Despite the ongoing global pandemic, Rotary continues to do good in the world.
A committee representing different clubs in Powell River, lower Sunshine Coast and the Seychelles has applied for a Rotary district grant for training mothers in Dhaka, Bangladesh, to become teachers.
Bente Hansen, a member of the evening club in Powell River, is one of the main drivers of the project. Currently she serves as the club’s international director.
“I feel strongly about the commitment these people have to help people in such dire circumstances and the dramatic changes that come from their schools,” said Hansen. “We are applying for a district grant in hopes of raising in total $8,000 to 10,000, which will be enough money to teach 25 mothers in the poorest slums.
“These mothers then will teach five or more children what they have learned. This is a way of overcoming barriers to education by changing the way it is delivered.”
Hansen met Gem Munro, who is co-executive director of Amarok Society along with his wife Tanyss, at a Rotary presentation in Abbotsford before she moved to Powell River.
“I was so impressed with the concept of educating mothers who then pay it forward that I contacted the society and our Rotary club got involved with helping them,” explained Hansen.
Once she joined the local club, she continued to promote the society’s work, because “the heartfelt stories of success the mothers are achieving is fuel enough to keep helping.”
Hansen’s club is already supporting one mother, Tania, who recently sent a letter telling of the current situation in Dhaka.
“We are not very well as the overall situation of COVID-19 has not improved in our city and country,” wrote Tania. “One positive thing is the death rate has decreased but infections are still significant.”
During four months of lockdown, her family was unable to pay rent for their house and was threatened with eviction by the landlord. Along with a group of mothers, she protested against his actions.
“He was told he should understand our situation and follow the government declaration that landlords should slash rent of poor people and not turn out any families during the lockdown,” wrote Tania. “We are not saying that we would not pay but ask for time to pay later by instalments. The landlord calmed down.”
She was hand-sewing pillow covers to sell in local shops once the lockdown was lifted. Her husband lost his job at the start of the lockdown but is now doing some odd jobs on an irregular basis. Her family has adjusted the quality and number of meals daily to cope with the income reduction. Most often they eat rice, potatoes and lentils, forgoing cheap fish and eggs that her children enjoy.
During the lockdown, she could not be with the children attending her mini school but supported them from a distance.
“Good news is that I have started teaching them again this month, in two groups, one with three children and two, maintaining a safe distance,” wrote Tania. “We have had to make adjustments to our lifestyle.”
She wrote of a new student, a seven-year-old girl, who lives with her mother and grandmother. She teaches her grandmother to count numbers and write her name.
“She is very active and interested in learning so she can move into the upper grades,” added Tania.
Hansen finds inspiration in stories like those.
“Whenever I think of the courage Gem and Tanyss had to bring their young family to the poorest slums in the world, I have believed we should do what we can to help them,” said Hansen. “Collectively we can do so much to help make a huge difference to mothers and children who may not have any hope for a future or their survival.”
Hansen said the committee is close to meeting its objective.
In addition to the collaborative international project, the two local Rotary clubs undertake fundraising to assist with community projects. They are currently raising money for the COVID-19 Community Response Fund and to assist in combatting food insecurity for students.