Action group fights AIDS year-round
A student at a Rotarian-supported home and school for orphans in Nairobi, Kenya, holds up the card she made for World AIDS Day. It says, "My name is Alice, and I am healthy." Photo by Jennifer Huxta
A decade after she lost her son, Jerry, to AIDS, Marion Bunch's life took an unexpected detour.
In 2003, she started what's now Rotarians for Fighting AIDS, a Rotarian Action Group, parlaying her skills as a sales executive and leveraging the power of Rotary to educate at-risk children about making good choices.
Early on, Bunch, a member of the Rotary Club of Dunwoody, Georgia, USA, realized the potential of partnerships and signed on Coca-Cola, as well as the international charity HOPE Worldwide and the U.S. government, as key players in the action group.
"You can't fight this alone," she says.
As people around the globe observe World AIDS Day, 1 December, the group is continuing its work for a future free of HIV/AIDS. It recently joined the Partnership for an HIV-Free Generation, a U.S. government-coordinated coalition working to stem the spread of the disease among young people in sub-Saharan Africa. Read more
"World AIDS Day gives us an opportunity to show Rotarians who have so generously supported us what we are able to accomplish," says Anne Dillard Glenn, the group's director of marketing and communications. "The AIDS pandemic is killing entire populations and leaving 12 million orphaned children. We are reaching thousands, but it's a drop in the bucket."
Here are a few of the programs Rotarians are supporting through the action group:
- Rotarians for Fighting AIDS has funneled more than US$150,000 in Rotarian donations to cover secondary and vocational school fees, including uniforms and supplies, for youth in Kenya. The funds are administered by Nairobi Rotary clubs and are intended to provide the youth with education and job training so they can find work, enhance their self-esteem, and avoid high-risk behaviors that lead to HIV/AIDS.
- Rotary club-sponsored Kidz Clubs in Kenya and six other sub-Saharan countries provide a safe environment for youth to gather after school, learn, and interact with friends. In addition to providing financial support for the clubs, the action group helps connect Kenyan Rotary clubs with others abroad to adopt individual Kidz Clubs, creating closer links and fostering ongoing partnerships. Kenyan Rotary clubs work through Rotary Community Corps, training volunteers to manage the Kidz Clubs and deliver healthy lifestyle messages to the youth.
- Rotarians in District 9700 (Australia) raised more than $68,000 for Orphan Rescue Kits as part of the district's 2008-09 signature project. The kits are an initiative of the action group, Coca-Cola, and HOPE Worldwide to provide children with essentials for disease prevention and education, including school supplies, money for school fees and daily meals, a warm blanket, and a mosquito net.
- The action group has raised $16,000 to improve the learning environment at the Chongwe Community School in Lusaka, Zambia, as part of a project led by the Coca-Cola Africa Foundation. The school was established in 2002 to address the educational needs of a growing number of children orphaned by HIV/AIDS and poverty in eight villages around Lusaka. Coca-Cola's former chairman and CEO E. Neville Isdell, who was born in Zambia, visited Lusaka in 2008 and identified several critical needs, including renovating the school, converting a chicken run into additional classrooms, providing furniture and educational materials, and training caregivers. The action group and Coca-Cola have pledged to raise $30,000 each for the project.
To learn more about Rotarians for Fighting AIDS or to donate, visit http://www.rffa.org