Though they were a long way from home, members of the Rotaract Club of Bugolobi, Uganda, felt confident they could tackle problems in rural Kanabulemu during their annual 1000 Smiles project.
Their original plan focused on curtailing the spread of HIV/AIDS. It's in the Rakai District, where the first case of AIDS in Uganda was uncovered in 1982 and about 12 percent of the population has been infected with HIV in recent years. But the Rotaractors discovered that problems in the village extended far beyond the disease.
"The community lacked water, the school was in a sorry state, and the medical center was in an even sorrier state, especially the maternity ward," says Anitah Munkudane, president of the Bugolobi club. "The condition was worse than we had imagined."
The Rotaractors still weren't prepared for what they found when they launched the project with the Uganda Health Marketing Group. They expected to treat 700 at the medical camp in Kanabulemu. More than 1,000 patients came.
Volunteers, including Rotaractors from other clubs and members of the club's sponsor, the Rotary Club of Bugolobi, provided comprehensive medical exams, dental screenings, medication, birth control, and more. And the troubled maternity ward? It got new mattresses to make childbirth more comfortable.
They presented benches and desks to the Keyebe Primary School and school supplies and uniforms to its pupils, many of whom are orphans. The team also helped install a borehole to bring much-needed water to the village.
For all of its exemplary work on the 1000 Smiles Kanabulemu Edition project, the Rotaract Club of Bugolobi was named the International Winner of the Rotaract Outstanding Project Award. Members will be honored at the Korea convention in June and will receive $500 to apply to a future project. The club will use it to help women suffering from fistula, says Munkudane.
Rotaract Outstanding Project Awards recognized other clubs for projects -- one in each of six regions and an international multidistrict project -- for their excellent humanitarian work.
International multidistrict project: Twelve Rotaract clubs from five districts in Turkey and Russia for the Just Like You With an (+1) Extra! project. Members collaborated with the Down Syndrome Association to organize training for children and adults with Down syndrome. Participants learned how to apply effective communication and cooperation strategies to improve their daily lives and hone job skills.
Asia Pacific: The Rotaract Club of Metro Cebu-CIT Chapter in the Philippines for Project WASHEd-UP, which transformed the lives of kids at Tagatay Elementary School in a remote area in the Philippines. Club members constructed a tank to safely store rainwater, taught the importance of hygiene and sanitation, and treated students who had skin infections and intestinal parasites.
South Asia: The Rotaract Club of The Caduceus in Maharashtra, India, for the Jana Swasthya Project. Members established a digital disease surveillance system to study epidemiological trends. Harnessing the power of mobile technology, they replaced a paper data-tracking system, allowing government officials and experts to access live data with a few clicks.
Europe, Middle East, Central Asia: The Rotaract Club of Istanbul-Dolmabahçe in Turkey for Still Child! Rotaractors organized conferences in rural areas, where local experts, psychologists, and doctors educated residents about how underage girls who are married are, statistically, undereducated and prone to medical and psychological problems.
Sub-Saharan Africa: The Rotaract Club of Lagune de Cotonou in Benin for Notre Bibliotheque. Rotaractors and Rotary members converted an abandoned building into a library for the nearly 400 children who attend Zogbadjè Primary Public School. Not only did Rotaractors design, fundraise, and implement construction plans, they stocked the new library with more than 500 books.
Latin America: The Rotaract Club of Nova Geração Itabaiana in Brazil for Projeto Sergipe. Rotaractors enrolled 100 students in literacy and professional development courses. The club developed a network of community partners and volunteers that donated meeting space for classes and lectures, developed training based on volunteers' professional expertise, and distributed educational materials and resources to students.
United States, Canada, and Caribbean: The Rotaract Club of Birmingham, Alabama, USA, for Ready 2 Succeed. The project t matches high school juniors and seniors with Rotaract mentors to better prepare students for college. Over 75 percent of the program's participants, many first-generation college students, have enrolled in college programs.