By David Alexander, District 9810’s International Service Chair and member of the Rotary Club of Manningham, Australia
When our club first met with partnering clubs to discuss a global grant project to bring clean water to a remote municipality in Timor-Leste in partnership with Engineers Without Borders (EWB) Australia, the challenges seemed insurmountable.
The Rotary clubs of Manningham and Hampton from District 9810, and Dili, the host partner in Timor-Leste from District 9550, realized that partnering with PLAN International (a nongovernmental organization working in Timor-Leste since 2001) was the solution. For the past five years, EWB engineers in Timor-Leste and PLAN had been working to design, develop and implement water and sanitation projects. Recruiting PLAN as an additional partner would bring in the valuable in-country expertise building on the established ties to the community and local government the to ensure that even more villages communities will have long-term access to clean drinking water and basis education hygiene.
As District 9810’s International Service Chair (DISC), I worked collaboratively with Graham Richardson, our district’s Grants Subcommittee Chair; Jennifer Fox, the Rotary Club of Hampton’s project manager along with Herculano Amaral (Acku), the Rotary Club of Dili Lafaek’s project partner to prepare the grant proposal, review reports, manage project finances, and complete progress and final reports. Regional Grants Officer Steve Sundstrom was consulted during the planning phase to address a number of unexpected grant related administration issues that came up along the way, avoiding lengthy delays in project approval. Another key success factor included relying on the guidance of Rotary program alumnus, John McGowan in the initial planning process with his experience with The Rotary Foundation and cooperating agencies.
The project plans were reviewed by their District 9810’s Resource Network experts with experience in water supply and sanitation systems to ensure the project would be carried out effectively, with a strong emphasis on gender equality and empowering women in systems management and administration.
The team of experts, many of whom are part of The Rotary Foundation Cadre of Technical Advisers and the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Rotary Action Group (WASRAG), carefully examined the community assessment and sustainability factors including: sourcing local materials, engaging the local community in construction and training in the operation, management and administration of the water and sanitation systems, and acquiring the agreement of the municipality to take over responsibility for the installed systems.
An exciting by-product arising from the partnership with EWB and PLAN was that one of the EWB-PLAN engineers working on the project successfully applied for a Rotary-funded scholarship to complete an 18-month Master’s Degree program at the Institute of Hydraulic Engineering (IHE) DELFT.
The project demonstrated the benefits of working with an experienced ‘on ground’ trusted partner with a long term presence in the benefitting community; and engaging local Rotarian experts in critical aspects of project design and sustainability.
This project is an example how local experts from the District’s Resource Network helped us create a well-planned, more impactful project, connected us to critical partnerships, and introduced us to mentors who ensured the elements of sustainability are inherent in the project design. The project even opened doors for a young engineer to pursue his dream of supporting developing communities by studying at one of the most prestigious water engineering universities in the world.
For questions, connect with me through the DISC Discussion Group.