Foundation alumni empower communities in South Africa, India
Former Rotary Scholars and others celebrate the publication of Seed to Table
at a book store in Cape Town. Clockwise from top: publisher Doreen Gowans, coauthor Nomnikelo Sontsanga, 2010-11 Rotary Scholar Abby Elsener, coauthor Nomkhita Sontsanga (Nomnikelo’s mother), 2010-11 Rotary Scholar Erin Koepke, 2010-11 Rotary Scholar Toni Marraccini. Photo courtesy of Erin Koepke
From developing a music program for at-risk children to generating employment opportunities for women in India, former Rotary Peace Fellows and Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholars are promoting economic development in regions that need it most.
Yashar Keramati, a 2009-10 Ambassadorial Scholar from Canada, recently returned to Fisantekraal, South Africa, to launch his Peace & Love International initiative. “If it were not for the Foundation, I would not be able to have come here to do what I have been doing,” he says.
With violence and drugs dominating the streets of Fisantekraal, Keramati says that young people have little opportunity for education and positive personal growth. Peace & Love International aims to create such opportunities through music.
Workshops, held at least four times a week, offer dance practice and songwriting sessions. Through the songs, Keramati concentrates on important issues like drug awareness and respect for those of other genders and religions.
“The goal of this initiative is to create a musical haven and nonthreatening space for the community’s youth, which they have been denied,” he says. “A highlight was one of our outings where we were invited to Cape Town’s biggest radio station to have our kids perform live on the air.”
Elsewhere in South Africa, Erin Koepke, a 2010-11 Ambassadorial Scholar from the United States, partnered with Abalimi Bezekhaya, a nonprofit that introduces poor townships to sustainable food sources through urban farming. The effort resulted in a number of farmers selling their produce through the organization’s Harvest of Hope program.
“I was eager to get involved with the organization, so I jumped at the opportunity to create an Abalimi-Harvest of Hope cookbook to sell as a way to market the program and provide an additional source of income to support their cause in Cape Town,” Koepke says.
She teamed up with two other Ambassadorial Scholars and cooked with several farmers to learn traditional cuisine, using vegetables the farmers had grown. The resulting recipes were compiled into the Seed to Table cookbook. Net proceeds from sales of the book are donated to Abalimi Bezekhaya to help support organic microfarmers in Cape Town.
“Abalimi-Harvest of Hope has inspired many to take ownership and pride in their community, leading to invaluable individual development,” Koepke says.
Darshan Mundada, a 2008-10 Rotary Peace Fellow from India, applied his experience by developing a program in his country that helps rehabilitate former sex workers and integrate them into mainstream society. The program trains women to make tote bags out of recycled saris. The bags are sold to the public, serving as a source of income for the women.
“Crafting these bags creates a safe and stable livelihood for these women,” says Mundada, who credits the Foundation with giving him the chance to sharpen his professional social work skills.
“My two years in the program made me aware of the global scale of problems that I was trying to tackle at local levels in India,” says Mundada, who studied at the University of North Carolina and Duke University in the United States. “Whether it’s issues in India or America, it helped me draw similarities across the globe.”
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