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By Irv Buck
Rotary Club of Parker (D-5450, Colorado, USA)
Three Rotary clubs teamed up once again to build a playground in Parker, Colorado, for autistic children. This partnership demonstrates true international friendship and cooperation among Rotarians.
HISTORY: Since 2003, the Rotary Club of Parker (D-5450, Colorado, USA) and the Rotary Club of Bombay Mid-Town (D-3140, Mumbai, India) have collaborated in 5 extremely successful Rotary International Matching Grants resulting in 3 water-related projects in Maharashtra State, India. One current project (Watershed Development, at USD $137,000) was selected by WASRAG (Water and Sanitation Rotary Advisory Group) as one of 16 projects world-wide, to be featured at the 2009 RI Conference in Montreal.
Some time ago, we questioned the possibility of the project relationship going two ways. Could the Mumbai Club collaborate with us on one of our projects here in the USA? (A reverse of the historical norm where most $$$ flow from the US to projects overseas). Our three-fold purpose for this initiative:
- to serve a great need;
- to show our local community and the District at large how International Rotary really can work, and
- to seize an opportunity to publicize here the unparalleled project management of our projects in India executed by Rtn PP Arrow Sinha Roy's passionate leadership of the other committee members of the Rotary Club of Bombay Mid-Town, supported by District 3140.
All agreed, and in concert with our Community Service Committee, we chose a very capable, yet needy, nearby autism facility, Firefly Center for Autism (now Firefly Autism). Since there is no standard protocol for treatment of autism, individuals must be treated according to their unique symptoms and level of capability. Therefore, the cost per individual client (student) is considerably higher than the amount most client families can afford. Firefly Autism, through fund raising, attempts to afford the difference.
Since Club funds were exhausted at the time, Past President Arrow Roy made an appeal to District Governor Raju (D-3140, Mumbai, India), for funds to support such a project, based on our prior 'team' successes.DG Raju agreed and transferred $5,500 of D-3140 DDF (District Designated Funds) to our District (D-5450, Central Colorado) for use in the project.
Discussions with the Firefly Autism revealed that therapeutically designed playground equipment was one item that could add immeasurably to their therapies.Thus a project was born.
The Rotary Foundation's Future Vision Plan had to be reconciled because the Rotary Club of Mumbai Mid-Town is in a Pilot District, and the Rotary Club of Parker is in a Non-Pilot District.We were able to prevail on the Rotary Club of Zurich-Nord (Zurich, Switzerland) (Non-pilot) as a surrogate Future Vision Host Partner. Thus, we ended up with Clubs from three nations collaborating.Individual Rotarians from Zurich-Nord made personal contributions for which we all were very grateful. The Rotary Club of Centennial (D-5450, USA), a water project collaborator, was also a participant from the beginning.Total project cost was USD $27,847.
RESULTS: The new equipment provides vital gross motor skill development while giving the children the recreational, imaginative and peer interaction opportunities they need.
Staff has observed a lot of peer interaction which never before was possible, because there was no equipment by which students could observe other students doing any inspiring activity.
NOW - swings are a great therapy. It turns out there are several steps autistic children must learn in able to swing by themselves. They become motivated to learn these steps to enjoy the payoff of swinging!
There is a 4-inch tube, about 20 feet long, mounted under some of the apparatus. A child must enlist a peer so he can not only talk into it, but also listen to the voice of the child at the other end.
Teeter-totter - obviously, there must be 2 children to 'operate' this apparatus.
These are examples of activities that require a child to engage a peer - something they have never done before. The only other persons having been teachers, and they couldn't inspire much interaction because the outdoor area was so sterile. Teachers are elated with the newly developing activities of the children with the equipment.
Firefly Autism is the only autism facility in Colorado using and contributing data to the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM).It is the first comprehensive, empirically tested intervention specifically designed for toddlers and preschoolers.It has actually proven to raise IQ.The center now has over 150 students in its various programs.
Further information can be found on the group's Facebook Page: