Village project being carried out by Rotarians in Uganda and California, USA, is helping to improve life significantly for people in Nkondo, Uganda.
The project involves four of Rotary’s areas of focus: water and sanitation, basic education and literacy, disease prevention and treatment, and economic and community development.
An important catalyst to the effort’s success is the vocational training team (VTT), a group of professionals that travels either to learn more about their vocation or to teach local professionals about a particular field.
“The main role has been to help kick-start the project,” says Past District Governor Philippe Lamoise, who led a team from District 5340 to District 9200 in Uganda in late 2010 and early 2011. “The training I conducted was about business strategies, savings, and investments as they apply to family-size farming businesses.”
Funded by a Rotary Foundation global grant, the team of four Rotarians and three other professionals also helped lay the groundwork for a clean water system, trained health clinic staff, and renovated a computer room at a school. The results of the team’s efforts were “a motivation to the local government to join in and provide some additional public funding at the school and clinic,” Lamoise says.
The VTT also paved the way for partnerships with one local nongovernmental organization to train community residents in microfinance and with another to manage the microcredit effort, with oversight by the Rotary Club of Kampala North. In addition, the VTT inspired a partnership with an NGO to train farmers to produce crops with high market values.
A five-member team from Kenya and Uganda visited District 5340 in October and November 2011, learning about best practices in agriculture and irrigation, including the use of appropriate technology. VTTs give efforts like the Adopt-a-Village project a strong boost toward sustainability, says Francis Tusubira, vice chair of the Foundation’s Cadre of Technical Advisers and past governor of District 9200.
“When we talk about sustainable development, we are talking about changing the mind-set of communities,” Tusubira says. “Having a vocational training team come in and start imparting the skills. Having microcredit, because once you give people skills, then they must have the means to start practicing on their land.”
VTTs, a component of Future Vision, mark a return to the original purpose of the Group Study Exchange (GSE) program: enabling team members to share their expertise and gain practical knowledge of how their vocations are practiced in another country.
Learning and doing
“The GSE experience was great to discover East Africa and establish new relationships with the Rotarians over there,” says Lamoise, who was part of a District 5340 team that traveled to that region in 2001. “One of the great benefits of the VTT program is that we are doing some good work over there, instead of just learning about the culture and establishing connections. So from the host [community’s] point of view, VTT has much more value.”
Lamoise adds, however, that GSEs have helped establish relationships between districts that have been the springboard to Foundation grant projects. Although the Foundation’s GSE program will end with full implementation of the new grant model effective 1 July 2013, districts will still be able to do traditional GSEs using district grants.
RI training leader Gregory Podd, past governor of District 5450 (Colorado, USA), echoes Lamoise’s assessment of VTTs and GSEs. Leading a GSE team to the Philippines in 2006 “was one of the best assignments I’ve ever had in Rotary,” he says.
While traveling in Africa this year, however, Podd met with a VTT in Tanzania focused on speech therapy. Witnessing the good the team was doing in the community, he says, convinced him of the VTT’s value as an improved model of professional exchange.
“It’s more focused, and it has measurable outcomes for exchanging professional skills. I just love it,” he says, adding that he would especially like to lead a VTT.