Pagosa Rotary reaches out to underprivileged communities

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By Jim Garrett

Pagosa Springs Rotary Club

The Pagosa Springs Rotary Club is well-known in our community for its local activities, from funding scholarships granted annually to graduating high school seniors to sponsoring events highlighting the community social calendar like the Barn Dance.

But did you know that Pagosa Springs Rotary also participates in activities of benefit to peoples throughout the world, especially in underprivileged communities in places like South America, Central America and sub-Saharan West Africa? 

According to David Smith, chairperson of the local club’s International Service Committee, it tallies a substantial list of projects aided over the last seven years in Argentina, Nicaragua, Senegal and Niger. The diverse projects supported have involved provision of wheelchairs to disabled children, sanitation and clean water for rural villages, and support of science education in high schools. 

Smith reports the total cost of these primarily Pagosa-sponsored projects has exceeded $400,000. About 20 percent of the total is from members of the local club. 

Local contributions stretch far, he added, often being joined by funds from Rotarians in Colorado, other states and even Europe. Member contributions are matched dollar for dollar by funds from the Rotary District organization, then 80 percent more is added to the total by the Rotary Foundation. 

All funds together comprise project support in the form of a Global Grant issued through the Rotary Foundation. Project administration in the host country is supplied by volunteers from an in-country Rotary Club. Thus, through Rotary International, dollars from Pagosa Springs grow to provide increased value to people in need throughout the world. 

Worldwide, Global Grants by the Rotary Foundation totaled $86 million in 2018, the last year for which the amount is currently available. A total of 91 percent of funds contributed to the foundation is spent on projects. Rotary International includes approximately 35,000 clubs in 220 countries, so support for international activities from the Pagosa Springs Rotary Club is well above average.

The local club currently has a Global Grant project under development in cooperation with another club located in Westlake Village, Calif. The new project will be implemented in cooperation with a Rotary club in Niamey, Niger. 

The project will develop two acres of vacant land near a village in rural Niger by leveling the ground and digging a well to supply irrigation. Women of the village will receive training in growing high-value vegetables as cash crops and they will do the gardening. Some of the anticipated proceeds will reward the villagers’ effort and the rest will support a local school. 

The concept is “well-conceived and proven elsewhere,” Smith said. 

Previous projects between the Pagosa Springs Rotary Club and the host club in Niamey, Niger, has led to their designation as “Twin” Rotary Clubs, Smith added, citing a recent project to supply desks to an elementary school in rural Niger. 

The host club’s “energy and dedication” will again add real value to the upcoming project, he observed, ensuring that good works from Pagosa Springs will take root in another corner of the world.