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Combating loneliness around the globe

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Rotary clubs launch initiatives for community well-being


Loneliness is a growing global health concern, affecting both mental and physical well-being. Its many causes include the increased isolation that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic. Rotary clubs worldwide are tackling this silent epidemic. They’re launching a variety of innovative projects that seek to reconnect individuals with their communities and foster stronger social bonds. Here’s a sampling of how Rotary clubs are promoting mental health and making a profound impact on people’s lives.

Music Therapy in Singapore

The Rotary Club of Suntec City, Singapore, champions mental wellness through a three-year campaign involving music therapy sessions at the FRCS Eldercare and Caregivers Centre in Bukit Batok West. These sessions incorporate tunes and interactive movements to stimulate seniors’ minds and bodies, producing joy and combating dementia. The club plans to conduct a breakout session at the 2024 Rotary International Convention focusing on strategies to boost mental well-being.

As part of their three-year mental wellness campaign, members of the Rotary Club of Suntec City, Singapore, lead a music therapy session for seniors at the FRCS Eldercare and Caregivers Centre in Bukit Batok West.

Youth Mental Health in Hilden, Germany

Facing rising mental health challenges among teenagers, the Rotary Club of Hilden-Haan, Hilden, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, launched the Empowerment of the Youth project. This initiative teaches self-management, emotional intelligence, and resilience through workshops at the Realschule Hochdahl. The workshops reduce feelings of isolation while equipping youth to handle life’s challenges.

Friendship Dinners in Boise, Idaho, USA

The Rotary Club of Boise, Idaho, USA, introduced Better Friendship Dinners to combat loneliness. Members host diverse culinary events ranging from sushi rolling to barbecues. Todd Fischer, who initiated the project, envisioned the gatherings as a means of strengthening ties with the community while showcasing how Rotary members take action for lasting change. This story originally appeared in Rotary’s Service in Action Blog.

Support for Hikikomori in Tokyo, Japan

The Rotary Club of Tokyo Edogawa, Tokyo, Japan, holds a hydroponics clinic for individuals suffering from Hikikomori, or severe social withdrawal. The clinic teaches participants to cultivate and cook vegetables while creating safe social interactions that help them reintegrate into society. Club members are committed to expanding the project, funded by district grants, to help those experiencing extended periods of isolation.

Bridging Generations in Chichester, England

The Bridging Generations initiative by the Rotary Club of Chichester Priory, Chichester, West Sussex, England, connects college students with elderly community members every two weeks for coffee and conversation. Meals are prepared by catering students. The club funds transportation for the seniors to the Chichester College-facilitated event. It enhances the students’ interpersonal skills and provides the elderly with valuable social interactions, strengthening ties across generations. This story originally appeared in Rotary’s Great Britain and Ireland Magazine.

Promoting Well-Being in Lima, Peru

The Rotary Club of Miraflores in Lima, Peru, addressed pandemic-induced loneliness by establishing a Happiness Committee. The club hosted online activities that included singing and dancing to lift people’s spirits. The club’s You Matter to Me program, developed with the Ministry of Women and Vulnerable Populations, included a suicide prevention fair and empowerment talks. In collaboration with Soroptimist International, the club organized Dream It, You Can Do It, a workshop aimed at empowering adolescent girls in foster care. The workshop highlighted the importance of mental health and community support. See also Rotary's Service in Action Blog.

Rotary members join forces with Soroptimist International of the Americas to coordinate an empowerment workshop for adolescents in foster care.

Fostering Inclusion in Sardinia, Italy

Rotary District 2080 hosted a three-day camp in Sardinia for individuals aged 16-30 with conditions like Down syndrome, autism, Asperger’s syndrome, and cognitive impairments. Participants engaged in sea sports, tennis, paddle ball, and basketball, experiencing social interactions and building teamwork skills. The camp, supported by the municipalities of Cagliari and Quartu Sant’Elena, aimed to combat loneliness and social anxiety. It promoted an inclusive culture through one-to-one interactions, shared activities, and community integration.

Mental Health Awareness in Port Harcourt, Nigeria

The Rotary Club of Port Harcourt Spring Gardens, Rivers State, Nigeria, initiated a campaign using billboards to spotlight mental health. The campaign was timed to coincide with World Mental Health Day. In partnership with Phree Tech Web Development Nigeria, the club set up one billboard at a central intersection. Club members distributed flyers that addressed such issues as how economic stress can affect a community’s well-being. This story originally appeared on Rotary’s Service in Action Blog.

Members of the Rotary Club of Port Harcourt Spring Gardens, Nigeria, gather to unveil a mental health awareness billboard on World Mental Health Day. October 2023.

Enhancing Understanding of Neurodiversity in Haiti

The Rotary Club of Juvénat, Port-au-Prince, Gonave-Azuei, Haiti, is holding workshops to train education professionals in understanding neuro-atypical disorders among children. The workshops teach trainees to better integrate the children, who often face stigma, into the community. They also teach how to respond appropriately to students with psychological distress. The club also hosted a televised symposium on child mental health challenges, featuring expert psychologists and psychiatrists. It put the spotlight on efforts to prevent affected children from being isolated and excluded. This story originally appeared in the March issue of Rotary Mag.

Learn more about how Rotary prioritizes mental health.

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— July 2024