Rotaract award winners celebrated for their life-changing projects

The Rotaract Club of H.R. College meets with the villager leaders of Kumbharwadi to discuss their clean water project.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Nikunj Pherwani

The village of Kumbharwadi is one of many in a drought-prone region near Mumbai, India. Until recently, its residents had access to only one well with drinkable water. During the summer months, the well runs dry, and the women and girls of the village travel three to four hours a day to search for water.

Enter Project Boond, undertaken by a Rotaract club, a Rotary club, and the Watershed Organization Trust to provide clean drinking water and sanitation facilities in Kumbharwadi. Nikunj Pherwani, 2013-14 president of the Rotaract Club of Hassaram Rijhumal College of Commerce and Economics in Mumbai, India, says that droughts are a serious problem in India and often exacerbate malnutrition and illness in remote regions.

"Our major aim through this project was to provide clean water for drinking and domestic purposes to the drought-affected areas of Maharashtra," he says. "These villages not only suffer due to shortage of water but also due to several waterborne diseases."

Pherwani's Rotaract club teamed up with the Rotary Club of Bombay, Maharashtra, India, to raise funds for the project through donations and events, including a comedic play and black tie dinner. The project has over $13,000 in its coffers, and the clubs are using the funds to dig wells and install toilets.

Pherwani's club also worked with the Rotary Club of Bombay to choose a local nonprofit organization to partner with. They found the Watershed Organization Trust, a nonprofit dedicated to ending water scarcity and poverty in rural India. After meeting with officials and signing an MOU, the Watershed Organization Trust helped them choose a village, and the Rotaractors traveled there to speak to locals about the credibility of their partners. Pherwani says they continue to visit Kumbharwadi every two months to check in with the village and see if additional resources are needed. Village leaders have been trained to maintain the new facilities.

In addition to providing clean water and sanitation facilities, Pherwani says they also aim to provide villagers with chlorine tablets and a workshop on basic health and hygiene.

Among the seven Rotaract projects that were honored at this year's Rotaract Preconvention, Project Boond was chosen as the international winner of the Recognition of Outstanding Rotaract Project. Two members of the Rotaract Club of Hassaram Rijhumal College of Commerce and Economics attended the preconvention on 30 May in Sydney, Australia. They traveled there using miles that Rotary won through United Airlines' 10 Million Charity Miles giveaway. They, along with representatives from other winning clubs, presented their projects and received their awards.

Regional winners

In addition to the international award-winning project, top Rotaract club projects from six regions were recognized at the Rotaract Preconvention.

Asia Pacific: The Rotaract Club of National University of Singapore (District 3310), for Waves of Hope Swimathon 2013. Club members volunteering at Pathfinder School were impressed by its work helping children with autism develop social and vocational skills. To support services for low-income students, the club organized a swimathon in which 474 participants swam laps and raised over $20,000.

South Asia: The Rotaract Club of the Caduceus (District 3140), for EMcounter Kumbh -- Mapping the Mela. Club members, most of them medical doctors, volunteered to provide disease surveillance during the Maha Kumbh Mela, a gathering of tens of millions of Hindu pilgrims. They worked with local organizations to install disease surveillance software in clinics and sample water sources to prevent disease outbreaks.

Europe, Middle East, and Central Asia: The Rotaract Club of Casamassima-Bari Alto (District 2120), for DREAMbox. Rotaract club members from every district in Italy came together to provide 1,000 DREAMboxes, filled with books, toys, and art supplies, for children being treated for cancer at a local hospital. They are also raising funds to modernize a room in the hospital's pediatric oncology wing.

Sub-Saharan Africa: Rotaract Club of Nairobi Central (District 9212), for A Girl, a K, a Year. Rotaractors raised funds to provide sanitary napkins to 2,936 girls who would otherwise miss school during menstruation because they lack supplies. They also worked with local and international Rotary clubs to raise $22,000 for the project, which included a book drive and mentorship program.

Latin America: Rotaract Club of Carpe Diem Catolica (District 4455), for Involucrados: An Initiative for Communities at Risk. Club members organized training workshops on literacy, budgeting, and entrepreneurship for parents of local school students. They also supported the school by holding arts and athletic activities and improving classrooms and restroom facilities.

United States, Canada, and Caribbean: Rotaract Club of Boston (District 7930), for Guatemala Water Filters Project. Rotaractors worked with a local nonprofit and craftsmen to provide people living in the highlands of Guatemala with water filters, hospital supplies, beds, stoves, and toiletries. With the help of Rotary clubs in the U.S. and Guatemala, they raised over $7,000 for the project.

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