By Henk Jaap Kloosterman, a member of the Rotary Club of Voorburg-Vliet, The Netherlands, and district UNESCO-IHE coordinator
My Rotary life suddenly changed in late 2011, when Rotary Foundation Trustee Stephen R. Brown dropped me an email, saying he was coming to The Netherlands to talk to UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education.
I knew Stephen from his former involvement in efforts on getting Rotary started in Afghanistan and the Sultanate of Oman (where I lived at the time), and now I suddenly found out that Steve was involved as well in getting a strategic partnership set-up between the Foundation and UNESCO-IHE, which is the world’s largest postgraduate water education facility, located in Delft in The Netherlands.
I did not know much at that time about UNESCO-IHE, but I was soon to learn about this vibrant and multi-cultural center of excellence on water education. I was struck not only by Rotary’s commitment to provide funding for eight Rotary scholarships at UNESCO-IHE for three years in a row, but also their dedication to ensure that there was ample support from both the sponsoring Rotary clubs in the home countries of the students and the local Rotary clubs in The Netherlands.
This for me is “Rotary at its best,” a combination of Rotary funding while leveraging the Rotary network to ensure these scholarship programs will deliver tangible results in Rotary’s water and sanitation area of focus. The first batch of students arrived in October 2012, and they feel very privileged to be Rotary Scholars. Without exception, they are highly motivated and intelligent students, fully committed to raising the standards of water sanitation in their home country upon completion of their Master of Science degree.
When RI President Tanaka visited UNESCO-IHE in November 2012, together with some of the RI directors, we all sat together as a large Rotary family around a big oval table in the UNESCO-IHE board room. The students were truly impressed by the genuine interest shown in them by these Rotary leaders. The Rotary leaders felt somewhat humbled by the commitment and drive these students exhibited to make a difference in their home countries.
The start of this program has been flawless and extremely exciting. We know “the best is yet to come.” We will keep you posted!