An innovative global grant unites clubs over the needs of girls’ sanitation

By Becky Smith, member of Pine River Valley Centennial Rotary Club, Bayfield, Colorado, USA

Past District Governor Becky Smith invites Pueblo West Rotary Club in Colorado (USA) to join in funding a global grant to empower girls in Africa.

My name is Becky Smith and I am a Past District Governor in Rotary District 5470, which is located in Colorado, USA. During my term as district governor, I shared a vision with the district’s Board of Directors that would involve all our clubs in one global grant project. I wanted to do something that would bring us out of the shadows of the pandemic and unite all the clubs in one focused effort. Our district had never had all our clubs participate in one grant, so success was not assured.

I passionately made a bold request to each club in the district to contribute to a possible global grant project that would align with one of RI President Shekhar Mehta’s priorities, Empowering Girls. Once we received consensus from our clubs, we began securing financing. Fundraising for the district-wide project was part of my regular club visits. I shared with the members my absolute amazement that even today a young woman’s education and future could be hindered or stopped because of her own naturally beautiful bodily functions. I asked each club to donate US$500 to a global grant that would provide private bathrooms, clean water, and hygiene education to girls in Africa. The fundraising goal for club contributions was set at US$25,000.00.

The response from clubs was overwhelming: our 57 clubs contributed a total of US$27,000.00. Several clubs did not have the finances to donate the full $500 because they were still recovering from the impact of the pandemic.  In true Rotary fashion, many other clubs offered to help those who could not make the full requested donation. Concurrently, the District’s Board of Directors authorized the allocation of US$25,000.00 from our District Designated Funds for a possible global grant project.

Our behind-the-scenes tracking process was quite simple. The District Operations Manager kept track of all donations.  She and I met online weekly to review the most recent donations. A thank you message was sent to each club for their support. After our fundraising goal was met, we commenced an active search for a possible grant that would cover the objectives in our vision and address community priorities aligned with supporting girls.

A search committee was formed in the spring of 2022 consisting of Past District Governor David Wood (now our District Foundation Chair), District International Service Chair Rebekah Kiser, and myself. After several failed attempts to establish a working relationship with other clubs in Africa, we were able to connect with John Bosco Agaba and the Rotary Club of Kabale in Uganda. His club had proposed a WASH project that was looking for funding assistance. It would build gender-specific bathrooms, provide water catchment systems for sustainable water, and teach hygiene education to all students.  After numerous email exchanges and several Zoom meetings with John, our steering committee agreed that the Karuhinda WASH project would be a good partnership for District 5470 and the Rotary Club of Kabale. As a result, Rotary District 5470 became the International Sponsor and the Rotary Club of Kabale the Host Club for a global grant.

Students from San Giovanni School  in Kabale (Uganda)

Our grant proposal is currently under review and expected to be approved soon. We are eager to begin implementing the project later this year. We report our progress in our monthly district and international newsletters.  We’ve also taken this opportunity to explain the vigorous process a club goes through to get a global grant. Our progress reports include data,  photographs, and stories from the community. It is important to keep focused on the humanity of the project, as well as the numbers.

To expand supporting girls in partnership with the Rotary Club of Kabale, we will partner with our “Empowering Girls” task force to raise funds to supply girls with reusable monthly sanitary supplies. Two of our Interact clubs want to be the foundational support of this effort. There is also a group of students in Colorado Springs who want to develop direct communication with students in Kabale.  We are thrilled the students want to learn from one another and are figuring out how to facilitate their communication. So, you see, our entire district is unified in our support of this global grant. We may not make the headline news in the media, but our true goal is to support the future of generations of children in Uganda. As a side benefit, we are building Rotary pride in our district and expanding our desire to do more on the international level.  I couldn’t be more proud of my fellow District 5470 members and participants.

5 thoughts on “An innovative global grant unites clubs over the needs of girls’ sanitation

  1. Thank you PDG Becky Smith for this initiative. It’s true that school girls in Africa require a lot of support to succeed in realizing their academic dreams, including being supplied with sanitary pads to ensure they remain in school throughout the entire learning cycle. This is why Rotarians from the Rotary Club of Meru (D9212) in Kenya and the Rotary Club of Lindum (UK) began two factories owned and managed by single mothers to produce reusable sanitary pads for needy schools in Kenya. Interested Rotary Clubs can purchase reusable sanitary pads for distribution to needy schools in Kenya, thereby assisting single mothers earn an income as well as ensuring girls don’t miss classes due their monthly menstrual cycle. Interested clubs can reach me on

  2. Congratulation ! to entire Clubs of RI District 5470 members for implementing such a great need project supporting girl child in school. Empowering girl in WASH projects is very needed to support. Hat’s off to all team !

  3. Great idea, keep up the wonderful work. I think we should all work on novel ways to help our fellow Rotarians experience their “aha ” experience that creates true members.

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