By Binod Khaitan, member of the Rotary Club of Central Calcutta, India
The Rotary Club of Central Calcutta was chartered in August 1985 and seven years later, we sponsored a Rotary Community Corps (RCC) in the village of Baghati in West Bengal. RCC members worked with our club to plan and carry out projects in their community.
The village was inaccessible for three months out of the year during the monsoons and rainy season, as the narrow pathway to the village would be very slushy or submerged. Members of our club made regular visits, only during the dry season. Club members decided to assist villagers in creating a larger pathway leading into the village that could be accessed throughout the year. Our club discussed and worked with the RCC to provide tools to complete the pathway so the village would become accessible before the next rainy season. With the approval of land owners, supplies of baskets and shovels from our club, and labor provided by the villagers, the construction of the road was completed and a Rotarian drove his small car into the village! Women and children were excited to see a car for the first time in their life. Our club also worked with the RCC on economic development and specifically to provide clean drinking water and UNICEF designed toilets for the entire village.
Our club mentored villagers to plant fruit trees and create vegetable gardens around their homes. Three agricultural demo fields in the village led to an increase in output and sustained development. Projects to build a school and health camps were organized. Thanks to a community assessment, we identified that many villagers suffered from cataract blindness. A Rotarian eye doctor assisted with several cataract surgery camps in the village.
The success of our cooperation with the village of Baghati led our Rotary Club of Central Calcutta to sponsor a few more Rotary Community Corps in the districts of Hooghly and South 24 Parganas. The Rotary Community Corps Human Development Center in Dakshin Barasat, South 24 Parganas worked with a local optometrist to offer eye health services through local eye camps. It was identified that the area had a large number of people with eye health problems and cataract blindness. With the assistance and guidance of Rotarian Dr. Samar Das from the Rotary Club of Guildford, UK, we applied for grant funding to set up a modern vision center. The success of the self-sustaining project led us to set up a full-fledged small eye care hospital offering cataract surgeries. This small beginning led to creating vision centers in other villages, two of which are now full-fledged eye care hospitals. All three eye hospitals are self-sustaining and annually serve nearly 50,000 people and give hope to 6,000 people suffering cataract blindness through Inter Ocular Lens implant surgeries in South 24 Parganas. These hospitals plan to expand care and treatment to include glaucoma and retinal patients as well.
To ensure success, we partner with the local community on every project, our club has worked with Rotary Community Corps throughout the years. RCCs also serve as cooperating partners on our TRF-funded grant projects. Today, our District 3291 is proud to have 12 eye hospitals with a tertiary eye care hospital in Kolkata. The hospitals annually serve nearly 200,000 people and provide hope to almost 30,000 people in rural West Bengal. Two rural hospitals are now fully equipped to treat glaucoma and retinal patients as well.
A Rotary Community Corps is a team of non-Rotarians who share our commitment to make a positive impact in communities through service projects. By bringing community input and involvement in projects, RCCs enhance Rotary’s impact and reach. Learn more about what you can do through a Rotary Community Corps and how you can sponsor one.