Earlier this month, the Vision Committee of the Jamestown Rotary Club unveiled its new international projects at the club's regular noontime meeting.
The two new programs, one at a school in Cambodia and the other, a women's micro-finance co-operative in Nepal, were approved by the committee late last summer after a presentation by club member David Troxell and his wife, Marissa. The couple has worked closely with both programs in those countries. The Troxells make their summer home in Jamestown, but live in Thailand for the winter months. Since they are no strangers to life in Asia, they have developed friendships with Rotary Clubs in several countries there.
David first heard about the need for the first project at the Cambodia Academy from a fellow Rotarian at the club he attends in Thailand. A school of 350 students, the Cambodia Academy is located in the rural village of Mongkol Borei in war-ravaged northern Cambodia. The school, composed of grades 1-9, holds classes for children who are too poor to afford any other schooling.
David Troxell is pictured with students in Cambodia.
Two hot meals per day are provided, and the daylong curriculum has a central English language focus. English language proficiency is considered to be an important avenue for students to use in getting future jobs to work themselves out of poverty. Students come five days a week from the local farm community by bicycle or walking through the rice fields.
David and his wife, Marissa, volunteered for two weeks as English teachers at the school in March and quickly realized the value of what the school was offering to the eager young learners. They also noticed after a short time in the classrooms that the painted plywood chalk boards were very difficult to use and for students to read. Another big problem was the condition of the playground. Hard-packed ground and sharp stones made it unusable for all but the hardiest of boys. Girls were relegated to the school hallways or neighboring rice fields at playtime. The request made to the Jamestown Rotary Club was for funds to purchase new chalk boards and to install grass in the schoolyard. Money was recommended for the project by the Vision Committee of the Rotary Club of Jamestown and after club approval, funds were transferred to the school to build the schoolyard and upgrade the chalkboards.
A second new project approved by the club, is the granting of micro-financing loans for a women's weaving co-operative, in Nepal. The club will finance this project over a period of three years. The Troxells visited a fellow Nepalese Rotarian in Katmandu last spring for some sightseeing and to review some micro-financing projects for women. The couple was particularly interested in these projects, having seen directly over the years, the economic disadvantages of women in developing countries.
Nearly half of the annual budget for Nepal comes from remittance, which is money sent back from Nepalese men working outside of the country to provide for their families. This means that women, as wives and mothers, provide most of the family connection within the country and they are left to their own abilities to supplement the small amounts they receive from husbands and brothers who are living and working abroad. The women's' work is often labor intensive work with small garden plots.
The Troxells visited some small micro-financed women's co-operatives near Katmandu, in which each woman receives annual loans of $35-65. The loans must all be repaid in order for the group to receive additional loans. The couple was impressed with the cooperation between group members and the dedication of each of the new businesswomen.
As a result of discussions with the local Rotary Club on site, the Jamestown Rotary Club, partnering with the Rotary club of Jawalakehl in Katmandu, Nepal, is involved with creating and sustaining the Green Financial Mobile Fund for Fiber Weavers' Community. This project will allow a group of 25 rural Nepalese women to cease their subsistence farming efforts, which are both meager in return and damaging to the ecosystem, and to develop their own entrepreneurial skills in weaving products using local natural fibers. Part of the program is to aid the women in developing markets for their products and to understand the ins and outs of running a small cottage business.
The Rotary Club of Jamestown is one of 32,000 clubs that make up the largest international service organization with more than 1.2 million members world-wide. Members of Rotary work hard on projects that change lives both close to home and around the world. Rotarians tap into a global network of volunteer members and friends who invest their time, money, and expertise into the organization's priorities, such as eradicating polio and promoting peace. Club grants empower Rotarians to approach challenges such as poverty, illiteracy and malnutrition with sustainable solutions that leave a lasting impact.
The Rotary Club of Jamestown has supported local projects such as the WCA Hospital Emergency Department, the Veterans Memorial Park and cleanup efforts on Chautauqua Lake, in addition to acting as the driving sponsor for the countywide Employment Sustainability Conference held this past spring.
The club also supports international projects by sponsoring at least two foreign exchange students who live in our country for one year, as well as sending two local students abroad to foster peace and international understanding. In the past, the local club has built water wells in Haiti and Niger and donated shelter boxes that are complete homes and equipment for families of up to 10 people for one year. The shelter boxes are dispersed in natural disasters such as earthquakes or tsunamis.
Sharon Hamilton, president of the local Rotary, said, "It is wonderful to have a local member and his wife serve as international ambassadors in our club's efforts to reach out and help those less fortunate on the other side of the world. The Troxells' commitment to our club's projects, at significant personal expense of both time and money, has proven the 'Service above Self' tenet of Rotary that all Rotarians ascribe to. The Rotary Club of Jamestown is very proud to support these excellent projects in Asia."
The club looks forward to continuing their involvement with direct funding of international projects. Donations to support their work can be made by contacting Todd Allen, club vice president and chairman of the Vision Committee at email@example.com or 485-1806.