By Ir. H.J. Kloosterman, Rotary Host Area Coordinator of the UNESCO-IHE Scholarship program
My Rotary life suddenly changed in late 2011 when then Trustee of the Rotary Foundation, Steve Brown, dropped me an email saying he was coming to the Netherlands to talk to UNESCO-IHE. I knew Steve from his involvement in efforts to start Rotary in Afghanistan and the Sultanate of Oman (where I lived at the time), and now I suddenly found out that Steve was involved in setting up a partnership between The Rotary Foundation and UNESCO-IHE, the world’s largest postgraduate water education facility, located in Delft, Netherlands.
At that time I knew very little about UNESCO-IHE, but quickly learned about this vibrant and multi-cultural centre of excellence on water education. What struck me here was not only Rotary’s commitment to provide funding to support UNESCO-IHE students in their 18 month graduate studies in Water Management and Sanitation, but also to ensure ample support from both the sponsoring Rotary clubs in their home countries, as well as from the local clubs in the Netherlands during their stay abroad.
This for me is Rotary at its best: a combination of Rotary funding whilst leveraging the Rotary network to ensure the scholarships deliver tangible results. Since the start of the program, more than 50 UNESCO-IHE scholars from 29 countries have been sponsored. This relates to an investment of more than USD $1.6 million by Rotary, money very well spent. The first two groups of 24 students have graduated, 80% of them have returned home and are working in the water sector and applying their new skills.
It is extremely gratifying to see the energy and drive of these highly motivated and intelligent students, fully committed to raise the standards of water sanitation in their home country upon graduation The scholarship program is a very nice and hands-on example of Rotary Serving Humanity and I am honored and feel very proud to be associated with this program, it has enriched my life!