Rotary International’s Response to COVID-19


TACOMA, Washington — As champions for eradicating polio, Rotary International’s members look to provide an effective global response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Rotary International is a global network of 1.2 million people that works to combat some of the world’s largest issues, including promoting peace, fighting disease, saving mothers and children and supporting education. Its volunteers span across the globe, accumulating over 35,000 clubs. Additionally, Rotary International partners with and donates to the World Health Organization to push for polio eradication, which in turn gives Rotary levying power when it comes to legislation.

As a whole, Rotary International raised more than $520,000 on May 2, 2020, during their #RotaryResponds virtual telethon for COVID-19 relief where over 65,000 people watched. Across the globe, various clubs took the necessary efforts to help slow the spread of COVID-19 in communities by raising money for personal protective equipment, people who lost their jobs and many other problems caused by the pandemic.

Italian Rotary Clubs in the COVID-19 Epicenter

At the beginning of March, COVID-19 cases and deaths climbed to all-time records in Italy. Faced with this dire situation, local Rotary Clubs started changing focus to helping frontline healthcare workers. For example, clubs in District 2041 raised funds for PPE at a makeshift hospital in Milan. Before the epicenter shifted to Italy, clubs in District 2080 had already raised $21,000 for relief in China.

One club in particular embarked on many different initiatives to help alleviate the pressure put on businesses. The Rotary Club of Morimondo Abbazia donated around $3,000 to aid the local nursing home’s staff. Additional money was raised for the Polytechnic University of Milan so that faculty could make 5,000 liters of hand sanitizer a day.

On top of that, Rotarian Davide Carnevali drove the club to partner with the technology company Mitobit to create an e-commerce website for small and medium-sized businesses. The website, called Consegnacasa, launched in the middle of March to mitigate the problem of only 10% of Italy’s businesses selling online. Without a way to quickly shift to online sales, the Italian economy could have plummeted.

Kenyan Rotary Clubs Fund Water Tanks

Once the W.H.O. declared COVID-19 a pandemic, Joe Otin, the Rotarian governor of District 9212 (covering Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya and South Sudan) began developing a response for the area. Initially, the efforts provided necessities like sugar, maize meal, rice, lentils, salt and soap to families short on food and supplies. Additionally, the clubs assisted those who lost their jobs and raised money for PPEs.

As part of this wide-reaching response, Geeta Manek, a member of the Rotary Club of Muthaiga, Kenya, initiated fundraising efforts for water tanks to build handwashing stations. The team raised $21,000 in 20 days in Ethiopia and Kenya. Using the money, they bought 100 water tanks and got the supplier to donate 100 more. These stations were then distributed to Kilifi, Mombasa and Nairobi. Altogether this response led to a stronger defense against COVID-19.

Other Clubs Around The World Making Progress

Rotary International’s response to COVID-19 shows that it is committed to making a difference during the pandemic. Many clubs raised funds, whether that be $155,000 for the Red Cross in South Korea, or collecting medical supplies in Hong Kong. Some clubs like the Rotary Club of Karachi Darakhshan, Sind and Pakistan distributed hundreds of masks to the community in Karachi, While others like those in Sri Lanka and Akwa Iborn, Nigeria, raised awareness about hygiene and the virus in schools through posters.

Some clubs have taken a technological approach to fighting the virus. Rotarians in Texas and Florida began constructing face shields using 3D printers. Making up to 48 face shields a day, they steadily distribute to local hospitals in need. Two clubs on different continents teamed up to promote the use of bubble helmets. Together, the Rotarians in Lithuania and Chicago supported the use of these helmets to find ways to circumvent medical ventilators. With these bubble helmets, patients receive a noninvasive supply of oxygen that can be administered outside of an ICU.

Rotary International’s widspread outreach programs further promote a collective global effort in order to fight COVID-19. As a whole, the organization looks to be a resource for communities in need during this pandemic. Rotary International’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic shows that anyone can make a difference in times of need.

Adrianna Tomasello 

Photo: Flickr


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