They say that when life gives you lemons – make lemonade! When we learned our long-time partner, District 4250 (Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras), was in the Future Vision pilot, I certainly thought we had landed in a pile of lemons.
Clubs in my non-pilot District 5240 in California, USA, had been partnering in grants with the Rotary Club of Tegucigalpa, D.C., Honduras, for 10 years to provide corrective surgery for children born with club feet. We were also involved in an “Adopt a Village” project in El Marillal, Honduras, with the Rotary clubs of Choluteca, Choluteca, and Real de Minas-Tegucigalpa, D.C. In 2009, we had committed to work with the community for the next five years to help them rise out of extreme poverty.
Our efforts to make the most of the situation began with the help of District 5240 leaders and other contributors, including District 6060 in Missouri, USA. We were able to work with District 4250 Rotarians to write and fund a pilot/non-pilot global grant. The grant supported a project to provide microcredit loans to the village of El Marillal and surrounding, extremely poor areas.
While I had done previous Matching Grants with the Real de Minas-Tegucigalpa club, neither they nor any of the District 6060 leaders had been involved with our work in El Marillal. Yet the immediate and long-term benefits of this collaboration were spectacular – truly lemonade.
Since the global grant was approved in January 2011, I have visited El Marillal with leaders from Real de Minas-Tegucigalpa twice – once to open the first two credit banks and give out nine new loans and then to review the status of other grants that were in process or had been previously closed. In just 10 months, $35,000 of $37,000 in loans had been disbursed. We heard stories of economic growth that convinced us this global grant is both sustainable and effective in reducing poverty, creating village leadership, and increasing financial literacy.
Another club in our district also used a District Simplified Grant to purchase a piece of equipment needed for the club foot surgeries. The surgeries continued thanks to fundraisers, donations, and volunteer podiatrists from the Baja Project for Crippled Children.
These chain of events whetted our appetite for the new Rotary grants we will be able to write in 2013. This February, Rotarians from District 5240 attended a Project Fair in Honduras where we identified a major new project. We are now forming a Rotary Community Corps to work on a formal needs assessment. We have 16 months to plan, before submitting the global grant application in July 2013. Four districts have already agreed to work on this “Adopt a Community” project.
The divide between pilot and non-pilot districts forced us to think outside the box. It provided an opportunity for collaboration and creativity, not the obstacle that we had feared.
We are entering Future Vision with a great deal of excitement and energy. We’re way beyond lemonade now!