Accomplishing more together
Clarissa Brocklehurst, UNICEF's chief of water, sanitation, and hygiene, speaks to Rotarians on 22 June, at the 2009 RI Convention in Birmingham, England. Rotary Images/Alyce Henson
Casting a wide net through collaboration helps Rotary and other organizations accomplish great things. This was the message of the second plenary session at the 2009 RI Convention in Birmingham, England, on 22 June.
"Let this partnership for polio eradication be a beacon that shows how it is possible when people from right around the world come together in common purpose, with strong hearts and clear minds about the work that together we need to do," said Douglas Alexander, a member of the British Parliament and secretary of state for international development for the United Kingdom.
Infrastructural problems, such as a lack of access to clean water and improved sanitation, also require collaborative solutions, said Clarissa Brocklehurst, UNICEF's chief of water, sanitation, and hygiene.
About one billion people worldwide lack access to safe drinking water, and about 2.5 billion don't have proper sanitation, Brocklehurst said. Diarrhea, which can be caused by poor sanitation, is the second-leading killer of children after pneumonia. The three sectors of "taps, toilets, and soap" are related, inseparable, and vital to all communities, she said.
Brocklehurst described how addressing these areas is more than an infrastructural problem -- it is a question of changing behavior as well. "Education, communication, and promotion are becoming crucial activities," she said.
UNICEF is developing educational programs in schools to foster greater attention to sanitation and hygiene, and it's aiming for all primary schools worldwide to have water and sanitation facilities. "These are ambitious goals, and clearly UNICEF cannot reach them alone," said Brocklehurst. "We need partners with energy, commitment, and influence. We need partners like Rotary."
Another effort that relies on collaboration for its success is ShelterBox, a charity started by Rotarian Tom Henderson and the Rotary Club of Helston-Lizard, Cornwall, England. Since 2001, it has helped provide shelter to more than 800,000 people in 57 countries during natural disasters and other crises.
During the plenary session, Henderson thanked Rotarians who have sent funds and worked to deliver the boxes. "I like to say I've got 1.2 million friends in 32,000 offices," he said, referring to Rotary's global network of club members. "When there's a disaster in the world, I can lift the phone, and within minutes I can be speaking to a Rotarian friend somewhere in the world, and I can ask them what's going on. I trust them because they're a Rotarian."
The project also has helped raise awareness of Rotary in communities and attract new members. Because of ShelterBox, "There are people in this room today who are Rotarians who [weren't] two years ago. People are becoming Rotaractors because of the work we're doing and the work Rotary does," said Henderson.