Why support community economic development?

By PDG Jim Louttit, Rotary Club of Toronto-Sunrise, Canada, and a member of TRF’s Community Economic Development Major Gifts Initiative Committee

RI President Shekar Mehta recently stated, “If you feel the need to reignite the spark of service in yourself or your club, October – Community Economic Development Month – is a great time to do so. When we work to improve the lives of people in underserved communities – through, for example, projects that provide vocational training and access to financial resources – we build and sustain local economic growth.”

We know our members are passionate about providing solutions to poverty. Over the past year, The Rotary Foundation has provided $9.2 million to support club and district-led projects that grow local economies and reduce poverty. Our support is critical to continue empowering local entrepreneurs and community leaders, particularly women, in impoverished communities.

In my own backyard, Canadian Rotary clubs have developed a number of community economic development projects, supported by global grants, including Training Indigenous Youth in Safe Water Management, a project started by the Rotary Club of Guelph in Canada.

Even in Canada, accessible, safe drinking water is an issue. 13.5% of First Nations in Canada are under a Boil Water Advisory, as is 40% of Ontario which is more than twice the national average. While it is not safe to drink the water, many people have no alternative. Sometimes the water is so contaminated that using it for bathing or laundry is dangerous. So, the health and financial security of individual families is threatened which negatively impacts the economic development of the entire community.

Water First, a global grant partner, is currently hosting a Drinking Water Internship program for Indigenous young adults from the Georgian Bay, Ontario area. During the recruitment process, they encouraged young women to pursue a career in this male-dominated industry, resulting in over 50% of participants being female. The communities participating in this program will benefit from an increased number of young adults who have water certification and work experience in water treatment plants, expanded professional networks for future support, and the invaluable collaboration of Tribal elders and their traditional water knowledge.

As these emerging leaders graduate and start full-time jobs, they will have a profound impact on their communities. As new water operators, they will serve as role models for Indigenous youth as they observe the jobs that can result from skills training and gender equity in a traditionally male job field.

Isn’t this what it’s all about? Rotary members working together to invest in people and communities to create sustainable, measurable, and enduring economic improvements in underserved areas.

As a member of the Community Economic Development (CED) Major Gifts Initiative Committee, I have seen how The Rotary’s Foundation support for our community development projects across the world helps us make a greater impact. This month, consider getting involved to help economies grow locally or abroad:

  • Make a gift to The Rotary Foundation in support of Community Economic Development.
  • Find a project to support using Rotary Showcase.
  • Contact our Rotary Action Groups working in Community Economic Development for advice on planning more sustainable, impactful projects.

Now is the time to take action to promote economic development which is sustainable, measurable, and community-driven. Working together, we can create opportunities by investing in communities.

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